Sunday, September 29, 2013

Cracked Up to Be (Discussion Post): The End

Hello, everyone! 

Today is the FINAL discussion post for Cracked Up to Be! We did it! Here are Crimson's thoughts on the end up please let us know what you thought of the book in the comments! And add your review/post about the book here!

*WARNING: Spoilers in the post below!*

The end.

In which everything falls apart and nothing is okay.

A lot happens in the last bit of this book. Dead dogs, relationships gone wrong, secrets revealed, and unfinished art projects.

First of all, Bailey. Yep, Courtney Summers does it. She kills off the dog. Which is a tragedy and should also be its own book genre, just so everyone can know to avoid those books because it’s horribly sad, and there’s no better way to get the tears flowing than have the poor innocent dog hit by a car.

But Bailey’s death leads Parker to admit some pretty shocking things, flipping on its head everything we thought we knew about her. Parker says that she doesn’t just want to stay away from people, she needs to stay away from people, because when people are around her, they get hurt. It’s now no longer that Parker has defenses up to protect herself, she has them up to protect everyone else. And that’s kind of interesting when you think about how first impressions of people, of Parker, can be so wrong.

Parker falls apart. Completely. If we thought we was messed up in the beginning of the book, then it’s taken to another level now. Like I said before, it’s no longer about Parker wanting to stay away from people, it’s that she’s unable to get close to them. Even when she wants to, like with Jake, she can’t really bring herself to. Parker has officially lost control of her life. She no longer has comebacks to everything. She can no longer even finish her sentences half the time.

Parker sums up the problem pretty succinctly:

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 you go crazy maintaining it. Except it creeps up on you sometimes, that you’re not right. Imperfect. Bad. So you snap your fingers and it goes away.

Until something you can’t ignore happens and you see it all over yourself.

Parker has all these pressures on her from everyone around her, including herself, to be perfect. And then when she’s not, it breaks her.

I don’t know how to make it right again because I’m always wrong.

I’m a bad person.

I don’t think Parker is a bad person. I think people can sometimes be pretty harsh on these supposed mean girl characters because when we’re not dealing with real life (okay, even when we are), it’s easy to forget there’s a lot going on underneath that’s difficult to see.

Okay, so, I’m about to get a little sentimental right now, but I am okay with that on account of this being my last CRACKED UP TO BE post. I went to a private high school like Parker’s in a lot of ways, and it had this motto “The truth will set you free” (it was even, like, sewn into the uniforms), and when I was a teenager I always thought that was really stupid. But it isn’t, because all those secrets and lies we hide behind this image of perfect and everything-is-okay-even-though-I’m-dying-inside kind of destroys us. Just ask Parker.

The ending to this book is not perfect. It doesn’t offer any tidy endings. And maybe that’s why I like it so much. Because there’s no ending to this book wrapping everything up and making everything okay again. Instead, things just seem to get worse until you think they can’t possibly get any worse (until they do), and then you’re stuck wondering, well, where the hell do we go from here?

And it just feels like real life to me. Messy. There’s that tiny ray of hope to the end, so maybe it works out or maybe it doesn’t, but I think that maybe it will. Maybe it’ll be okay. I’m an optimist like that.

Now who’s ready to get their soul crushed by SOME GIRLS ARE?

Heartbreak, hope, and a lot of tears. What did you think of Cracked Up to Be?

And remember: Some Girls Are month starts tomorrow!

- Ciara (Lost at Midnight)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Cracked Up to Be (Chapters 13 - 17): Discussion Post

Hi all!

Today, Crimson is here to talk some more Cracked Up to Be! Be sure to leave your comments below about this weeks chapters, and what you thought of them. We're getting close to the end, guys! Be sure to add your review (if you have one) to the main post here, and get excited to start Some Girls Are in October! I'll also be announcing the winners of the What Goes Around giveaway in the next couple of days so be on the look out for that. Without further ado!

The third section of CRACKED UP TO BE introduces yet another change in Parker, because a main character wouldn’t be good without a little development every now and then. And this time, Parker’s really laying it all out there. Jake (seems to think he) has it all figured out, calling Parker out for her “bravado” in chapter 13, which Parker doesn’t want to admit it to.

But even though Parker continues to keep herself away from other people, I feel like the nature of it changes now. In chapter 13, Parker does something you would think would be impossible for her judging from the beginning of the book—she apologizes to Jake. I know, crazy. Granted, she throws up right after she does it, so obviously the whole general experience is traumatizing for her. But we can recognize now that Parker’s entire disposition goes beyond just wanting to be cruel and standoffish to people. Like she tells Jake, she genuinely fucked up. Parker implicates herself in this whatever-happened-to-Jessie situation, and we can recognize now that Parker doesn’t just want to push herself away from other people, she feels like she has to. It’s punishment for whatever she thinks she did.

