Cracked up to Be

Cracked up to Be

4.1 211
by Courtney Summers
     
 

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In this young adult novel debut, the story of a girl too smart for her own good who, after one tragic night, decides to reject the popular life in exchange for one of solitude.

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

Overview

In this young adult novel debut, the story of a girl too smart for her own good who, after one tragic night, decides to reject the popular life in exchange for one of solitude.

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.

Cracked Up To Be gives you Parker, her world, her friends, straight up, no chaser. You won't forget her.” —Kathe Koja author of Kissing The Bee

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Courtney Summers is a writer who pulls no punches and Parker Fadley is a character you won't forget. Together, they create a novel that will keep you on edge, turning pages long into the night.” —K.L Going, author of Saint Iggy

“Told in beautifully rendered, spare, haunting prose...Courtney Summers has written a remarkable debut. I thought about this one long after I'd reached the end.” —Alyson Noël, author of Saving Zoë

“Summers expertly navigates the dangerous waters of high school, leading her readers on until she reveals the grim secret that led her troubled heroine to the brink of suicide. Fans of Lois Duncan and Christopher Pike will appreciate this dark tale.” —Martha O'Connor, author of Bitch Posse

“Cracked Up To Be gives you Parker, her world, her friends, straight up, no chaser. You won't forget her.” —Kathe Koja author of Kissing The Bee

School Library Journal

Gr 10 Up

Parker Fadley has it all-head cheerleader, honor roll student, Winter Ball Queen, perfect boyfriend, Chris. Then at a wild "school's out" party, she catches her friend Jessica's boyfriend kissing another girl and tells Jessica, who retaliates by hooking up with an older guy who crashed the party. The next day Jessica is missing, and Parker, suspecting that she could have done something to help her, nosedives into a downward spiral, drinking heavily, and attempting suicide in a motel room. All of this is revealed in flashback as Parker begins her senior year at her Catholic high school. She cuts class, goes to school drunk, ignores assignments, and goes out of her way to make everyone leave her alone. New guy Jake, intrigued by her self-destructive determination to be ostracized, persists in trying to get inside her head. The problem is that what's inside Parker's head is a fear she can't even admit to herself-that she knows what happened to Jessica and could have stopped it. Summers creates a gritty world of teenagers living on the edge, complete with explosive interactions and rocky relationships without getting mired in angst. Parker narrates the story, darkly fascinating in her turmoil as she slowly lets herself remember details from the drunken night of Jessica's disappearance. In her relationships with Jake, Chris, archrival Becky, her parents, and even her dog, Parker struggles with self-revulsion and a desperate need for love and acceptance. Marked by explicit language and frank sexuality, this compelling read is taut with tension.-Joyce Adams Burner, formerly at Hillcrest Library, Prairie Village, KS

Kirkus Reviews
High-school senior Parker Fadley used to be the most popular girl at her Catholic school. That was before her boyfriend Chris's party last summer. Since that night, teetotaling Parker suddenly quit the cheerleading squad, broke up with Chris, started drinking heavily and attempted suicide. What made Parker run off the rails? Readers patient enough to wade through the annoyingly repetitive flashbacks and overly precocious dialogue eventually discover that Parker witnessed the rape of her best friend but was too drunk to do anything about it. When the girl goes missing and is later found dead, Parker is consumed with guilt, and systematically goes about ruining her perfect life in an attempt to make amends. After finally confessing her guilty secret to parents, friends and the authorities, Parker's scorched-earth campaign smolders to an anticlimactic stop. Issue-laden and overwrought, Summers's debut will make forgettable fodder for the insatiable readers of Gossip Girl (and her many series clones) but is bound to leave teens who like a little more lit in their chick lit cold. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312383695
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
12/23/2008
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
232,848
Product dimensions:
8.28(w) x 5.56(h) x 0.59(d)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

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.

"No, seriously Jules, just feel around in there and tell me if you have one—"

"Fuck off, Chris—"

"And tell me where it is, the exact location."

"You're disgusting!"

"Hey, Parker!"

He reaches out and grabs me by the shoulder. I shrug, shrug, shrug it off.

"Fuck off, Chris."

He's been on about the G-spot for like, a week.

"Don't fail me now, Parker. Where is it?"

"Cosmo, December '94. The Sex Issue. Came with a map and everything."

"Hell yes! I knew I could count on you." He points at me, grinning, and then the grin falters and he says, "Wait. You bullshitting me?"

I make him wait for the answer because I'm bullshitting him.

"Chris, I respect you too much to do that."

"That's so sweet. You look good today, Parker."

"You bullshitting me?"

"I respect you too much to do that."

I look like shit today for a variety of reasons, but let's start with the muddy running shoes on my feet. Running shoes are expressly forbidden to wear with the school uniform, but damned if I know where my dress shoes disappeared to between now and yesterday. And then there's my uniform skirt, which has a mustard stain on the front of it because I can't do something simple like make a sandwich for lunch without screwing it up. I plucked my rumpled polo shirt from my bedroom floor and I guess I could've brushed my hair if I'd wanted to forego the bus ride and walk all ten miles to school, but supposedly if I miss anymore classes, I could maybe not graduate and if I have to spend another year in this concrete block—

I probably shouldn't finish that thought.

"Shoes, Parker!"

Principal Henley's got her arms crossed and her eyebrow up. I bring my hands together like I'm appealing to God. I might as well be.

"One day only, Mrs. Henley. See, I got up really late and I couldn't find my dress shoes and I was so worried about getting here on time—"

"And the hair—"

"Can be brushed," I say, smoothing my hand over the tangles.

"You're due at the guidance office in five minutes."

"Oh joy," I say. Her eyes flash and I smile. "No, really."

Her eyebrow goes down. It's good, but not as good as when I got away with everything. I elbow my way through a 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.

