(Original review posted on my livejournal account here
)Why I Read It:
This book caught my eye when it first came out in 2008 because its premise sounded semi-interesting. Then people were reviewing ARCs of her sophomore release Some Girls Are and my interest in the author peaked even more. I kept putting off trying her out though because I already have so many other books to read. Finally, I picked this up at work and started reading it on my breaks. It's a very short book, so this worked out quite well.
This book uses a trope I have a love/hate relationship with: you know those books that keep eluding to this big THING that has happened in the past, but the book only gives you little hints here and there as to what that thing actually is? Well, that's what Cracked Up to Be does. Readers are stuck in the mind of Parker Fadley who used to be perfect: top grades, captain of the cheerleading squad, and had the hottest boyfriend, but for some reason she gave it all up. She resorts to drinking at school, never doing homework and manipulating people's feelings because she just wants everyone to leave her alone. What happened to make Perfect Parker Fadley give it all up? Well, this is where That Thing That Happened comes in: the novel reveals bit by bit a party that changed Parker's life and not for the better.
My reason for having a love/hate relationship with the aforementioned trope is this: on the one hand I love them because they always hook me! When there are hints of a Thing That Happened, I NEED to know what said Thing is. I also hate them because sometimes they real me in even when I'm not liking much else about the book, but damnit, I NEED TO KNOW. Or sometimes they're just built up to be something Big and Epic and end up being kind of lame. Anyway, this book's Thing ended up being a) mostly unpredictable and b) kind of gasp-inducing, so I was happy. When I found out WHAT it was I felt kind of stupid for not figuring it out sooner. Summers had laid out all the hints that were needed to figure it out (she never hid anything in order to make the reveal more dramatic) yet when I found out I was like "OOHHH!!"
Also awesome was the main character Parker Fadley. She is by no means likable, but she is also super messed up, so even when she's doing stuff that you think is crazy, it's still kind of neat being stuck in her head because you see most of the reasoning behind her crazy actions (even when said reasoning doesn't always make much sense.) She's kind of like a car-wreck: you can't help but slow down and just stare. Also, once you find out just WHY Parker is acting the way she does, you can't help but feel sorry for her despite how she treated others before and after the incident. Let's just say that Parker brings a whole new and twisted definition to the word "perfect".
The secondary characters are pretty messed up too, though not nearly to the same degree as Parker. Her ex-boyfriend Chris is still in love with her (though HOW he has the patience for her I don't even know) which I think makes him a bit messed up, then there's the New Kid in school Jake who's fascinated and attracted to Parker (which I think makes him a tad messed up as well) and finally Becky, who has taken Parker's place in the social hierachy and is super popular because of Parker's fall from grace (and I thought their relationship was interesting; they obviously dislike each other, but once in awhile show a degree of compassion for one another). Anyway, Parker's in the spotlight so none of them are quite as fleshed out, but they were developed enough to not feel like cardboard cutouts put in place to move the plot forward.
The writing was pretty good too. Parker's voice is a very distinct flavour of witty, sarcastic and bitchy and reading her rapports with the other characters clipped along. The novel was mostly dialogue, and when it wasn't it was very direct and to the point.Final Verdict:
This novel hooked me. I'm a sucker for books that have A Thing That Happened and having that Thing hinted at and revealed throughout the novel. Parker was such an interesting character in that she was so messed up and I needed to know WHY she was this way. I wouldn't go so far as to say that she's a likable character, but I still didn't mind being stuck in her head; seeing the reasoning for her crazy behaviour was compelling. The writing was full of wittiness and sarcasm which made it fun to read about, even if Parker's behaviour isn't exactly a laughing matter. I'll definitely be checking out more of Summers' work.