Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers (St Martin's Griffin, 23 December 2008)
I knew I would like Courtney Summers' books the moment I stumbled upon them on Goodreads. Unlikeable heroines? Unapologetically honest portrayals of real issues? SIGN ME UP. And I totally loved CRACKED UP TO BE.
Meet Parker Fadley, our unlikeable heroine. Everyone thinks she's a bitch. She used to be perfect: cheerleading captain, straight A student, girlfriend of the most popular guy in school. Now she's single, getting drunk all the time, failing all her classes and no longer on the cheerleading team. Something horrible happened, and Parker doesn't know how to cope with that. With the fact that it's all her fault. With the fact that she's not perfect anymore.
This book was pretty brutal and intense and deals with some really emotionally difficult subject matter, and the thing that happened which made everything go downhill unfolds through increasingly long flashbacks throughout until finally the whole truth comes out towards the end. I liked the format and there was a lot of suspense. The book is very short though; it made me feel like I needed more – more character development and just more of a chance to get to know the characters better.
Parker is horrible to everyone around her. She's unlikeable, and I love her. I love how snarky she is, I love her weaknesses and I love how she lies to everyone, including herself. Parker gets a dog in this book, and that dog was literally the best and worst part of this book. I love dogs and this made me feel way too many emotions, because the dog was probably the one living thing that Parker allows to really get close to her in this book, and it was so sweet and sad to see how that developed. Parker's so vulnerable and she's so hurt but she's just buried it all inside herself. I really love books that explore the pressures of being perfect, and this is definitely one of them.
It makes me ecstatic whenever I read a contemporary book which doesn't tie everything up neatly at the end. A book which is willing to admit that some things in life are just really fucking hard and that there's not going to be an easy resolution. A book that isn't all about the happy ending. CRACKED UP TO BE is that book, and it is more that book than any other contemporary I've read in recent memory. I mean, it's not as if the book is utterly devoid of hope: there's definitely a little ray of it at the end, but really the book emphasises how hard things are.
Don't come into this book expecting a sweet romance. You won't get one. There's a new guy at school who really likes Parker, and there's a romance of sorts but it's pretty messy and complicated and it ends on a less-than-typical note. Actually, I really loved that we got so much of Parker's ex, Chris, whom she still talks to all the time and who still seems to be in love with her. I love it when YA books feature exes and break-ups even if the break-up takes place before the start of the book. Chris is so complex as well; every character in this book is, but Chris. Oh man, I don't know. I would love to find out more about what goes on in his head.
CRACKED UP TO BE was a very quick read with a surprising amount of depth. If you always wonder what their story is when you see mean girls in YA, then you need to read this. I definitely need to read all of Courtney Summers' other books as well.