Thursday, November 21, 2013

Cracked Up to Be

by Courtney Summers
4/5 stars
St. Martin's Griffin, 2008
214 pages
YA Contemporary

Source: Won What Goes Around bind-up through Sammee at I Want to Read That; see my review of Some Girls Are

I have read all of the other currently published Summers novels but had somehow missed out on her debut. When I won this bind-up, I knew this was my chance to correct that grievous oversight! Something in the spoiler section really upset me but mostly my feelings are positive about this book.

Immediately I was engaged as the book opens with narrator Parker musing on four years of high school and the dark things that have hung over them. She personally has rebelled against this by drinking on school grounds, neglecting to complete homework, and generally completely overturning her image as "Perfect Parker" to the dismay and fear of her parents and school officials. As italicized sections tease, something went down at a party. This may have involved Parker's ex Chris, his new girlfriend/her frenemy Becky, and their other friend Jessie but the details are only fuzzily shared until the final revelations.

I had read about this book beforehand so I thought I knew what the secret was; I had gotten it muddled though so I was a little off-base but on the right track. Certainly I never would have guessed what actually went down. It's a dark secret for Parker to handle and it bothered me that she didn't share with anyone, not even a professional even as she repeatedly talked about wanting to end her life. Though present, her parents are pretty ineffectual and easily manipulated by Parker.

Parker is not a character everyone will like. I personally loved her sass and attitude, how she does not care what others are saying to or about her, and her determination to push everyone away. These kinds of prickly characters often appeal to me and Summers kept the narrative tight and on her instead of attempting to cover too much ground. She is awful to the people around her who somehow manage to stick around and who continuously try to get through to her.

I'm torn on the ending. On the one hand, it's not super happy and there are still some loose ends, which are not endings I tend to like. On the other hand, it was a perfectly realistic ending for this book and the kind I like would have been ridiculous.

Content: Lots of language, sexual content, and underage drinking: multiple instances of all these.

SPOILER

I could not believe Summers killed off Bailey. Among all of the moments that shocked, that is the one that just destroyed me. I started to have inklings about Jessie and Parker but Bailey's death completely blindsided me. Surprisingly as I skimmed some other reviews, he wasn't even mentioned but I couldn't skip over the emotional power this scene exerted on me.

END SPOILER

23 comments:

  1. I started reading Some Girls Are but I didn't like the protagonist at all so I just skipped ahead to find out what happened. I am not sure about this one either though I'd probably find Parker less annoying than Regina. I kept thinking of the movie Mean Girls when I read that one.

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    1. Summers' protagonists can be very hard to empathize with-they're prickly difficult young women but I like how she weaves a story. Did you read This Is Not a Test? It's my favorite of hers so far.

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  2. I kind of like most of Summers' books, but don't love them. But I do love that her protagonists are always deeply flawed, and that the narrative shows the sympathetic side of people who might act awful.

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    1. "I do love that her protagonists are always deeply flawed, and that the narrative shows the sympathetic side of people who might act awful."

      Yes, this.

      We haven't read this book, only CRACKED UP TO BE and THIS IS NOT A TEST, but we enjoyed both of those. Maybe we'll come back to this one (although we did read the spoiler, lol...).

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    2. I loved This Is Not a Test but have had less passionate feelings about the others. I love that she writes difficult complicated female protags and she doesn't sugarcoat anything.

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  3. I totally don't remember reading this but def do remember the sense of flawed protags that I enjoyed

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    1. It seems to be common throughout Summers' writing and I'm glad-we need more female characters who aren't always lovable.

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  4. I've actually not read anything by this author! But a lot of my friends are fans. I'm not sure whether this book would be one for me or not. I'm kind of over stories about girls struggling with "that bad thing that happened at a party" BUT I like that this story was realistic and drew you in, despite a not very likable heroine.

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    1. You should definitely check them out-no love triangles :)

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  5. I've had this book in my TBR pile for a while now but haven't gotten around to reading it. I think I just might have to change that. Thanks for the review.

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    1. I hope this prompts you to bump it up your list-you'll probably find it worthwhile.

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  6. Such a HUGE fan of Courtney Summers!!! We must get Lauren (above) to try one of her books...

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    1. Right? Especially because I don't think any of her books have a love triangle...

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  7. I haven't heard of Summers before. Thanks for the review. I'm going to have to try the book out. I will let you know what I think about it.

    http://innerworkingsofthefemalemind.wordpress.com/

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    1. I hope it went well-she's such a great writer!

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  8. I've only read one book by her but I really enjoyed it. This sounds like one I might like. I sometimes like characters like this, and I sometimes don't. Definitely worth giving a try though!

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    1. I think I usually try to be sympathetic to such girls-I remember how hard it was to be a teenager.

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  9. I've read one book by Courtney, but I own this one I believe! I want to read more by her because I like realistic books like these.

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    1. This Is Not a Test is the one I most recommend but I think all of her books have some very worthwhile aspects.

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  10. Great review. <3 I'm glad you mostly loved this one :) I adore Courtney, but have yet to read any of her other books besides This is Not a Test :) Hoping to read this one soon. <3 But I am a little bit worried about it.. sigh. Still. I'm glad you enjoyed it :D

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    1. You should check out her other writings-they're just straight contemporaries but they have a lot of the same power.

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  11. I have GOT to read some Courtney Summers! I have at least 3 of her books on my TBR and based on you and other's reviews I would definitely love her writing style. Plus sassy protags with tons of attitude are always a hit with me:)

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    1. You have got to giver her at try Heather! I am so surprised to hear that you haven't already!

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