Book review: Cracked up to Be by Courtney Summers

4/5 stars

After having read and fallen in love with Sadie by Courtney Summers, it’s safe to say that I had pretty high expectations of this novel, though I knew it was Summers’s first, so I couldn’t reasonably expect it to be as well polished, plotted and written as Sadie. And it isn’t, but it still packs quite a punch. It’s a soft 4 – not as good as others I’ve given the same rating, though I enjoyed it more than most I’ve rated 3.

Parker Fadley is your typical teenage bitch. She’s snarky, mean and doesn’t let anyone get through her tough exterior. She’d be the girl that would be all sweet and insecure underneath all the bravado, and end up with the popular guy she’s secretly in love with, in your typical high school rom-com. But that’s not what this book is. Bad things happen here. Have happened here.

Parker was the highly strung, overachieving perfect girl, until she cracked. Something happened that tipped her over the edge. What that is will eventually be revealed, though there are hints throughout the book. She reminds me of the nursery rhyme: “[…] when she was good she was very, very good, but when she was bad she was horrid.” Because when she cracks she does it so spectacularly. It’s as if she’s now putting the same amount of effort into being a screw-up as she previously put into being perfect.

And I sorta get it. I mean I definitely get the cracking part. She clearly put way too much pressure on herself and didn’t have any sort of healthy outlet for her anxiety.  However, I find her inner monologue and personality a little difficult to believe at times. Supposedly she doesn’t care about anything and wants to alienate everyone, and yet she’s motivated enough to graduate. Why is that one thing so important? I feel like this wasn’t explored well enough. I guess overall I would have liked some more depth and the narrative felt a bit disjointed. Though given Parker’s emotional state that also makes sense.

Also, the repetition of the party scene didn’t really do it for me, it just made me kind of impatient. Though I get that it’s like a broken record in her brain. Things can happen, so suddenly, so fast, and we don’t always do the right thing or know what the right thing is. And suddenly we’re living with the consequences. Another quote comes to mind, from one of my favourite plays – Crave by Sarah Kane: “And she has been hurtling away from that moment ever since”. This is what Parker has been doing, though she cannot get far enough away, physically or emotionally from that moment.

All in all this is a convincing and compelling story of the sudden brutality of life, and the pressures of living up to your own expectations even more so than those of other people.



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