A shapely embodiment of a female Satan appears on the horizon, flipping her long blonde hair over her shoulder as she commands the attention of her many underlings. My former underlings.

Becky Halprin.

"—I just bluffed my way through it," she's saying as I pass. "Hey, Parker?"

I half-turn. "What?"

"Did you get that essay finished for Lerner?"

Shit.

"That was due today?"

Becky stares at me.

"You only had the whole weekend."

"Why do you sound so surprised?" I open my locker. "I'll figure something out."

"Bet you fifty bucks you're fucked."

"You're on," I say. "I can do a lot with fifty bucks."

She laughs and heads wherever she's heading. Cheerleading practice, maybe. No. It's too early, and anyway, I don't care.

Lerner's essay.

I grab my English binder and flip through it until I find the page with FRIDAY and HOMEWORK scrawled messily at the top, but nothing underneath. Great. The bell rings. Guidance office.

Shit.

I grab my brush, slam my locker shut and race against the flow of students heading to their respective homerooms. I reach the office while the bell's still ringing. I take a minute to catch my breath, stalling, because Ms. Grey would cream herself if she thought I actually made the effort to be on time and I don't like giving people false hope. I count to ten and run a brush through my hair. One. Two. Three. Ten. Again. A few minutes go by. A few more.

When I finally decide to enter the office, I'm still brushing my hair.

It's not meant to be insolent—it's not insolent—but the things is, I can't stop. My hair looks fine but I just stand there brushing it in front of Grey, who sits at her desk looking all devastated, like I'm mocking her somehow.

Sorry, I can't stop, I want to say, but I don't. I don't think I'm really sorry about it either, but she should know this isn't some kind of slam at her for making my life a little more inconvenient than it already is. If it was, I'd be a lot more creative about it.

I sit down across from her and run the brush through my hair a few more times.

"You're late," she finally manages.

My hand relaxes. I lower the brush and rest it in my lap. Grey looks like a bird, a dead-eyed sparrow, and if I had her job, I'd want to kill myself. It's not like well-adjusted people ever come into the guidance office. You either get the crazy underachievers or the crazy overachievers and both come with their own depressing set of problems.

I don't know. I'd just want to kill myself if I was her, that's all.

"Yeah," I say. "So we'd better get on with it, huh?"

"Right." She clasps her hands together. "You already know this, Parker, but I think it bears repeating: no cutting, no missed days, no exceptions. You will complete your homework and you will hand it in when it's due. Off-school lunch privileges are suspended until you can prove to us that you're trustworthy again and—"

"But what if I wake up one morning and I'm vomiting uncontrollably, or I'm hemorrhaging or something? Do I still have to go to school?"

She blinks. "What?"

"What if I'm sick? Like, really sick? What do I do then?"

"A parent would have to call in for you. Otherwise you'll receive a warning—"

"Right." I nod and start chewing my thumbnail. "Okay."

She clears her throat.

"On Friday, you'll meet me here and we'll talk about any troubles you might have had throughout the week, the progress you've made both in and out of school and—"

"But what if I miss some assignments, though? I've gone so long just not doing them, I think it's kind of unfair to expect me to get back on the ball right away. You know what I think, Ms. Grey? I think I should get a grace period."

She leans across the desk, her dead eyes showing a rare sign of life. It freaks me out so much I have to look away.

"This is your grace period, Parker."

Then I have to run all the way to homeroom. Mr. Bradley makes a point to glare at me when he marks down my attendance because they all must have gotten the Tough Love memo over the weekend. I pause at Chris's desk and tap my fingers along the wood until he looks up from the math homework he's scrambling to finish.

"Becky knows where it is."

He laughs. "Becky? You're talking to her now?"

"Yeah. About G-spots. At length. She's an expert."

"Okay." His pale blue eyes twinkle. "Send her up."

I wink at him and head to the desk at the back of the room, where Becky's alternately painting her nails and the cover of her binder with sparkly red polish. A nail here, a red heart there.

I slide in the seat next to hers and I don't waste time.

"Chris wants you."

Her head whips up.

"Chris wants me?"

"Yeah. Go see."

She looks from me to him to me again, to him, to me and she grins. Chris is popular, cute, all dimples. He wears his uniform shirt a size too small because it makes his muscles look bigger than they actually are and he's never wanted Becky before.

"Thanks," she whispers, standing.

She squares her shoulders and walks up the aisle as sexily she can, which is not very sexy at all. As soon as her back is to me, I grab her binder and flip through it, carefully avoiding the drying polish decorating the front. It's so beautifully organized, I find Lerner's essay before Becky even gets to Chris.

We were supposed to write about patriarchy and Beowulf. I had no idea we even read Beowulf, but I'm resigned to the fact I can't bullshit my way through this essay as effortlessly as Becky probably has, and since I'm pretty confidant she can do it just as effortlessly again, I rip it from her binder.

It's my essay now.

"He's disgusting," Becky says when she comes back.

The funny thing is, she won't even notice the essay's missing until Lerner's class and even then, she won't suspect me because I may have done a lot of stupid things in the last year, but that doesn't mean I'm an essay thief. People are kind of stupid like that, when they think you're tragic. You get away with a lot even after you're caught.

"You obviously like disgusting," I tell her.

She smiles this big, blonde smile.

"He asked me out, but I wanted to make sure it's okay with you first."

Right.

"Screw him, Becky. I don't care."

"Parker—"

"Becky, really, I don't care and I don't want to hear it. You're dull."

She rolls her eyes. "For five seconds you almost seemed human."

"Five whole seconds, huh? That's an improvement. Tell Grey, would you? She'll love that."

The bell rings and Becky lunges out of her seat. Chris waits for no one.

"Becky," I call after her. She turns. "I hope you have that fifty on you. I'll need it for after school."

I copy her essay during history, unnecessarily exerting myself with a little creative rewriting so it sounds authentically Parker.

