(click to view)
violence, death, rape (on-page, briefly), mentions of suicide and overdose, animal death, teen drinking, anxiety/panic attacks, sexual content
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.
This book has some f*cked up stuff in it, and it’s also extremely good.
Difficult to read at times, but incredibly well-written, Cracked Up to Be is raw and powerful and heart-breaking.
Parker, the main character, has been through some trauma, and as a result, she definitely falls into what many would call the ‘unlikable protagonist’ category. I know some readers don’t like books with these types of main characters, but personally, I loved getting to know Parker, in all of her messiness and complexities, and getting to look inside her head and try to understand why she is the way that she is.
This ‘unlikable female character’ trope is touched on in the author’s introduction—the novel was first published in 2008, but this 2020 re-release includes a new introduction from the author—and I absolutely loved the insight and context I gained from reading it before beginning the story. I wanted to include a little snippet of it that especially resonated with me (though I do recommend reading the introduction in its entirety is you pick up the new edition of the book):
Some books are a labor of love; Cracked Up to Be was a labor of spite. It was my fourth written novel, arriving after three other manuscripts were rejected by literary agents who felt my female main characters were too “unlikable” to sell. I never saw them that way. Complex? Of course. Difficult? Absolutely. The girls I wrote did not always react likably or do likable things, but who does? Doesn’t that just mean we’re human? The girls I wrote about—and still write about—were often coping with trauma. If they didn’t have permission to navigate that space honestly and imperfectly, and yes, even, unlikably, then who did?
Oh, right: my male characters.
It is these types of narratives, I think, that help us gain a greater sense of empathy for real-life people, for girls like Parker who don’t always do likable things. Gradually, through short, fragmented flashbacks, we come to understand Parker’s backstory, and how she went from straight-As and cheerleading to missing assignments and isolation.
Surprisingly, another word I would use to describe Cracked Up to Be is funny. Parker’s voice is razor-sharp, and her narration is, at times, laugh-out-loud funny in a very sardonic way.
If you’re up for a darker read with a messy protagonist, I would definitely recommend Cracked Up to Be. (Be sure to look at the content warnings listed above if you’re unsure about anything.)
(Can we just take a second to appreciate how the new Cracked Up to Be cover matches Sadie‘s…perfection.)
Thanks for stopping by! Let me know in the comments—have you read any Courtney Summers novels? What did you think? How was your week? Hope you all and your families are safe ❤
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!