Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Today: Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers

The opening lines sums things up perfectly:
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.
Cracked Up to Be (St. Martin’s Griffin) is blogger Courtney Summers’ debut novel. It’s so fresh and simple -- and the topic is in some ways so familiar -- sometimes it hurts.

Parker Fadley sets off to have the perfect senior year. She is perfect. She has the perfect boyfriend, is the captain of the cheerleading squad and has perfect grades. Then smething happens and it all comes apart. She dumps the beau and cheerleading in practically a single swoop. Worse, she starts failing school, drinking and her parents are on suicide watch. And all of it told in Parker’s own humorously deadpan voice. “Chris and Becky are still furious with me,” Parker tells us at one point. “They won’t look at or speak to me and, I won’t lie, I feel pretty accomplished about it. Somebody give me a gold star.”

If there’s difficulty here, it’s might be deciding where in a library it goes. Cracked Up to Be is accomplished enough to be read by adults, but it seems clearly intended for teen and tween readers. (Unfortunately, the publisher didn’t make this clear with their submission package.)

Wherever it ends up, though, Cracked Up to Be is an engaging tale; one whose greatest accomplishment might be in the whispers it makes for its author’s career. Summers has places to go, that’s obvious. I’m anxious to see where she lead us next.



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