After history, I run into The New Kid.

The bell has rung, the halls are filtering out and when I spot him, this New Kid, he's doing that confused stumble around the halls that makes it painfully obvious he has no idea where he is. He's got brown hair that sort of hangs into his brown eyes and I stare at him when I pass, because New Kids generally can't handle eye contact and I find that amusing. He looks about 18 and I bet his parents are real assholes, to do whatever it is they did that he had to transfer in the middle of senior year.

"Hey—hey, you—girl!"

I turn slowly, debating. Do I make this easy on him, or do I make it hard? A good person would make it easy.

I decide to start with mocking and work my way up.

"Hey—hey, you—New Kid!"

He takes it well.

"Uh, yeah. Hi," he says. "Maybe you could help me?"

"I'm late for class."

"That makes two of us." He smiles. "Of course, you have an advantage in that you probably know where class is. Could you direct me to Mr. Norton's room?"

"Sorry, New Kid. I'm late."

"Oh, come on. You have time to tell me where—"

"No. I have no time."

Pause, pause, pause. We stare at each other for a good minute.

"You're just standing there," he finally splutters. "How can you have time to stand there and not enough time to tell me how to get to Mr. Norton's room?"

I give him my most winning smile, shrug and resume the walk to my next class.

Art.

"Are they all like you here?"

I wave over my shoulder but I don't stop.

Norton says he's going to tell on me for being late. Henley and Grey will get the notice and I'll have to discuss it on Friday. Why were you late, Parker? What did you think that would accomplish, Parker? And then the tough questions. What destructive behaviors were you engaging in for the five minutes you weren't in class, Parker?

I'm going to tell them I'm on the rag.

Anyway, I have two classes a day with Chris and this is one of them. We sit next to each other because his last name starts with E and mine starts with F. Ellory and Fadley, Winter Ball King and Queen three years running.

I can't stand being around him, to be honest, but I fake it pretty well.

"You're late," Chris says. We're working with charcoal today. He passes me a pencil and a sheet of paper. "Where were you?"

"If I told you, I'd only disappoint you."

"Jesus, Parker."

I start working on a charcoal blob. Abstract charcoal. Whatever. The black flakes off the pencil tip, making a nice mess of my fingers pretty quickly. Then I smudge until my masterpiece is ruined. I bet Norton will report that too, like I didn't try, even though it's art, where no one should be able to tell if you're trying or not.

The stupid thing is, I like art. I mean, it's okay.

"Oh, Jesus yourself and take a joke," I tell him. "There's a new kid. He asked me directions. It took a couple minutes."

"Oh." He sounds vaguely relieved. "Hey, your hair looks nice all brushed like that."

"Took you long enough to notice. It was brushed in homeroom."

"I've got a date with Becky for Friday."

"Chris and Becky," I say thoughtfully. I try it again in Movie Announcer Voice: "Chris and Becky. Presenting Chris and Becky..."

He stares. "What?"

"It doesn't sound right," I declare. "There's no ring to it."

"Yeah, well, you broke up with me."

"I know, I was there. And that has nothing to do with how stupid your names sound together," I say. I try it again: "Chris, Becky, Becky, Chris..."

He stares some more.

"Seriously, there's a new kid? You're not drunk?"

"No, I'm on the rag."

Enter New Kid. The door swings open and he's flushed and out of breath like he ran all the way here. Everyone gets quiet—fresh meat—and Norton harrumphs.

"Better late than never. Gardner, I presume?"

"Yes sir," Gardner mumbles. "I got lost."

"Late slip?"

Gardner looks like he can't believe it. "I'm new."

"Thank you for that contribution, Gardner. Take a seat over there, help yourself to some charcoal and paper and get to work." Norton's such a hard ass. He reminds me of George C. Scott sometimes. "I expect you to be on time tomorrow."

"That's not the guy you gave directions to, is it?" Chris asks.

"I didn't say I gave him directions, I said he asked me directions."

"Christ, Parker, you're a real bitch sometimes."

Gardner skulks over to the table next to ours, sets up and starts drawing. I stare at him until he feels it and looks my way.

His eyes widen and he points his charcoal pencil at me accusingly.

"You," he says. "You're in this class?"

I smile. "Hi. I'm Parker Fadley."

Chris reaches past me, extending his hand.

"Ignore her. I'm Chris Ellory. Welcome to St. Peter's."

"Thanks," Gardner says, looking relieved they're not all like me around here. He and Chris shake hands. "Jake Gardner. Nice to meet you."

Now that I've heard his name, I'm doomed to remember it. Just more useless information taking up brain space that could be better served for more important things like—stuff. 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.

By the time the period is over, my charcoal blob has eaten all the white space but for one solitary speck to the lower left side of my paper. When Norton does his rounds, he leans over my shoulder and, in his best George C. Scott, says, "I like it." Then he glances at Chris's half-hearted elm and goes, "It's always trees with you! How many times do I have to tell you to think outside the tree, Ellory?" And I laugh so hard I cry a little.

Then the bell goes off again. The bell goes off too much.

We eke our way out of the room and Chris turns to Jake and says, "We're gonna check out the fast food strip for lunch. Wanna come?"

"Sure," Jake says.

"How about it, Parker?" Chris asks me. Then he brings his hands to his mouth in mock-horror. "Oops, I forgot. You're not allowed off grounds for lunch anymore! Oh, snap."

I roll my eyes. "That wasn't a snap."

He says something else, but I don't hear it because I'm gone. I drop my things at my locker and search out a spot in school that isn't around people, but there are none and that's when I notice that the halls are way too crowded.

Like, there are bodies everywhere.

At first I do okay. I hover by the drinking fountain and try to look like I've got somewhere to be. Then I start hearing this sound, like this sighing, no—not sighing, breathing. Everyone breathing. I can hear the people around me sucking up all the fresh air in unison, leaving nothing for me.

