Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (December 23rd, 2008)
Paperback: 214 pages
Reading Level: Young Adult
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
What's the worst thing you've ever done?
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.
Review: This is a very haunting novel that will stick with you long after you have finished reading it. Parker used to be the picture of popularity. She was the cheerleading captain, straight A student, and girlfriend of the most popular guy in school. Then one night changed everything. Parker is hiding a deep secret that she can't share with anyone. It is eating her up inside and although her friends, teachers, and parents try to help, she blocks them all out and hides behind her sarcastic attitude to keep people away.
Then a new guy, Jake, comes into her life and breaks through some of the walls she has built up around her. He puts up with her bad girl personality and refuses to turn his back on her. Through his persistence and forced friendship, Parker is able to slowly break free from the memories that plague her each day.
This is a deep story that involves the difficult topics of sex, drinking, rape and suicide. I love the way Courtney handled these topics. She did not hold back. Parker's tale is not an easy one to read. It's a lot more about the destruction of self and fears than romance. It shows teens that hiding from problems does nothing but put off the inevitable. That escape is not possible. Eventually every secret comes into focus and fears must be faced head on.
Characters: Parker is complicated. She went from picture perfect to the bad girl overnight. Her reluctance to let people in and to know the truth about "that night" forces her to push everyone away. Jake is unexpected and not the typical love interest. He is pushy, but isn't. He is sweet, but isn't. He seems to want her, but he seems to understand when Parker needs space and when he can bug her enough that she gives in. Yeah, and I thought Parker was complicated! I really enjoyed Chris, Parker's ex boyfriend. I felt bad for him and thought that he really seemed to love Parker a lot.
Cover: To me, this cover comes off as more "lighthearted" than what this book really is. Seems like it conveys the idea that this book is just the typical high school drama plot line. That is far from what this book is about! It is deep, complex, and demands the readers attention.
This is a difficult read and I would not recommend it for young teens or anyone who may be offended by mature themes. At the same time, it is such an important read for older teens who may use destructive strategies in order to deal with stress or trauma. "Parker" may be a school friend, an acquaintance, or even you. But sometimes it's difficult to run from a memory.
To be released December 21st, 2010From St. Martin's Griffin
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