“Cracked up to Be” showcases the fall from grace of Parker Fadley, a young woman who isn’t exactly the most likable person in her social circles. For Parker, that’s precisely what she wants – to push people away, whether it’s her worried parents, her strict teachers, her former boyfriend (who might still be in love with her) and the intriguing new kid (Jake) whom she refuses to escort to class and ultimately realizes that he might be someone more than just a speck in her life.
But behind Parker’s brazen, ultimately self-destructive exterior, vulnerabilities leak through as she considers the truth of what caused her to start severing the ties in her life. It’s largely upon the efforts of those who care about her and won’t let go that make her face her realities.
Summers’ debut novel is a tough one – it doesn’t pull punches with how unlikable Parker can be, but in the same vein, maintains a strong threading of events throughout the work that allow the reader to see the truth behind Parker’s behavior and care about her through the unraveling. On one hand, it’s an examination of her current closest relationships, and the crossfire that results while Parker acts out, continuously in denial. On another, it examines the events of the night Parker’s world came crashing down, and the issues she continues to deal with even in the aftermath of the event. The sequencing/interplay between the past and present is deliberate and flows well, ultimately leading up to the point where Parker gets her own wake up call and realizes that she has to face not only for the relationship strains she puts the ones she cares about through, but also the reality of that night and what it entails for the people who were a part of those events. The transition toward the end of the big reveal is a little rushed, but ultimately gets its point across.
I found “Cracked Up to Be” to be surprisingly engaging, insightful read overall. While in places it hits hard with realities in Parker’s life, it also manages to be humorous in spurts, with a strong, authentic teen voice from Parker. It’s one I would certainly recommend, and one I think will keep readers engaged and thinking long about the events, even after the conclusion of the book.
Overall score: 4/5