My chest tightens and I can't breathe.

"I can't breathe."

I scare the hell out of the school nurse. He darts up from his chair and makes a big fuss while I try to explain the problem.

"I can't breathe. The air in here is too stale.... no, my chest feels fine. Yes, I can feel my left arm.... make them open some windows, they're using up all the air..."

He doesn't get it but he directs me to a cot at the back of the room anyway. No one else is sick today, so I get a little peace and quiet. I lie on my back and scan the shelves across the room for a bottle of Ipecac, but no such luck.

I close my eyes.

When I open them again, it's last period and I'm in English and Becky is freaking out and flipping through her binder while Lerner looks on. I don't know what she's so worried about, she's golden. She never misses an essay and Lerner likes her.

He's even saying, "No worries, Halprin, just get it to me by the end of the week..."

"But you don't understand, sir, I did the essay! I had it! It was here!"

"I'm sure it will turn up," he tells her in a soothing voice. "Just make sure you hand it in by Friday..."

Becky looks like she's going to cry. Lerner moves on to me.

"I don't even have to ask, do I, Fadley?"

Lerner likes me too. Not as much as he used to. And what I like best about Lerner is he's been teaching so long, he doesn't waste time. He readjusted his expectations of me immediately after the first time I got wasted and fell out of my chair in class.

"I think you should," I say, smiling. "Go on, ask."

His mustache twitches. "Well, I'm afraid to now."

Becky's mouth drops open when I make a show of taking the essay from my binder and handing it to Lerner. He stares at it and then me, and for a second I wonder if he knows it's Becky's. But then he tucks it away with the other papers he's collected and it's good. Only I hope he doesn't do any expectation readjustment after this because then I'll have to disappoint him.

Becky gapes at me, still teary-eyed.

"When the fuck did you do that essay?"

"History, lunch. I'll take my fifty dollars now, please."

"I was joking, Parker. The bet was a joke."

But I won't let it be a joke, so when the last bell, finally, mercifully rings, I chase after her down the hall, screaming her name.

"Becky! Hey, Becky! BECKY HALPRIN!"

She pauses, stuck. At one end of the hall, her posse—my former posse—and at the other end, me. She thinks about it for a minute, sighs and heads in my direction.

"What?"

"What time's your date with Chris on Friday?"

She blushes.

"He's picking me up at six."

"Do you still have that pink sweater? The one that makes your boobs look huge? You should wear that, he'd like it." She looks all disgusted with me because she's too stupid to realize I'm helping her out. "And if you make out with him, keep in mind he's got really sensitive ears..."

"Uh." She blinks and shakes her head. "Okay. Thanks. I think."

"No problem." I pause. "Hey, if you'd won the bet, would it still have been a joke?"

"Becky, come on," someone whines behind us. I glance down the hall. Sandra Morrison is tapping her foot impatiently and giving me a look of utter disdain, which is pretty amazing considering she wouldn't have dared to do it when I was the one leading her around by the nose. Becky sighs again and briefly closes her eyes before reaching into her book bag, finding her wallet and pulling out a few crispy looking bills.

"Thanks," I tell her as she hands them to me. "I hope your essay turns up."

She looks touched, like I mean it.

"I do too. You know, Tori quit the squad. There's a position available."

I snort. "Like I'd ever let you captain me."

Her mouth drops open, but I don't want to give her the chance to say anything back. I walk away, get my things out of my locker and head home. I'm tired of being around people my age so I skip my bus, make the short walk to the city's main street and hail a cab.

I can afford it now.

Chapter Two

"V-I-C-T-O-R-Y!

HIT 'EM LOW AND HIT 'EM HIGH!

V-I-C-T-O-R-Y!

LET'S GO JACKALS! WIN OR DIE!

V-I-C-T-O-R-Y!"

Grey says I'm not allowed to spend lunch period in the nurse's office anymore because no one will take me seriously should the time ever come that I actually can't breathe, so I go to the gym and sit in on cheerleading practice instead. It's a pretty low-key affair. The squad takes up the far side of the court and Chris, his buddies and his new puppy, Jake, play a game of 21 on the opposite end.

It's sort of like old times, except I'm not on top of the pyramid anymore.

It was a relief for everyone the day I quit the squad. Jessie had been gone for quite a while. On a number of occasions I had miscalculated how many shots of vodka you could down without going to class completely wasted, and, anyway, I hadn't been showing up for practice for ages and seeing as I was captain and everything...

Becky made herself cry so it looked like she actually cared about my well-being and was only taking over captaining duties super reluctantly, but because her mascara wasn't waterproof, she wound up looking so ridiculous I laughed in her face in front of the whole squad. What was supposed to be a superficially touching moment for the girls and me didn't end very well.

In fact, they hate me now.

I broke up with Chris pretty shortly after that.

"V-I-C-T-O-R-Y!"

Chris emerges champion of 21 and the boys start an impromptu mini-game, except for Jake, who doesn't know I know he's been watching me every chance he gets—these 'subtle' glances out the corner of his eye. He casually removes himself from the rest and makes his way up the bleachers. Our impending encounter has already left me exhausted, but at least I look better today than I did Monday. Dress shoes on feet (they were under the bed), clean skirt and shirt. My hair's brushed and in a tight ponytail at the back of my head. And I slept well last night.

He sits down beside me. "We got off on the wrong foot."

"Did we?" I inhale. "I hope you're going to shower before class. Basketball doesn't smell so good on you."

"... Or maybe there is no right foot with you."

Silence. Jake shifts, laughs nervously and runs a hand through his hair. People always get uncomfortable when I decide to shut up. You'd think it'd be the opposite, but no. After a couple of minutes, he bravely soldiers on:

"Chris told me I had better things to do than talk to you, but I'm oddly compelled to do just that. Talk to you, I mean."

