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CRACKED UP TO BE by Courtney Summers

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Parker Fadley was captain of the varsity cheerleading squad. She’d been on the honor roll for the first three years of high school, and Chris, the most popular guy at school, was in love with her, the most popular girl in school. Now, no matter how awful she is to him, she knows he still loves her, but she’s not worth it. Not since the party. Not since her life took a radical one hundred eighty degree turn.

Her parents have her on a tight leash. Early curfews. Weekly meetings with the guidance counselor. Dinners with sad, yet hopeful eyes turned her way, yearning for a glimpse of the Parker they used to know.  Everyone has her on a suicide watch, but nobody knows why. What could have caused Parker Fadley to turn away from everything and everyone?

It’s Jake who begins to get under her skin with his unnerving presence and constant questions. How can she possibly be that interesting to him? When Evan comes back to school she can no longer keep the memories of the events of that night at bay. Whether she wants to or not, she’s going to have to find the real Parker Fadley, or risk losing her forever.

The restful cover of CRACKED UP TO BE belies the unrest and turmoil that is Parker Fadley. The voice is incredible, similar to that of SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson. Courtney Summers doles out the secrets in small portions, teasing the reader, and when the events of the party are finally revealed with nothing held back, the tension is palpable. And no matter how many hints Ms. Summers drops, you’ll never be able to guess Parker’s terrible secret. This debut author is just that good.

This review was originally posted at
#1 - January 06, 2009, 06:55 PM

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(Cross posted from my blog.)

Courtney Summers’s debut novel, cracked up to be, is everything it’s cracked up to be!

The first three sentences, graphic but darkly humorous, hooked me immediately and set the tone for the rest of the story. I loved Parker Fadley’s sarcastic quips and witty observations. She’s a smart girl with a sharp edge, and I liked her.

Summers’s prowess as an author was so subtle, I didn’t realize how far I’d been pulled in until wham! Near the end, she blindsided me with something I didn’t know was coming, yet it made perfect sense. It was the stroke of a master.

There are so many quotable lines in this novel. Here are the lines that open Chapter Four: “I’m a fantastic crier. Everyone’s on suicide watch.” You can see how sardonic Parker is about her own condition; it’s as if she’s an observer as well as the actor. And though Parker indicates the crying was a deliberate act, I couldn’t help but wonder if this quipping was indeed the part of a slightly unreliable narrator—that maybe Parker is a little more scared than she’ll even let herself know.

Summers lands the book on a solid ending. I recommend this book for YA readers, especially fans of Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why.

And I can’t close without urging you to view the trailer for cracked up to be (online at It’s awesome!
#2 - February 17, 2009, 02:18 PM
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