Review: Cracked Up to Be

Perfect Parker Fadley isn’t so perfect anymore. She’s quit the cheerleading squad, she’s dumped her perfect boyfriend, and she’s failing school. Her parents are on a constant suicide watch and her counselors think she’s playing games…but what they don’t know, the real reason for this whole mess, isn’t something she can say out loud. It isn’t even something she can say to herself. A horrible thing has happened and it just might be her fault. If she can just remove herself from everybody–be totally alone–then everything will be okay…The problem is, nobody will let her.–From Amazon

I read Courtney Summers’ brilliant blog post on unlikable female protagonists a few days ago, and shortly after received Cracked Up to Be from a very long library waiting list. The post makes so much more sense now. Parker Fadley is indeed unlikeable, and yet she is totally captivating. Reading Cracked Up to Be is like watching a car wreck: Parker is a complete disaster, but I couldn’t stop turning page after page to find out what made her that way.

After a mysterious tragic incident, the formerly perfect Parker breaks down. She loses interest in school and cheerleading, she treats all the people around her like crap. The more her friends and family try to help her, the more she pushes them away. As much as Parker wants to hate other people, the truth is that she hates herself the most. Parker thinks she deserves to be punished, and punish herself she does. The rise and fall of Parker Fadley is particularly enthralling not because Parker is so unlikeable, but because she used to be so likable. There’s little more interesting than contrast. The incident that led to Parker’s suicide attempt and subsequent depression is revealed through snippets of flashbacks throughout the book. I can’t say that I was hugely surprised by the ending, but I really enjoyed the character study along the way.

Quotable Quotes from Cracked Up to Be

  • “I elbow my way through the mass of people to get to my locker because there’s something immensely satisfying about the toughest part of my arm connecting with the softest part of everyone else.”
  • “Jake and Chris talk through art and discover they have so much in common it’s amazing. Like, They Could Be Boyfriends If They Didn’t Like Vaginas So Much Amazing. “
  • “Imagine 4 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.”
  • “I get caught up in outcomes. I convince myself they’re truths. No one will notice how wrong you are if everything you do ends up right. The rest becomes incidental. So incidental that, after a while, you forget. Maybe you are perfect. Good. It must be true. Who can argue with results? You’re not so wrong after all. So you buy into it and go crazy maintaining it. Except it creeps up on you sometimes, that you’re not right. Imperfect. Bad.”
  • “I never understood how I was supposed to work as a person or how I was supposed to work with other people. Something was really wrong with me, like I felt wrong all the time. I longed for some kind of symmetry, a balance. I chose perfection. Opposite of wrong. Right. Perfect. Good.”
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