Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cracked Up To Be: Courtney Summers


Perfect Parker Fadley isn't so perfect anymore. She's quit the cheerleading squad, she's dumped her perfect boyfriend, and she's failing school. Her parents are on a constant suicide watch and her counselors think she's playing games.

But what they don't know, the real reason for this whole mess, isn't something she can say out loud. It isn't even something she can say to herself. A horrible thing has happened and it just might be her fault.

If she can just remove herself from everybody-be totally alone-then everything will be okay...The problem is, nobody will let her.


This one is raw and doesn't hold back- it burns as hard as some liquors going down. There is no slow build up- the novel starts right in the middle of the train wreck Parker has become. Between her sarcastic remarks, her perverse humor and her obviously underlying hurt, I fell into this book right from the start.

The fact that Parker used to be at the top- the most popular girl dating the most popular boy, captain of the cheerleaders and prom queen for 3 years straight- only to fall, by her own hand and choices, makes this book unique. She knows what it's like to be at the top and she knows how to lose it. Maybe in some ways she still wants it, but she also manages to keep a distance from all of it.

Reading this, I've realized the way this is told- with the flashbacks and the real reason for her moods and popularity fall being told in bits and pieces- is a popular and somewhat common way but it is completely fitting in books like this. If I knew from the start, I wouldn't have been as interested- I wouldn't have been trying to figure out Parker's reasoning for pretty much ruining her own life. It isn't supposed to make sense or be obvious- it's something that is hers, and something that she is trying to protect. I kept turning the pages because I wanted to know what happened to her- understand her mindset. That doesn't happen until the end and it's what makes everything tie together beautifully, even if in an utterly tragic method. Though the singular flashback which everything focused around was told in a beautiful way, sometimes repeating what has already happened in the way Parker sees it in her mind before its cut off, only to start from the beginning again. By the end, the reader didn't just experience that night once- they revisited it, from start to finish, multiple times where everything is burned into memory rather than just the hard to face end part of it.

Parker's character is a model of self destruction- well aware of what each action is going to cause, carefully calculating the results for the maximum effect she wants. Even if she wasn't quite as bitingly sarcastic before everything, the way she has become is something imporant because she has changed- and her personality alone makes that clear. Traits where there before but its even clearer now.

Chris was actually a surprising charcter, not at all fitting into the stereotypical popular jock mold set up for him. He still loved Parker, and he still cared for her. He wanted her to be okay and safe, even if it wasn't okay and safe with him by her side. No matter what she did, he was there- she came first in many things and his character showed a lot of depth and true personality.

Jake was even more lovable, quirky and awkward but sweet and caring at the same time. He's the guy that is your best friend and self destructive in his own way because for whatever reason, he really likes the girl. It's hard and sad watching him pine for Parker but he never falters from who he is, even if he likes her.

I loved the writing, particularly the stream of consciousness that was constant present with this one. Parker's education and her brains were often clear, but then she'd slip into moments of anxiety and hysteria where things ran together and her internal madness was very evident with nothing held back. The writing most certainly stands out for me with this book across the board.

The ending was surprising, providing some closure while still leaving many things open and out there. I give this one 5 stars because it had several strong, definable characters and the story line also played out beautifully. Though this one came out over a year ago, it definitely was a stunning debut and I look forward to Summers' latest book, Some Girls Are.

Source: Bought at Borders
Paperback, 224 pages
St. Martin's Press
December 23, 2008

Authors Website

Other Reviews:
The Hiding Spot
The Compulsive Reader
The Infinite Shelf


  1. Awesome review, i'll have to check this one out!

  2. Great review! I LOVELOVELOVE Cracked Up to Be, the writing is just amazing and Parker is so snarky and wonderful :)

  3. Love this review! I am definitely looking forward to reading it. It sounds like a delicious but harrowing novel.