Cracked Up to Be
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Publication date: December 23rd 2008
by St. Martin's Griffin
When “Perfect” Parker Fadley starts drinking at school and failing her classes, all of St. Peter’s High goes on alert. How has the cheerleading captain, girlfriend of the most popular guy in school, consummate teacher’s pet, and future valedictorian fallen so far from grace?
Parker doesn’t want to talk about it. She’d just like to be left alone, to disappear, to be ignored. But her parents have placed her on suicide watch and her conselors are demanding the truth. Worse, there’s a nice guy falling in love with her and he’s making her feel things again when she’d really rather not be feeling anything at all.
Nobody would have guessed she’d turn out like this. But nobody knows the truth.
Something horrible has happened, and it just might be her fault.
Already being a big fan of Courtney Summers since I read This Is Not a Test, I knew before going into this that it was going to be a ride with a lot of feels! So much feels!
Parker is the definition of a snarky bitch. She has an attitude you want to slap her for, but as a protagonist she’s especially amusing and definitely entertaining. The used-to-be cheerleading captain turned angry emo tells us that something has happened to this girl to change her so drastically. This “something” is told to us via strange behavior from Parker which seem insignificant at first, but as the book progresses the feeling gets more urgent, and is mixed with flashbacks that leaves us wondering what the heck exactly happened here. These flashbacks gets longer at each telling; every time she remembers, she gets thrown a little deeper into this blocked memory that, in the end, weaves itself together into an emotionally distressing story. We don’t get to fully understand the reason behind her intense attitude until the very end. Still, you know something happened; you know she did not choose to be this way, something broke her, made her bitter. For this reason I found it easy to look past her bitchiness and feel bad for whatever it is that she is going through. It also helps that Courtney has a way of creating genuine characters. Characters that are easy to sympathize with no matter their outward personality, because it’s clear this crappy attitude is only a front, something Parker is hiding behind.
I already feel like I summed up this whole book in that mere paragraph. It’s a fairly short read and while the plot is compelling from start to finish with amazing characters, energy, and the feels, it’s hard to get into the thick of it since it consists of layer after layer of answers that eventually come full circle for the big reveal. By far, the best part of the novel is Parker herself. Full of attitude and energy, she tells us this story in the best way she can: amidst snark and outbursts. She hardly remembers what happened herself, though she’s slowly regaining her memory of this horrific event that we’re in the midst of discovering alongside her. When we do finally get the whole story, I did have to go over the reveal a couple of times to get everything straight. Some of the details come out a little fuzzy at the end. This is likely due to the same memory being repeated throughout the book which ultimately connects under different circumstances than we first had imagined. We’re left to mold these memories to fit a tragic event that once seemed innocent; it changes our perspective of it all. Moving on to the ending itself, I thought it was memorable, realistic, and we come to understand Parker completely. However, I did find the romantic aspect’s conclusion a tad underwhelming. I expected something… different, and was more than disappointed by the unfair finality of it all. Call me a romantic at heart?
Cracked Up to Be is an emotional foray into the gritty reality that is PTSD. Parker is not here for you to like her; her arrogant personality and unabashed attitude is a way out, out of the guilt that is almost literally eating her alive. Like This Is Not a Test, this one is for the fans of sharp and unapologetic contemps! And if you love audiobooks, the narrator nailed Parker’s voice!