Review of Cracked Up To Be, by Courtney Summers.
Reviewed by S.M. Schmidt. Check out her blog here!
The pithy rundown is like sushi, opera or any book with a challenging
topic you’ll either hate it and possibly grow to enjoy it, or you’ll
love it from page one and read it in one sitting.
Back of the book teaser: 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
counselors 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.
This is one of those books you kick yourself for waiting to read like
Hunger Games, Harry Potter and Twilight. Except unlike a series that
takes books to reward you for investing your emotions in the
characters, you can begin singing the praises of this standalone when
you reach the end. Debuting in 2008 it caught my attention when the
author announced releasing another book (Fall for Anything) later this
year. I didn’t realize at first how old this book was because the
excellent writing Cracked Up to Be has allows it to hold its own
against newer releases with even darker themes.
Courtney Summers’ writing was the first thing I noticed on page one. I
felt myself yanked right back to high school and didn’t doubt the age
of the narrator, Parker, for a second. Parker is a character that is
pushing everyone, including the reader, away and has the potential for
two things. Either it draws you in more with each little tidbit about
why she’s choosing to spiral into self destruction. Or you will be put
off as other reviewers on goodreads have mentioned. There is mild
profanity but it’s used for portraying the characters realistically
not for gratuitous shock value. Walk around any high school and you’ll
hear characters speaking like Parker, Chris, Jake and Becky.
Flashbacks to the event mentioned in the description give you hints
throughout the novel, but the pacing leaves the final reveal shocking
and lingering long after the book is put down. There is frank
discussion about alcohol, sex and the bizarre world of high school
relationships. Yet it is handled in a way that doesn’t come down as
patronizing nor will it make a teen reader feel awkward if they don’t
engage in such activities. The ending encourages readers, if they find
themselves spiraling like Parker, to seek real help. I applaud
Courtney Summers for realizing school counselors, parents, and friends
are not always the best equipped to help troubled teens. A positive
look on seeking help when ready is an excellent message to remind
teens that it can get better if they want it.
An excellent read for a gripping contemporary young adult debut.
Five out of five stars.
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