Parker was a good girl. A nice girl. A cheerleader. A straight-A student.
Then something happened. Something which changed Parker completely. Something she wishes she could change. Her mood, her grades, and her spirits have all plummeted. Haunted, Parker is no longer the girl she once was - and she doesn't want to be, not anymore.
Courtney Summers' debut novel is not to be missed. From its first page, Cracked Up to Be is raw and real. The writing will immediately strike a chord with readers. When the characters speak, they sound authentic: some kids swear and some kids laugh while others toss out a word or two while swallowing down what they really want to say. Adult readers will quickly be transported to the halls of high school and feel as if they never left. When worries and bravado and the sound of lockers opening and shutting fill the space between classes, the air becomes so thick with activity and words and things that she's no longer a part of that sometimes Parker just can't breathe.
With everything referring back to a party and alluding to something that transpired there, there's an element of mystery to the story. That element will inspire the desire to keep reading, not only to find out what happened then but also see what happens next.
In a way, there are three Parkers - past, present, and future - and all of them are worth knowing. Repulsed by her former self, she acts out on purpose, pushing everything and everyone away. Once perfect, whole, and untouchable, she is now a broken girl. Shattered. As she struggles through her senior year, she may or may not find all of the pieces of herself. If those pieces can come back together again, Parker might be able reclaim herself - if she even wants to - but she'll have to let go of some heavy things in order to do so.
I highly recommend this title, which I have included on my Best Books of 2008 list.
I also reviewed the book at SparkLife and Young Adult Books Central.
I had the honor of interviewing the author, Courtney Summers. Read the interview.
A Personal Note
I feel very lucky to have been one of the book's earliest readers. I didn't know Courtney prior to reading this book; I was not her associate, her editor, her writing partner, her publicist. After reading this book, I couldn't stop talking about it - while reading it, actually - and I marked at least thirty pages in the book with my trusty little Post-It flats. (I may edit this post later this week to include my favorite lines and quotes from the book.) Due to my loud support and ongoing praise of the book, I have a list of friends and customers awaiting its release. I can't wait until they read it. The book is very thought-provoking, and I anticipate some really great discussions. I hope that other reviewers and bloggers enjoy the book as much as I do.
Imagine four years.
Four years, two suicides, one death, one rape, two pregnancies (one abortion), three overdoses, countless drunken antics, pantsings, spilled food, theft, fights, broken limbs, turf wars - every day, a turf war - six months until graduation and no one gets a medal when they get out. But everything you do here counts.
Read the first chapter of Cracked Up to Be. (Not suitable for younger readers.)
Cracked Up to Be was won the Cybils Award for Young Adult Fiction.
I recommend the following titles alongside Cracked Up to Be:
Swollen by Melissa Lion
The True Meaning of Cleavage by Mariah Fredericks
The Truth about Forever by Sarah Dessen
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
- as well as Courtney's other novels, Some Girls Are and Fall For Anything.