Oh, Chris. I owe him a thousand apologies but I don't have the time and he doesn't want to hear them. Also, I'm not sorry.

"He said that because he's not over me," I explain.

"Oh." Jake nods. After a beat, his eyes get comically wide. "Oh."

"Yeah."

I stand and stretch and he does the same, shifting some more. I focus my attention on the cheerleaders. Becky is in her element now that she's captain. She wants to coach professionally someday and the reality is she could do far worse and not much better. She shouts the girls into a ragged formation. We're not going to win any awards this year; I'm gone, Tori's gone and Jessie won't be back for who knows how long.

"Anyway," Jake says and I turn back to him. "I just wanted to start over. Get on the right foot with you, that's all."

I have to put this poor guy out of his misery.

"Look, Jake, I'm not in the market for—" I almost say boyfriend, which is true, but this is even truer: "People."

"The—that's very presumptuous of you," he stutters, because he hears the boyfriend of it anyway, like I knew he would. "I—I'm not—"

"Aren't you?" I tilt my head and study him. I'm really not that presumptuous, but I need to kill this conversation. "Why else would you want to talk to me?"

"I was giving you a chance to redeem yourself for being such a bitch on Monday," he says, turning red all over. What a saint. "I thought I'd be nice to you—"

"And get into my pants in the process, right?"

"HIT 'EM LOW AND HIT 'EM HIGH!"

He's completely gobsmacked. Maybe they don't talk so forward wherever he came from. I have no doubt he's probably a nice guy who poses no immediate threat to my hymen— if I still had one—but I meant what I said. I'm not in the market for people.

I want to be alone.

So I leave Jake on the bleachers.

After math, I'm due at the guidance office for my first of many sessions where I talk about my adventures on the straight and narrow and how I feel about it. Grey's in a cheerful mood when I sit across from her. Cheerful for Grey, anyway.

"I'm glad you showed up," she says. "Principal Henley and I had a bet on whether or not you'd skip and now I'm twenty dollars richer."

"She underestimates how much I want to graduate," I say.

"Well, I didn't." Grey smiles. "Let's get started. I want you to be open with me, Parker."

I take a deep breath. It smells suspiciously like bullshit in here.

"Open?" I repeat.

"Open. This is your space. Feel free to tell me anything. You have my word it won't leave the room. I want you to trust me. In learning to trust me, I learn to trust you, and from that trust we go forward. You get your life back and you graduate a person everyone can be proud of."

She looks over a piece of paper in front of her. I'm betting it's some kind of Parker Tally Sheet.

"You did well this week, mostly," she says.

It's funny—I think I'd actually rather be learning right now.

"I guess."

"You've done most of your homework. Good. Next week you can try for all of it, okay? Mrs. Jones informed me she's willing to be lenient about math since you've managed to get behind an entire unit, but that's not indefinite. I thought that was very generous of her."

"Oh yes." I nod. "Very."

We get quiet. Grey's office is such a pit. There are no windows in here and some dumbass thought fluorescent lights would be a great way to compensate. If anyone comes in here ready to die, they probably leave feeling that way too.

"What are you thinking about, Parker?"

I'm thinking about Becky and Chris and how they've been making eyes at each other all day, and how in third period, I realized by this time tomorrow both of our mouths will have been on his and how if they fall for each other, that means I'm replaceable. If I'm replaceable, if I step back and put something in the space where I was, I can probably get to be alone faster than I already am. Like, Becky and Chris get together and some new girl joins the squad and they forget about me. Next, I find someone who fucked up worse than I did, like some student prostitute who cuts herself, and that takes care of Henley and Grey and then—maybe I can convince my parents they need a puppy.

"I'm not thinking about anything."

"Fine." She purses her lips. "Let's get back to the week. There were a few glitches, like the nurse's office. I don't know what that was about. And you were late for Mr. Norton's class on Monday. Would you mind telling me why?"

"I ran into the new kid—Jake something? He needed directions."

"Oh." She seems relieved. "So you weren't—"

"Don't worry, Ms. Grey. I wasn't drinking, smoking, toking or snorting in school. I'll keep the recreational drug use at home where it belongs."

"Parker," she warns.

I lean back and stare at the ceiling. The first time I was in this office was the last time I was drunk at school. I was slumped over in the very chair I'm sitting in now and Henley and Grey discussed my "situation" right in front of me, like there was no way I could follow what they were saying or remember any of it in the morning, but I did.

This is sad, this is so sad...

"So," she says.

"So."

"So...?"

She's super ineffectual. I don't see the point of being a guidance counselor in high school if you can't have a gun. If you want a teenager to be open and especially if you want them to be honest, a revolver to their head's probably the best bet. It doesn't matter, anyway. I decide to mess with her.

"Actually, I kind of liked getting back into the swing of things. Becky offered me a position on the squad and that was so nice. And like, handing in my homework and talking to that Jake guy, it almost felt..." I insert a carefully calculated pause here. "Never mind, it's stupid."

"No, no." She leans forward eagerly. "You can trust me, Parker."

I stare at my hands.

"It almost felt like... before."

Grey loves it. She almost falls out of her chair, that's how convincing I am.

That's great, Parker, that's wonderful! See? We'll get you back yet! And then I clam up, no, it's stupid. You're wrong. It's stupid. Never mind.

Because there's no qualifying exam to be a high school guidance counselor. All you have to do is watch a bunch of cheesy movies about troubled teens and take notes. This is how Grey expects the meeting to go down and I'm giving it to her because it might get me out of here faster or at the very least, end this discussion.

"No, it's stupid," I repeat robotically.

"No, it isn't. It's not stupid. Never think it is."

I offer a cautious smile. "Thanks."

She creams herself.

The bell rings. I make a beeline for the door.

"Parker?"