I tend to think of this as the moment when Parker proves she’s not this unlikeable, unsympathetic character. Jake’s right—it’s bravado, put on by a person so messed up by her past mistakes and what she sees as her possible implication in the disappearance of her best friend that she could be driven to (accidentally) try to kill herself.

I don’t think this revelation is shocking, after everything we know about Parker and what this book has been building up to. And while I don’t think conversations about did-she-or-didn’t-she particularly productive, I do wonder if it changes the way she’s viewed? I think we have this tendency to construct our own image of who a person is without letting them get any say in the matter, and often it takes something big or something jarring to shake that construct and allow something fuller, something realer to take its place.

And once that happens, everything starts to break down.

Parker’s world is starting to fall apart.

Evan shows up again. Parker seems to blame Evan a lot for what happened, and judging from his appearance, so does he. However, Evan and Parker handle the situation a lot differently. So what do you make of Evan?

And then what I think is the biggest breakdown so far—Parker cuts off her hair. Side note: one of the things I love the most about Courtney Summers’s writing is the way she presents things so simply—no fanfare, no explanations, no excuses. It just is what it is. The reader can make their own judgements.

So what’s the significance of this moment? In the beginning of the book we see Parker obsessively brushing her hair. She literally describes it as being unable to stop. So obviously hair is a pretty important aspect of how she shows this artificial perfection. When she cuts off her hair, it’s right after Evan comes back, and right after she loses the bracelet, the last connection she seems to have to Jessie. And since her plans to stay away from people don’t seem to be going the way she wanted them to, she has to do something drastic to get back on track. After her mom “fixes” her hair, Parker calls it “horrible,” and says that that’s “good, I guess.”

This is why Parker confuses me (and also why I think she’s a perfect (ha) protagonist). She keeps flipping back and forth, giving in a little and then pulling right back.
 What did you think about this weeks chapters? Comment below!

- Ciara (Lost at Midnight)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Cracked Up to Be (Chapters 8 - 12): Discussion Post

Hi all!

Welcome to the second discussion post on Cracked Up To Be for the Courtney Summers Read-Along! Today, Crimson will be discussing chapters 8 - 12! Read what she has to say and comment with your thoughts below! Warning, there may be **MINOR SPOILERS**!

And as a side note, today is also Crimson's birthday! HAPPY BIRTHDAY CRIMSON! *offers cake and party hat*

Every time I read CRACKED UP TO BE, I’m struck by how much my feelings change from the beginning of the book until now. I mean, it’s not so much that the beginning of the book presents itself as a “light” novel, but we also don’t yet have a full appreciation of the situation that Parker is in. Even knowing what to expect this time around (I’ve read this book a few times), I still find myself caught off guard as I watch this change in Parker.

I’m sorry for this terrible analogy, but I just finished watching X-Men, and all I can think of is that Parker is like Magneto, and her wit/humor/general meanness is like that helmet Magneto wears to block Professor X from reading his mind. I’m not really sure who Professor X would be in this situation then. Everyone else? The reader? Jake? Maybe all of the above. My point is that that helmet is slowly coming off in these chapters, although we’re not quite there yet, and we can begin to understand Parker more as a person. For me, Parker’s defenses are so well built up, that every time I read this book, I fall for them again.

So what draws us to Parker in the first place? Is it that sense of mystery and wanting-to-figure-her-out? An interesting conversation occurs between Parker and Jake in the scene where Parker invites Jake to the mall with her. She gets him to admit that he likes her, but when she asks him why, he admits that he doesn’t know. In these chapters, we get more and more of those flashbacks, and the pieces are beginning to fall into place as we puzzle out Parker’s past.

What about we as readers? Are you drawn to Parker for the same inexplicable reasons as Jake? How does learning about her past begin to change the way we view her?

Parker has all these defense mechanisms put in place, but Jake is like an entirely different species who refuses to put up with them. Every time Parker tries to run away from something, be it Chris or Becky or school or her parents, Jake is always right there, disallowing her that escape and total downfall. Even so, Parker continues to push back, even telling him that the more he knows about her, the less interesting he becomes to her. What do you make of that? In some roundabout way Parker admits that he likes him too.

Finally, Parker crosses this line from wanting everything to wanting nothing. Parker says, “I wanted to be popular because in high school that’s the best thing you can be: perfect. Everything else is shit.” In conversation with Jake, we find out that Parker worked hard to get to the top at school, in popularity and grades. Yet, she does a complete 180. She says, “We keep walking and I wish [Jake’d] leave. Being on this street feel wrong. All these people, the cars flying back and forth—it’s like a scene out of a movie and I belong to it with Jake and the dog. It probably looks perfect to someone watching from the outside, but it really freaks me out.”

