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How Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers Changed My Life: A Personal Essay

Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers: A Gripping YA Novel

If you're looking for a realistic, dark, and compelling young adult novel that will keep you hooked until the end, you might want to check out Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers. This debut novel by the Canadian author was published in 2008 and has received critical acclaim and awards for its portrayal of a troubled teenage girl who has a secret that haunts her.

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In this article, we'll give you a comprehensive overview of what this book is about, who are the characters, what are the themes, how is the style, how did it fare among readers and critics, is there an adaptation in the works, who is the author, and why should you read it. We'll also answer some frequently asked questions about the book at the end. So let's get started!

The Plot: How a Perfect Life Turns Upside Down

The protagonist of Cracked Up to Be is Parker Fadley, a senior at St. Peter's High School. She used to be the perfect student: smart, popular, beautiful, captain of the cheerleading squad, dating the most handsome guy in school. But something happened that changed everything. Now she's a mess: she drinks, she skips classes, she pushes everyone away, she doesn't care about anything. She wants to be left alone, but everyone wants to know what's wrong with her.

The only person who seems to understand her is Jake Kilpatrick, a new student who has a crush on her. He tries to get close to her and help her, but she rejects him at every turn. She also has to deal with her ex-boyfriend Chris, who still loves her but doesn't know how to reach her; her former best friend Becky, who hates her for what she did; and her parents and teachers, who are worried about her future.

As the story unfolds, we learn that Parker's downfall was triggered by a tragic event that occurred at a party last year. She blames herself for what happened and can't forgive herself. She thinks she deserves to suffer and doesn't want anyone's pity or sympathy. But as she spirals deeper into depression and self-destruction, she realizes that she can't escape from her past or her feelings. She has to face them and deal with them before it's too late.

The Characters: Who are the People in Parker's World?

One of the strengths of Cracked Up to Be is its realistic and complex characters. They are not stereotypes or clichés; they have depth and personality. Here are some of the main and secondary characters in the book:

  • Parker Fadley: The narrator and protagonist of the book. She is a smart, sarcastic, and cynical girl who used to be perfect but now is broken. She has a dark secret that torments her and makes her act out. She is also very lonely and vulnerable, but she hides it behind a mask of indifference and hostility.

  • Jake Kilpatrick: The new kid in school who falls for Parker. He is a kind, funny, and charming guy who sees beyond Parker's facade and tries to help her. He is also persistent and patient, not giving up on her despite her rejections and insults.

  • Chris Brody: Parker's ex-boyfriend and former co-captain of the cheerleading squad. He is a handsome, popular, and nice guy who still loves Parker and wants to get back together with her. He is also confused and hurt by her behavior and doesn't know what to do.

  • Becky Johnson: Parker's former best friend and fellow cheerleader. She is a pretty, bubbly, and friendly girl who used to be inseparable from Parker. But after the incident at the party, she turned against her and became her enemy. She blames Parker for what happened and spreads rumors about her.

  • Jessica Tucker: The missing girl whose disappearance is the mystery that drives the plot. She was a shy, quiet, and unpopular girl who went to the same school as Parker and the others. She was last seen at the party where something terrible happened.

The Themes: What are the Messages and Lessons of the Book?

Cracked Up to Be is not a light or fluffy read; it deals with some serious and dark themes that are relevant and relatable for young adults. Some of the themes and topics explored in the book are:

  • Guilt: The main theme of the book is guilt and how it affects a person's life. Parker feels guilty for what happened to Jessica and thinks she is responsible for it. She can't let go of her guilt and it consumes her. She punishes herself and pushes everyone away. She thinks she doesn't deserve happiness or forgiveness. The book shows how guilt can be destructive and paralyzing, but also how it can be overcome with acceptance and healing.

  • Identity: Another theme of the book is identity and how it changes over time. Parker used to have a clear sense of who she was: the perfect girl who had it all. But after the incident, she lost her identity and became someone else: the broken girl who has nothing. She doesn't know who she is anymore or what she wants. She also struggles with how others see her and how they judge her. The book shows how identity can be fluid and dynamic, but also how it can be rediscovered and reclaimed.

  • Trauma: A related theme of the book is trauma and how it impacts a person's mental health. Parker suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of what she witnessed at the party. She has flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, depression, anger, and suicidal thoughts. She doesn't seek help or talk to anyone about it. She tries to cope by drinking, cutting, or isolating herself. The book shows how trauma can be devastating and debilitating, but also how it can be treated and healed.

  • Friendship: Another theme of the book is friendship and how it can be both supportive and toxic. Parker used to have a lot of friends who admired her and looked up to her. But after the incident, she lost most of them or pushed them away. She only has Jake, who tries to be her friend despite her resistance. She also has Chris, who still cares for her but doesn't understand her. And she has Becky, who used to be her friend but now hates her. The book shows how friendship can be both a source of comfort and conflict, but also how it can be restored and strengthened.

The Style: How does the Author Tell the Story?

The style of Cracked Up to Be is one of its distinctive features that sets it apart from other YA novels. The author uses several techniques to tell the story in an engaging and effective way:

  • First-person narration: The book is told from Parker's point of view, which allows us to get inside her head and understand her thoughts and feelings. It also creates a sense of intimacy and empathy with the character.

