Book Review: Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers

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After recovering from the awesomeness of Courtney Summers’ writing in “All The Rage”, I naturally purchased all her books. While “This is Not a Test” wasn’t really my thing, I nevertheless had high expectations of “Cracked Up To Be”.

Our heroine, Parker Fadley, is a senior at an American private school. Former captain of the cheerleading squad, valedictorian candidate, girlfriend of the star basketball player – those are the labels that used to apply to Parker. But that’s not the case anymore. The young woman is skipping classes, showing up to school drunk, and has even been placed under the suicide watch at one point. Why is Parker pushing everyone away, doing this to herself? What could possibly have happened to make her like this? Her parents and former friends have no idea that Parker just wants to be left alone and is lashing out on everyone because of something that happened last summer. What did she do? And what does it have to do with her missing classmate?

The best thing about “Cracked Up to Be” was the main character, Parker. I can honestly say that she’s one of the realest protagonists I’ve come across this year. She’s unlikeable, flawed, snarky and very, very well-rounded. After she lives through a traumatic event which she believes she could’ve prevented, she becomes crippled with self-loathing, suicidal thoughts and starts showing up to school wasted. She becomes obsessed with wanting to disappear, but for some reason, her friends and the new kid Jake are determined to get in the way. She believes that she doesn’t deserve that, and indulges in self-destructive behaviour to keep them away. As I said, she’s not very likable, which made her all the more compelling and relatable.

I understand addictive personality and obsession with being perfect all too well. Fortunately, nothing as horrible as what happened in the book has ever happened to me, but I absolutely understood where Parker was coming from. Even at school and university, I was either stressed out because I wasn’t getting perfect grades, or because I didn’t feel like I was doing enough. I hear being an only child is a factor, and both Parker and I are sibling-less. Being an overachiever has always come naturally to me, and unfortunately, it hasn’t always ended well. Although Parker never says it, it’s quite clear she has addictive personality, and when a perfectionist with an addictive personality is trying to self-destruct, they usually accomplish it. Speaking from my own experience, I can honestly say that Parker didn’t have the support she needed. Her parents were wonderful people, but it’s quite hard to help someone in that situation. Especially when they don’t want any help. This is the reason why I’m in the minority and actually liked the ending of the book – it was exactly what Parker needed. And I’m very happy to add her to the list of the heroines that are incredibly relatable to me for the reasons I explained in this paragraph. Veronica Mars, Spencer Hastings, Kate Beckett, meet the newest member of “Kate’s favourites” club – Miss Parker Fadley.

Courtney Summers really knows how to write complex, real characters – I saw that quite vividly in “All the Rage” and, although I didn’t love the plot, “This is Not a Test” had a great cast of diverse, well-rounded personages. “Cracked Up to Be” is the same way – Parker Fadley is the real star, but the supporting cast is also very real. And the tears that filled my eyes on the train to work when a certain event happened in the last 1/4 of the book were very real too. “Cracked Up to Be” was a fantastic read, and I’m happy to rate it 8/10.

Favourite passage

“I never understood how I was supposed to work as a person or how I was supposed to work with other people. Something was really wrong with me, like I felt wrong all the time. I longed for some kind of symmetry, a balance. I chose perfection. Opposite of wrong. Right. Perfect. Good.

I get caught up in the outcomes. I convince myself they’re truths. No one will notice how wrong you are if everything you do ends up right. The rest becomes incidental. So incidental that, after a while, you forget. Maybe you are perfect. Good. It must be true. Who can argue with results? You’re not so wrong after all. So you buy into it and you go crazy maintaining it. Except it creeps up on you sometimes, that you’re not right. Imperfect. Bad. So you snap your fingers and it goes away. 

Until something you can’t ignore happens and you see it all over yourself”

Recommendations

You might like “Cracked Up to Be” if you liked:

“Veronica Mars”

The Walls Around Us” by Nova Ren Suma

“This is What I Want to Tell You” by Heather Duffy Stone

“Pretty Little Liars”

Have you guys read “Cracked Up to Be”? Are you fans of Courtney Summers? Do let me know!

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