Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers (Book Review)

Title: Cracked Up to Be 

Author: Courtney Summers

Genre: YA Contemporary

Pages: 240 pages

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 they don’t know that 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.

Reading this book was like having a conversation with that little part within me that is so obsessed with the notion of perfection, flawlessness, and symmetry. As we go through the main character’s life, achieving perfection becomes a dangerous idea destroying her life as a girlfriend, friend, daughter, and student. To start, Parker Fadley is the high school girl we all wished we were – popular, straight A student, cheerleading captain, and a girlfriend to Chris. Before the problem took place, everything seemed to be in the best place possible, meaning she was in control of everything. She is at the top of her school and people were praising her faultlessness. Perfect, right? Not until, a party occurred in his boyfriend’s house.

“No one will notice how wrong you are if everything you do ends up right.”

– Parker Fadley

Cracked Up to Be is the first book I have read of Courtney Summers and I can now tell that she’s going to be a sure read author of mine. Her character building is beautifully put for the readers to capture their rawness and vulnerabilities, even if it means reading one of the snarkiest, jerkiest, and self-sabotaging characters. As a teen, I connected with Parker’s sentiments about maintaining your faultlessness despite everyone’s opinions of letting go, ease up, and loosen up. I have to admit, it was difficult reading the first part of the book because we were given no reason as to why Parker was being such a bastard to everyone. Was she doing it for her pleasure? She was hiding something very deep. A wound that never seemed to heal, a fresh cut feeling everyday. 

Parker was such a complex character. One minute she’s mean and one minute she’s reasonable and guilty. After the incident, she laid out this massive plan to drive everyone away from her. It was her tactic to move on from that traumatizing incident. She put this biggest bitch act to everyone in school, even to the new kid, Jake. She changed herself to not align with what everyone expects her to be. She gave up being perfect and now she aimed to be the opposite of it. A mess nobody can clean up in the hopes of not wanting to be herself anymore.

“The sooner you make a mistake and learn to live with it, the better. You’re not responsible for everything. You can’t control the way things end up.”

Behind her sarcasm, criticisms, and angst, I felt her. She was real. As much as I wanted to slap her across the room, there were times when I agreed with her. Like Parker, I am a perfectionist where there is absolutely no room for error because if I screw up, I let everybody down, or worse, I let myself down. If you do end up reading this book, think again if you ARE also Parker Fadley before getting irritated with her personality. Courtney Summers really spoke to the readers with this novel by reminding them how easy it is to get caught up with something and end up hurting others without us noticing. Again, there is a part of us which we’ll want to destroy, break, and kill, but rather than eradicating it with poison, we must change it with forgiveness and compassion from ourselves.

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