I don't turn, just wait.

"That was really good," she says. "I'm proud of you. You know, I think there's a lot more hope for you than you think there is."

I roll my eyes.

"Thanks, Ms. G."

Becky accosts me as soon as I step into the hall and waves a sheet of paper in my face.

"Here," she says, as I take it. "I copied down homework for you. Lerner had a headache so he told us to read The Yellow Wallpaper again—"

"We read it before?"

"Yeah, in ninth grade. Anyway, he wants us to write a thousand words on how we relate to the story now, as seniors, compared to how we related to it as freshmen. It's pretty half-assed, but like I said, he had a headache."

"The Yellow Wallpaper is the one where the chick goes insane and starts humping the wall at the end, right?"

She stares. "You might wanna re-read it again to be safe."

Pfft. "We'll see. Ready for your date tonight?"

"Yeah, got my pink sweater dry-cleaned and everything," she says vaguely, and then she puts on her fake-interested face. "So, how'd your meeting with Grey go?"

"It's six o'clock, right? The date?" I ask. She nods. "Look, I've got to go. I don't want to miss the bus."

On the ride home, I pass the time imagining their date. Chris will take Becky somewhere predictable and nice, even though he could take her dumpster diving and she'd be happy because she's wanted him so long. He'll spend the whole time trying desperately hard not to stare at her breasts because that G-spot stuff is all bravado, but by the end of the night he'll be feeling her up, telling her she's pretty, the prettiest, and she'll blush and say oh, Chris, and they'll make another date and they'll fall in love and she'll be a cheerleading coach and he'll be an heir and they'll have two-point-five kids and, and, and...

"I think we should get a dog."

It's one of my better entrances. Dad lowers the paper and Mom drops the potato she's peeling over the sink and they look at me like I'm certifiable, but I'd rather be certifiable than perpetually boring, which is my parents in a nutshell. If I had to own up to resembling either one of them, it'd be my Dad. We both have brown hair and sharp features. Mom's less sharp, more Pillsbury.

"A dog?" Mom says, retrieving the potato. "You think we should get a dog?"

"That's what I said."

Dad returns to the paper. "I've always wanted a dog."

"Well, a puppy actually," I say.

"I've always wanted a puppy," he amends. "They turn into dogs."

"What?" Mom demands, turning to him. "What's that supposed to mean? We're getting a puppy, just like that?"

"No, not just like that. We'd have to talk about it more. Figure out the logistics." He glances at Mom. "It wouldn't be so terrible, would it? Having a dog?"

She turns to me.

"Where did this come from, Parker? You don't want a dog."

"Yes, I do! Ms. Grey said it would be good for me to—to..." I chew my lip and start making faces that so obviously indicate I'm in the process of lying, but my parents hate believing I do that. Lie, I mean. "She said it would be a good learning experience for me to be responsible, like, learning to nurture a puppy into a healthy dog so I could... in turn... learn to nurture... myself! Something about my actions having consequences. And I did all my homework this week, so I'd say I've earned it."

"You couldn't start out with a goldfish?"

"Goldfish die at the drop of a hat, Mom. It could die of completely natural causes after two weeks and I might think it was something I did and I wouldn't be able to live with myself. Puppies are much harder to kill and more challenging to take care of and I'm pretty sure that's the point..."

Mom and Dad exchange a lo-ng look.

"We'll have to talk about it," Dad says, which means we're getting a dog.

"Great. You two do that and call me when dinner's ready. I'll be in my room."

"But don't you want to tell us about the rest of your—"

I'm a bad daughter. I don't go to my room at first; I hang back in the hall and listen. Mom and Dad are quiet for a little bit and then Mom goes, "Did you find that as... strangely encouraging as I did?"

And Dad goes, "Yeah. We haven't really talked in a long time."

"You think her guidance counselor really thinks she should get a dog?"

"It could be a lie."

"And if it is?"

"We can check. Look, if she is lying it's because she wants a dog. It's not like she's lying about where she's been and who she's been with..."

"And that makes it okay?"

"No, but maybe a dog would foster some kind of... sense of responsibility..."

"So we should get a dog? That's what you're saying?"

"Who knows? It could help. We haven't really talked in ages—she talked to us, Lara, she asked us for something we can give her."

"It would be nice to feel like we were doing something." Mom clears her throat. "Now come over here and taste this and tell me if it's awful..."

I check out at dinner time. I mean, I'm there and I'm eating but I spend the meal staring into space, nodding my head every time it's clear my parents are talking to me and sometimes when it isn't. When our plates are empty and we fall into that awkward silence that happens between digesting and clearing the table, I come back to myself.

"May I please go for a walk?"

It's a big question because I have a curfew now, but my parent's spines are so pliable I don't think it'll be a problem. Mom and Dad exchange a nervous glance and have a telepathic conversation about it. I hear every word.

Do we let her out? It's past curfew.

True, but look at that—at least she asked!

I know! I can hardly believe it!

She could have just sneaked out, but she asked!

I know! We're good parents!

"What time will you be back?" Dad asks.

"What time is it now?"

"It's seven."

"Within the hour, I guess."

"Where are you going?"

"It's just a walk." I look them both in the eyes. "That's it."

"Sure..." Mom says slowly, staring at Dad, who nods slightly. "That would be fine. Thank you for asking, Parker."

I'm out of the house quick, in case they change their minds. It's dark out, but I have a mini-maglite attached to my key ring so I'm not worried. It feels nice having the streets to myself. Every so often I hear the sound of cars in the distance navigating some far off road.

Chris lives two blocks from me, in the loveliest house on the loveliest piece of property in all of Corby, Connecticut, and I'm sure he's still out with Becky and no doubt his parents are at the country club. When his house comes into view, I walk up the gravel driveway casually, so if any of the neighbors happen to look out their windows, I'm only here for a visit. Nothing unusual.

