So, I finally got around to reading this book and I’m really glad I did. Courtney Summers is one of my most favorite YA authors since I’ve read Some Girls Are, which totally blew me away and made my heart ache in many places. I guess it’s safe to say that Courtney (yes, first name basis, haha!) likes taking risks in her novels; she writes characters that aren’t exactly likeable but she tells their story in a beautiful, no-nonsense way that makes us realize that there’s more to these bitchy girls than meets the eye. We’re used to these girls being props, background noises in the story of the kind, brave, quirky heroine. And then Courtney Summers strolls in and changes everything.
Parker Fadley: straight-A student, cheer captain, and notorious perfectionist. Parker is the epitome of perfect in St. Peter’s High; she’s dating the hot guy, she’s getting the best grades, she’s the reason behind every win of the cheer-leading squad, and everything she does gets only the best results – everyone is afraid of Parker yet everybody wants to be her. She’s just so perfect! Until one day, she wasn’t. Suddenly, Perfect Parker Fadley is not so perfect anymore. She’s failing her classes, she’s always getting in trouble, she’s no longer dating the hot guy, and the cheer squad has a new captain. Nobody knows what happened, and Parker wouldn’t tell. All everyone knows is that the Parker they knew was gone, and in her place is a perfectly imperfect stranger.
I love this book; maybe because I have always been drawn to those people everybody wants to stay away from, at least in fiction. Take for example Pansy Parkinson from the Harry Potter Series. Everybody hates the Slytherin bitch queen, but not me. I always thought that there was a reason for how she is, a bigger picture we weren’t afforded to see, but it’s there. Whatever Pansy became during her adolescent years is a product of an experience or a series of. It wasn’t automatic, like someone handing out ID cards with your roles in life printed neatly on them. Hey, I got ‘designated nasty bitch’, and you proceed to be a nasty bitch for all your life without any justification whatsoever. I’m really glad Courtney Summers decided to do her thing, where she gets into the minds of these girls we love to hate and show us that hey, they’re not empty shells after all. Just like any average human being, they too, have emotions and thoughts and reasons. They’re not mindless hate machines, contrary to their current reputation in the YA trend.
Parker Fadley is an exasperating and frustrating character at first, when I didn’t know her motivation for actively pursuing her own destruction. She’s sarcastic, blunt, and just overall unpleasant to anyone and everyone who dare approach. But just the same, she was charismatic, someone you cannot help but like despite all the evidence pointing you to the contrary. I actually found myself cheering her on every time she makes a sarcastic remark or does something that would evidently lead to trouble. When her secret was slowly unraveled, I was still exasperated and frustrated by her, but for different reasons now. I also finally understood her and her manner of self-punishment; I thought it was fitting, and brilliant Courtney Summers portrayed it excellently. ‘Show, not tell’ is what I’m talking about, and the author did a great job of it.
I concede that this book is not for everyone. Parker Fadley is not what we’re used to; she’s no brave and courageous heroine, but her story is a strong one all the same. This novel is gritty and raw; it isn’t scared to paint a picture, no matter how crude it could seem. Courtney Summers is an amazing author, not only for her writing skills but for tackling subjects like this – subjects that dare you to think and consider what it’s like to be out of the ideal. Her other characters are well-defined as well and wholly realistic. I have never quite encountered the kind of characterization that Courtney Summers infuses in her novels. Every person in this book thrives in shades of gray and surprisingly, aren’t clichéd at all, despite the high school trope being a notorious home of overused stereotypes.
Cracked Up To Be is a book that I would recommend to everyone because it represents something we so rarely see. A character that’s so far from the usual ones that we support, and a story that sheds some light into an issue everyone has long dismissed. It doesn’t end at ‘She’s a bitch’. There’s always the why and the how, and Courtney Summers shows us that we ought to consider that sometimes. I wish I read this book when I was far younger than I am now, and I wish more young people discover the author-gem that is Courtney Summers and the treasure trove that is her books. Definitely five coconuts.