Summary: Parker’s life is a mess. After showing up at school drunk and a suicide attempt, Parker is being closely watched by her school’s administration and must follow all of the rules they have set out for her if she still wants to graduate. Used to being the popular, perfect girl at school, Parker is now doing everything she can to alienate her friends and family, and it all comes down to one night and a mistake she made that she can never forgive herself for. Caught between her desire to self-destruct and others’ attempts to save her, Parker is pushed to the brink as she is eventually forced to admit her perfection is a façade.
Number of Pages: 214
Age Range: 15-17
Review: Courtney Summers is an author with teeth. The first book I ever read by her was Some Girls Are, and I remember thinking perhaps a more appropriate title for it might have been “Some Girls Are Bitches.” I couldn’t put it down. Summers’ work is complicated and devoid of happy endings, but she knows teenage angst and plunges her reader right into it every time.
Cracked Up to Be is her debut novel, showing off her writing chops from the beginning. I had trouble with the character of Parker because sometimes I loved her and sometimes I hated her, but Summers helped me to understand her which was the most important thing. I wanted to know when exactly Parker got to point where she thought she had to be perfect and how that happened, except that wasn’t the story Summers was telling. Instead, I found out what happened the one night Parker let loose, and how it will affect her for the rest of her life.
What I love about Cracked Up to Be is that when I reached the end of it, I honestly didn’t know if there was a right decision Parker should have made that fateful night. There are so many what ifs that could have played out but didn’t, and given the circumstances I can see why things played out the way they did. Ultimately, Parker’s story is one of grief and guilt so strong it causes her to sabotage her own life. It wasn’t inspiring, but it was gritty and real and I loved it.
“She’s superineffectual. I don’t see the point of being a guidance counselor in high school if you can’t have a gun. If you want a teenager to be open and especially if you want them to be honest, a gun to their head’s probably the best bet.” – Parker from Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers, page 18
“Even before Jessie disappeared, 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 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 maintain 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.” – Parker from Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers, page 201
“That’s my cue to go, but my feet are cemented to the floor. He waits for me to move and I can’t because I want everything taken care of before I can start taking care of everything. I know that’s not the way life happens. There are no tidy resolutions. Ask me if I think it was my fault, if I think this heaviness will ever go away.” – Parker from Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers, page 213