I bypass the front door and edge my way around the house, maneuvering past shriveled flowerbeds and tacky lawn ornaments until I find myself in the backyard, facing the woods behind the house.

These woods never change. The pine trees stand tall and separate, illuminated by the light of some far off source. When I come here, it always takes me a minute, longer than a minute, to get my bearings, but I can't afford to do that tonight because I promised my parents I'd be home within the hour and I'm not wearing a watch.

I trudge into the trees and pull out my mini-maglite. One step, two steps, 10 steps, 20, 25 steps. I turn the flashlight on.

A feeble, yellow light reveals a small strip of ground laden with pine needles.

It was around here...

And then, without fail, I hear the music from that night, like I always do when I come out here. A heavy bass line and an ear-splitting drum beat winds its way into the woods from Chris's open bedroom window, where he likes to mount the speakers of his sound system for optimal noise blaring into the neighborhood. And then there's splashing sounds coming from the pool and everyone's laughing and talking and shrieking and having a good time.

His parties are the best.

I stick the flashlight in my mouth, get down on my hands and knees and start pushing aside pine needles. Five minutes later, my throat hitches. I rip the flashlight from my mouth, scramble backwards and throw up.

Fuck.

I wipe my mouth, force myself to my feet, move past my puddle of vomit and get back to work. I don't know what I think I'll find out here, but I stay on the ground for a while anyway, searching, until I know the hour's gone and I'm late and I better go because I don't want Chris to come back and see me here and ask me what I'm doing.

Finding the bracelet that time was just a fluke, Parker, you idiot.

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Meet the Author

Courtney Summers is the author of young adult novels including Fall for Anything and Some Girls Are. She lives and writes in Canada, where she divides her time between a piano, a camera, and a word-processing program when she's not planning for the impending zombie apocalypse.

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Cracked up to Be 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 211 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Parker Fadley was captain of the varsity cheerleading squad. She'd been on the honor roll for the first three years of high school, and Chris, the most popular guy at school, was in love with her, the most popular girl in school. Now, no matter how awful she is to him, she knows he still loves her, but she's not worth it.

Not since the party. Not since her life took a radical one-hundred-and-eighty degree turn.

Her parents have her on a tight leash. Early curfews. Weekly meetings with the guidance counselor. Dinners with sad, yet hopeful eyes turned her way, yearning for a glimpse of the Parker they used to know. Everyone has her on a suicide watch, but nobody knows why. What could have caused Parker Fadley to turn away from everything and everyone?

It's Jake who begins to get under her skin with his unnerving presence and constant questions. How can she possibly be that interesting to him? When Evan comes back to school, she can no longer keep the memories of the events of that night at bay. Whether she wants to or not, she's going to have to find the real Parker Fadley, or risk losing her forever.

The restful cover of CRACKED UP TO BE belies the unrest and turmoil that is Parker. The voice is incredible, similar to that of SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson. Courtney Summers doles out the secrets in small portions, teasing the reader, and when the events of the party are finally revealed with nothing held back, the tension is palpable.