  • Non-linear structure: The book alternates between the present and the past, revealing bits and pieces of what happened at the party through flashbacks. This creates a sense of suspense and mystery, as well as contrast between Parker's before and after.

```html sarcasm and humor: The book is full of witty dialogue, sarcastic remarks, and humorous situations that lighten the mood and make the characters more likable. Parker's voice is especially funny and sharp, which adds to her personality and charm.

  • Emotion and drama: The book is also full of emotional and dramatic moments that touch the heart and make the reader care. Parker's pain and struggle are palpable and realistic, which makes her story more compelling and powerful.

The Reception: How did the Readers and Critics React to the Book?

Cracked Up to Be was well received by both readers and critics when it was published in 2008. It has a 3.8 rating on Goodreads, based on over 16,000 reviews, and a 4.4 rating on Amazon, based on over 100 reviews. It also has positive reviews from various publications and websites, such as Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, Booklist, etc.

Some of the praises that the book received are:

  • "A smart, edgy debut novel that will appeal to fans of Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak." - Publishers Weekly

  • "Summers' debut novel is a gritty but hopeful story about one girl's search for redemption." - Kirkus Reviews

  • "A gripping story of a girl who refuses to be defined by her mistakes." - School Library Journal

  • "A powerful and poignant look at guilt and forgiveness." - Booklist

The book also won several awards and honors, such as:

  • The 2009 Cybils Award for Young Adult Fiction

  • The 2010 White Pine Award Nominee

  • The 2010 ALA Best Books for Young Adults

  • The 2010 ALA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers

The Adaptation: Is there a Movie or TV Show Based on the Book?

As of now, there is no official confirmation or announcement of any adaptation project for Cracked Up to Be. However, there have been some rumors and speculations that the book might be turned into a movie or a TV show in the future.

One of the sources of these rumors is the author herself, Courtney Summers, who has expressed her interest and enthusiasm for seeing her book on screen. In a blog post from 2010, she wrote:

"I would love to see Cracked Up to Be as a movie. I think it would make a great one. I can see it in my head. It would be awesome."

She also mentioned some actors and actresses that she would like to see playing her characters, such as:

  • Emma Stone as Parker Fadley

  • Logan Lerman as Jake Kilpatrick

  • Zac Efron as Chris Brody

  • Amanda Seyfried as Becky Johnson

  • Ellen Page as Jessica Tucker

Another source of these rumors is the fans of the book, who have created various fan-made trailers, posters, cast lists, and petitions for an adaptation. Some of these fan-made creations can be found on YouTube, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc.

However, these rumors and speculations are not enough to guarantee that an adaptation will happen anytime soon. There are many factors and challenges involved in making a book into a movie or a TV show, such as securing the rights, finding a producer, hiring a director, casting the actors, writing the script, etc.

Therefore, until there is an official announcement or confirmation from a reliable source, we can only hope and wish that Cracked Up to Be will someday make it to the big or small screen.

The Author: Who is Courtney Summers and What Else has She Written?

Courtney Summers is a Canadian author who specializes in writing young adult fiction. She was born in 1986 in Belleville, Ontario. She started writing when she was 14 years old and published her first novel when she was 22 years old.

She is known for writing realistic, dark, and edgy stories that feature strong female protagonists who face difficult and controversial issues. She has been praised for her honest and unflinching portrayal of teenage life and her unique and captivating voice.

Some of the other books that she has written are:

  • Some Girls Are (2010): A story of a girl who becomes a victim of bullying and revenge after being betrayed by her best friend.

  • Fall for Anything (2011): A story of a girl who tries to find out the truth behind her father's suicide.

  • This is Not a Test (2012): A story of a group of students who try to survive a zombie apocalypse.

  • All the Rage (2015): A story of a girl who is raped by the son of the sheriff and ostracized by her community.

  • Sadie (2018): A story of a girl who goes missing after her sister is murdered and a podcast that tries to find her.

The Conclusion: Why Should You Read Cracked Up to Be?

Cracked Up to Be is a book that will make you feel, think, and care. It is a book that will challenge you, surprise you, and move you. It is a book that will stay with you long after you finish it.

It is a book that will show you the dark and ugly side of human nature, but also the light and beautiful side. It is a book that will show you the power and pain of guilt, but also the possibility and hope of forgiveness. It is a book that will show you the struggle and loss of identity, but also the potential and growth of self-discovery.

It is a book that will show you the complexity and diversity of characters, but also the simplicity and universality of emotions. It is a book that will show you the skill and talent of writing, but also the passion and heart of storytelling.

It is a book that will make you laugh, cry, gasp, and smile. It is a book that will make you love, hate, sympathize, and empathize. It is a book that will make you question, wonder, learn, and understand.

It is a book that you should read because it is a book that matters.


Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about Cracked Up to Be:

  • Q: Is Cracked Up to Be based on a true story?A: No, Cracked Up to Be is not based on a true story. It is a fictional story that was inspired by the author's imagination and experiences.

  • Q: Is Cracked Up to Be suitable for young readers?A: Cracked Up to Be is suitable for mature young readers who can handle some graphic and sensitive content. The book contains some scenes and topics that might be disturbing or triggering for some readers, such as violence, rape, suicide, alcohol abuse, self-harm, etc. The book also contains some profanity and sexual references. The recommended age range for the book is 14 and up.

  • Q: Is Cracked Up to Be part of a series?A: No, Cracked Up to Be is not part of a series. It is a standalone novel that has no sequel or prequel.

  • Q: Where can I buy or borrow Cracked Up to Be?A: You can buy or borrow Cracked Up to Be from various online or offline sources, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound, Audible, Scribd, OverDrive, etc.

  • Q: How can I contact or follow Courtney Summers?A: You can contact or follow Courtney Summers through her website, email, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads, etc.

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