Author: Courtney Summers
Publication Date: 12/23/08
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Blurb (GR): 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
The more of Courtney Summers I read, the more her work reminds me of Sara Zarr's. They write vastly different characters - Zarr's are more subdued, quiet; Summers' are often in-your-face obnoxious and loud. But what is similar about these two authors is how well-realized their narrators' voices are. Zarr's and Summers' characters are unique and real, often unlikable, but always unforgettable.
The protagonist of Cracked Up to Be, Parker, is hard to like. She is brash and sarcastic, offends and lashes out at everyone who cares about her - parents, friends, teachers. There is a reason behind her self-destructive, self-punishing and antagonistic behavior, and it's a big one. You won't like Parker even when you find out her secret, you might even hate her then. But, with all that, she is still a human being worthy of understanding and maybe empathy or, possibly, forgiveness.
Cracked Up to Be is a strong debut. I don't think the climax of the story was constructed the best way it could have been. The last few chapters are a little messy. But I do like how the novel ended. There are consequences to Parker's sins, but there is a hope for her break from the abyss of self-hate too. There are mistakes in our lives that we need to forgive ourselves for, just to survive. Even if they are as heavy as Parker's.