And no matter how many hints Ms. Summers drops, you'll never be able to guess Parker's terrible secret. This debut author is just that good.
TeenageGirl More than 1 year ago
Now, personally I read a lot and always find myself lost in books and their characters. Let's just say I've been depressed for a couple days now. This book is about a girl who knows something and has to carry this huge weight around with her everywhere... She wants to die. She tried once and, unfortnately, failed. But now she's preparing to go again, slowly detaching herself from everything, everyone, but still desparetly wants to graduate. She (understandably) fell behind in school and if she screws up much more she will lose any chance of graduating with her class in a few months... Then there's the new boy who keeps talking to her and following her around even though she hasn't given him any encouragement... I just found this book amazing. I was very into the charaters and felt everything they did... I don't know what to say, just read it! But be warned, this is not a 'light' read. It swears a lot, there's sex and drinking... Nevertheless, a great read with tons of emotions.
TheBookResort More than 1 year ago
I find it hard to believe Cracked Up to Be is Courtney Summers' debut. The writing is breathtakingly unforgettable. Cracked Up to Be is definitely not a light~hearted read. I was stunned speechless. Summers stretched her literary muscles & crafted not any "teen angst fluff", but a lyrically spellbinding tome! I'm not going to summarize the plot for fear it will ruin your reading pleasure. In fact, I don't want to discuss much of Cracked Up to Be for fear of tipping off too much. Courtney Summers is an author that has a natural gift for telling a story; she doesn't need bells & whistles to get her point across. As I was burning through the pages, I kept wondering, "where on earth has Courtney Summers been?" Courtney's riveting prose will hypnotize you from the first page. The players lining Cracked Up to Be are mesmerizing, but Parker is resplendent w/ every hue shimmering like stained glass. Parker's narration is nourishingly illustrative, which Summers generates deftly. Parker seems to "have it all" but things aren't always what they seem. Parker has a fierce longing for approval & a hunger for love which isn't over the top or wishy washy. Kudos to Ms. Summers for hitting a home run w/ Cracked Up to Be. Cracked Up to Be is a profound story w/ rich layers you unearth while turning the pages! I thought I had it all figured out, but I didn't. I'm usually spot on but Summers got me good! Summers vividly showcases that it isn't all that it's "cracked up to be" being a youth in today's society. Summers' somber view makes you sit up & take notice. Cracked Up to Be is an alarming introspection into the barbarity of high school life. Cracked Up to Be is definitely a novel to remember long after you close it. Grab a copy of Cracked Up to Be. Definitely a novel to remember look after you close it.
bookworm720 More than 1 year ago
this book is incredible. the main character is completely screwed up and the story is deep. its not a "oh i'll bring this to the beach and read just for fun, stupid silly book." when i described what the book was about to my friends, they all thought it sounded depressing. I brought the book into school and they'll all read the back cover and were hooked. All of them have borrowed and loved it. Its perfect if you dont like UNrealistic puff stories where everything ends up happily ever after. the book shows flawed characters and that is probably my favorite part is the unique characters. DEFINITELY RECOMMEND! i've reread several times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The message was unclear to me in the book. I know books don't need messages but this stills seems to need one. It starts out with a girl holding a huge load of guilt on her shoulders. She really wants to kill herself but wants to graduate first. I read this because it was in my teachers classroom. The charectors all have clear intentions but I am still depressed days after I have read this. Not for young minds, or middle school minds even. I shouldnt have read it in 7th grade.
moises-lover More than 1 year ago
so i read cracked up to be. The first thing i have to saw is that it is an awesome and amazing book. now a problem that i had with it is that well it was hard to get into it about the first 3 chapters i hated and it was like "is this going to be the whole book" i was about to quit. I am so happy i didn't. though the book isn't that long it made me think about my life and how i treat people. and what if my best friend went missing and how would i take it. I think the best books are ones that make you think about what you've read and when you relate it to your own life. which this book totally did. Almost after every single chapter i'd sit and think. "wow" i also thought "am i wasting my life worrying about the little thing and not seeing the whole picture" i mean i worry about what i look like and how people see me and i don't care so much about people's feelings. So this book really made me think of that so im glad that i read this book and yeah. I think that every person should read this book :)
bre-z More than 1 year ago
This book like I said wasn't that amazing. I found it hard to get through, and now its currently sitting on my bookshelf, half-read. I dont know what I didn't like about it. I think it was that fact that I found Parker alot different then myself, and ready to argue about anything. Or say something nasty to anyone. Most teens might like this book. But like myself others might find it hard to relate to.
bymidnight12 More than 1 year ago
Excellent book. I loved the Parker and I felt I could relate to her. She was funny, adventurous and pretty much everything in between. This book made me laugh and cry. I loved how original the characters were; especially Jake and Parker. I was always expecting religion to jump in (I hate when authors do that). But it didn't and that always kept me going. I finished it in one day. Amazing. I recommend it everyone.
epicrat More than 1 year ago
This is definitely not a light-hearted read, and perhaps that is why I did not fall too hard in love with it. After reading so many fun and fuzzy YA books, I was probably unprepared for the different change of pace in cracked up to be. The main character Parker is brutal, and quite frankly I don't think I could be friends with her. She scares me - to be fair, she scares the other characters as well! However, as the story progresses, I saw that her hard exterior masked a very broken interior. I could appreciate her obsession with perfection (being a haphazard perfectionist that I am) and how hard she is on herself. Courtney Summers does an amazing job with teasing us with bits and pieces of why Parker is trying to remove herself from everybody's lives. With each new piece of information - both useful yet still vague - I found myself with a new theory each time and a whole lot of second-guessing. When all the puzzle pieces fell into place, I cannot say that I had a OMG moment, but it definitely explains Parker's path to self-destruction a whole lot better.
BooksaremypieceofHeaven More than 1 year ago
Best book I've read in a while!
Lauren Marie Edge More than 1 year ago
You wanna keep reading just to figure out what the big secret is thats ruined parker but thats pretty much the only reason its a page turner. It was very frustrating and depressing and I was shocked by all the great reviews cuz I didnt like it but maybe I just didnt get it idk but not for those who like happy books
hitleli13 More than 1 year ago
The story was a bit ongoing-entertaining, but you just know you are in the middle of her life. Parker has a great personality, the ability to just say what's on her mind is so humorous! I really liked her, and I really liked the book. I wish the athour would have given a more detailed ending, but I can live with what she gave me! It's a good read.
k_collins More than 1 year ago
I found Cracked Up To Be a very exciteing book, it left you wanting to read more as you read. The emotions of Parker can be felt with every chapter and even some of her emotions the reader his or herself have felt at least felt once in their lives. I recomend this book to anyone who finds the trails of teenage years readable.
Zadunajsky More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book, and was surprised about the ending. A must read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
Parker’s falling and although she says she doesn’t want assistance, you can’t help but feel there’s a part of her that reaching out for someone. Perhaps it’s the bottle of Jack Daniels that she keeps in her locker at school, hidden front and center or the way she reminisces back to her previous life, the way she shined for herself and those who mattered. For now though, she is crumbling, she can’t keep her head above water, she failing in school, her friends and her family are concerned for her welfare and she really doesn’t care about anything. What caused this sudden change in the girl who had everything going for her? As Parker muddles through her life now, we are given flashbacks into Parker’s previous life, Parker the perfectionist, the girl who was on top and we witness just how fast someone can tumble. There were times I found myself talking to the characters, committed and attached to them I was now consumed and attached to their lives. Just like in the other novels that I have read by Courtney Summers, the emotions and the drama were front and center, and as a reader I was wrapped up inside these pages and forgot the world outside.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a really great book! The ending was completely unexpected, I did not predict that would happen. This is a must read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You should definetely get this. AMAZING?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
YoungMensanBookParade More than 1 year ago
"Cracked Up To Be" by Courtney Summers is a book about a teenage girl coming to terms with an event involving the downfall of her best friend that she believes to be her fault. The book has enough suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat without being a horror, and the romantic element is subtle, but there enough to be relatable for a high school student. I would recommend this book for high school students, because it is written from that perspective and that it may not be suitable for younger children. This book also contains alcohol abuse, sexual references, and mild profanity, so while a good read for a mature teen, young child might want to be suggested a different book. I enjoyed this book because it had a very different layout from other books that I have read and has a mature plot. It shows how one would cope with an incredibly tragic situation. The only downfall of this book is that due to its unique writing style it gets a bit difficult to follow. Review by Jessica A., age 15, Northwest Florida Mensa
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Def read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago