Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers

It’s a funny story how I got this one, actually. After a crazy couple of close-calls, Courtney Summers sent me a *~sparkly~* email being awesome and nice and graciously shoving one of these at me even though I was planning on having my brother buy it for me anyway. I think she really felt sorry for me, y’all. Like, at my neediness.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?

Something’s bothering Parker Fadley. In the space of some short seconds, her life turns on its head, perfect no longer. Gone is every teacher’s dream. She begins getting bad grades, showing up to school wasted, and getting in other miscellaneous trouble. The problem is, no one knows what caused her downfall. Parker wants to be left alone to figure (or not) things out her own way. But what with being placed under suicide watch, the school officials breathing down her neck and threatening to withhold her diploma, and the new guy at school falling for her unintentional appeal, it’s tough. Tough to lose herself and tough to ignore her demons. Because the truth is that something horrible has happened—and it might just be her fault.

I just want to say this novel is a true testament of subjectivity. When Courtney Summers put the first two chapters up on her site, I had to have this. My best friend, however, felt far differently. The same first paragraph that hooked me, turned her off. (To which I said, All righty then…) Here it is, for your convenience:

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.

High school.

Doesn’t that equate to utter love and devotion? I’m telling you, my friends are weird.

Anyway, all of this leads me to the primary object of my affections: Parker’s characterization. Regardless of her mystique and the drama surrounding it, her voice was just crazy-good in its intonation, consistency, and constancy. Strong narrators are my forte, and Parker left no doubt of whom (read: the bitch) she was and she was unapologetic about it. And best thing is, it never got annoying, fanciful or trashy. Major props for that.

Her lifestyle made sense, all things considered, because even though you don’t find out until the end what Horrible Occurrence occurred, it was obvious from the get-go she is unhinged and hurting. There were times I wanted to slap her for being such an ungrateful bitch to all the people reaching out to her. Ultimately, though, I felt really sorry for her because her defense mechanism was going to fail her at some point and she wouldn’t know how to deal with it, and by then she’d have driven everyone away.

I’ve seen comments about how her alcohol abuse was unfounded, and I just have to say I don’t think so. I’ve seen friends go off the deep end for tamer reasons. I reckon they shut down and then proceed to find God in the bottom of a bottle, either because they have some preconceived notion alcohol fixes things (incorrect: it’s a depressant) or it was just the first thing that materialized in front of them that made sense (a depressing prospect). It’s a directionless place to be, Parker’s situation, so I don’t blame her.

There were places where I wished the big revelation didn’t keep being put off, but really, I enjoyed this novel. It’s an amazing combination of being powerful from the perspective of a fragile character and hits close to home. Here’s to everyone who has regrets or something to hide. B+

Note: To all the cheapos or hardback haters out there, here is something to be happy about: original paperback release!

Further note: Canadian authors rule. Between Courtney and CK Kelly Martin (whose novel I Know It's Over was one of 2008's best), there is no shortage on the awesome front.

St. Martin's Griffin | 214 pages | December 24th, 2008 | Author Site | Excerpt | GoodReads | Amazon


Alea said...

Hardback Hater Represent! You are posting reviews like crazy Steph, I love it!

stargirlreads said...

sounds great!

Anonymous said...

I agree with you that sometimes the revelation seemed to be dragged out (especially since I guessed what the revelation would be), but I still really loved this book, mainly 'cause I hearted Parker. (Only my least favorite thing was the ending of the one subplot. Surely you can guess what I'm talking about. Too sad for me.)

Lenore Appelhans said...

Parker's voice was crazy good - LOVED her!

Amee said...

A few things:

You're on a roll Steph!

My tastes are not weird. Just different. I'm still appalled at the musical differences we discovered this weekend. ;)

I love Canadian authors too. A couple of my favorites are Canadian.

WannabeWriter said...

I really liked this one too. Canadian authors for the win! :]

cindy said...

i cannot wait to buy this! =D

Bookworm said...

I've heard so much good things about this one....not my style, but great job, Courtney!

Laina said...

Yay!! Canada!!! I get a ton of books by Canadian authors from my library because... well, I'm Canadian. :D

Thao said...

Yay paperpack! I have to get this.

Staci said...

I agree with you the opening is fantastic and made me want to find out what this was all about. Thanks for a fantastic review. I like the way you write!!!

Anonymous said...

I loved this one! Devoured it in just a few hours -- and it's been a while since I could say that!

Ali said...

Great review! I loved the voice, too. I was one of the ones who criticized the alcohol aspect. I think if we'd seen the descent into alcohol abuse, I would've bought it, but Summers didn't offer enough support for it.

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