I think Cracked Up to Be is one of the best debuts I’ve ever read. Courtney Summers has masterfully crafted an “unlikeable” female protagonist who somehow makes you root for her. If you’re going to read one Summers book, make it Cracked Up to Be.
Parker Fadley used to be the cheerleading captain, girlfriend of the most popular guy in school, and future valedictorian. Now, she’s failing classes and drinking in school. What the hell happened? Nobody knows except Parker.
I love how beautifully damaged Parker is. Her incessant need to prove to everyone that she isn’t worth the time is incredible. You want to hate her, but you still end up rooting for her.
Parker’s high school is pretty realistic. Some of the things that happen in this book are things that I witnessed in my high school, so it was such a trip to read this book. Summers, even though she didn’t attend a traditional high school herself, has absolutely nailed what high school is like. Bravo.
Really, the best part about this book is the voice. Summers has written Parker’s voice so authentically that the voice alone is enough of a reason to read Cracked Up to Be. If ever there was a damaged, conflicted, internally struggling character, Summers has written her perfectly.
** Spoilers ahead. **
Parker’s guilt is heartbreaking. No one can be responsible for what happened to Jessica Wellington but the person who actually killed her. The fact that Parker has been carrying around the guilt of outing Jessica’s indiscretions is devastating. Of course she didn’t intend for what she said to make Jessica wander off on her own, which in turn got her raped and murdered. Jessica’s rape and murder were not Parker’s fault, but she feels like they were. How is anyone supposed to convince her otherwise? She keeps everything so tightly bottled up, it’s no wonder she’s so alienated and (arguably) lonely.
I rooted for Parker and Jake throughout the whole book. Here’s this guy who has persevered through Parker’s nasty facade, who genuinely cares about her and wants to know why she is the way she is. The book’s ending is kind of open-ended, and I choose to believe that Parker gets the help she needs and then can have a healthy relationship (whether with Jake or not, who knows, but I hope it is Jake who’s waiting for her when she’s well).
There are so many books out there that have tried (and failed) to depict a complicated, unlikeable, conflicted female protagonist. Courtney Summers does this with grace, and with a fantastic plot as well.
Jump into Parker Fadley’s mind for a few hours. You won’t regret it.
My full review of Cracked Up to Be is also available on Goodreads. Have you read Cracked Up to Be? Please leave a comment below (spoiler free)!