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 her.
So, I guess I just read these in opposite order…3…2…1. It’s hard to pick a favorite but this one definitely hits the closest to home. I don’t know why, but I had it in my head that Cracked Up to Be and Some Girls Are were going to be similar novels – like twin manifestos on the psychology of mean girls. Parker and Regina may both sort into the mean girl category, but they arecompletely different, as are these two novels. I think that Some Girls Are is a book about moving forward and away, but this book is about moving inward; it’s about going back to where you lost control.
Parker was popular, captain of the cheerleading squad, at the top of her class, and in a long term relationship with Chris, her male counterpart. Now she’s failing, drinking in school, and sabotaging her friendships. She may not even graduate. It all seems to relate back to a party last spring, but what really happened?
I may not have loved every character in this book, but I felt like I knew them all. Parker will probably be hard to sympathize with, but she’s nauseatingly familiar to me. I think that a large part of my teenage self was Parker Fadley. Parker may be a gorgeous, former queen bee/cheerleading captain, while I…uh…wasn’t, but that really doesn’t matter. Courtney Summers has portrayed Parker’s inner self: her anxiety, her guilt, and her self-imposed exile with such complete definition that it doesn’t matter what her outer circumstances are. For me, it’s impossible not to relate to Parker.
The supporting cast is also completely well-defined. There are two boys in the picture, but I would never call this a love triangle. Both characters have moments of mature sensitivity and kindness, but Courtney Summers never shies away from letting them be realistic teenage boys – sex-obsessed idiocy and all. The insecure and bitter rival Becky still managed to tug at my sympathy.
If you love uncompromising reality in your contemporary YA’s, then you definitely need to check out Courtney Summers. Toward the end I had a few worried moments, when I feared that Parker would become a soft, repentant,healed person, or that everything would get wrapped up with a big happily ever after for Parker’s new relationship. But I really should have known better. Summers stays true to Parker’s bitchy, insulting, defensive voice. The relationship isn’t a magic balm that’s going to heal all of her issues; only she can do that. And it’s going to take a lot of work. The ending is hopeful, but still stays true to reality.
Perfect Musical Pairing
Fiona Apple – Fast As You Can
Parker brings me so uncomfortably close to my former self that I had to choose something that I listened to as a 16 year old (probably while shut up in my room, hating myself and brooding). This song is a warning - get away from me before I screw you over.