So what do you make of that change? Why would that freak her out now? Do you really believe her?
What did you guys think of these chapters? How are you liking Cracked Up to Be so far?
- Ciara (Lost at Midnight)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Guest Post: Crimson on CRACKED UP TO BE

Hi all!

I have a really amazing and heartfelt post to show you guys today. My awesome co-host for this month (and one of my very awesome friends) Crimson is here to talk about the first time she ever picked up a Courtney Summers book. Read on, dear read-alongers!
CRACKED UP TO BE means a lot to me. I hate to be cliche and say something like “it totally changed my life,” but I’m gonna say it anyway, because it totally changed my life. I first read it when I was nineteen, in a very strange place, having taken a year off school and, well, trying to figure out what to do with my life. I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer, but at the time, writing for me was agonizing, like pulling teeth. It had been a long time since I had written something I felt proud of.
I picked up CRACKED UP TO BE from the library, after reading a string of pretty mediocre books, and thus not expecting a whole lot from it (not to mention, at the time my interest in contemporary YA was pretty near zero, and the one comment I had read about CRACKED UP TO BE basically amounted to “meh.” I don’t know why I then decided to read it. Consider it providence).
I remember picking up this book, reading a page, putting the book down, blinking, picking the book back up and reading the entire thing in a few hours. I mean, when you start a book off the way this book starts off, you’re going to get my attention. By page 2 my opinion had gone from “my expectation for this book is ‘meh’” to “HOLY CRAP WHERE HAS THIS BEEN ALL MY LIFE.” So. This book is now my go-to book to recommend to readers new to contemporary YA, as I was when I first read it.
CRACKED UP TO BE shattered every expectation I had for the book, and even every preconceived notion of what I thought contemporary YA could be. Reading it, for me, was like having one of those eye opening experience where, by the end of it, you can’t speak, can’t breathe, black is white, two plus two is five, and everything you ever knew is wrong. All I wanted to do was hug the book and, like, rub my face all over it (don’t pretend I’m the only one who’s wanted to do that to a book).
Even though I am not the narrator Parker Fadley, I have not had Parker Fadley’s experiences, and I do not know anyone like Parker Fadley, this book felt more real to me than anything I have ever read before. This book triggered that moment in me when everything fell into place, and I had this giant flashing sparkly sign saying, “DO YOU SEE, YOU HAVE DISCOVERED THE MEANING OF LIFE AND YOUR PURPOSE AND INSPIRATION, AND NOW YOU MUST GO WRITE, ETC., ETC., ETC.” (I’m starting to feel sorry for whatever book I read next that had to follow this.)
In the course of a few hours, my entire writing life had been flipped upside down. Reading about Parker, reading this beautifully written book, gave me the courage to finally write those stories I always wanted to write, but for some reason thought I couldn’t. I think every writer has read a book like that, and, well, this one is mine. That’s not to say writing now is all rainbows and unicorns, but I do now feel like I’m on the right path. And for now, that’s enough.
And, to be honest, I think if I ever got to meet Courtney Summers I’d burst into tears and just generally make a giant fool of myself, but I think it would be worth it just to thank her in person for writing this book.
Do you guys have a book that has really affected you? Do you guys love Cracked Up to Be as well? Let us know!

- Ciara (Lost at Midnight) 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Cracked Up to Be (Chapters 1-7): Discussion Post

Hi everyone!

Welcome to the first discussion post for the Courtney Summers Read-Along! *throws confetti* Today, we're going to be talking about the first seven chapters of Cracked Up to Be. Since my dear friend Crimson is going to be running the discussion posts this month, I'll throw it over to her! Just a warning though, there will be **MINOR SPOILERS** in the discussion post below!

First things first: I don’t think I could ever do justice to this book and everything I wish I could say about it. But that’s okay. As we do these discussions, I’m going to try to hit some of the main points that I see popping up in the chapters, and hopefully that’ll spark some dialogue, to use a term my professors are obsessed with.

So now we’ve all read the first seven chapters of CRACKED UP TO BE (and if you haven’t, what are you doing reading this? Because I’m going to spoil some stuff for you). The thing that always catches my attention each time I read this book is that it really doesn’t hold back anything, starting with the opening paragraph and first bit of dialogue.

I was an English major, so you can imagine how many times professors have tried to nail it into my head that the first sentence or paragraph can tell you a lot about a book. (Actually, I remember a particular class in which we spent a good half hour dissecting the first sentence of ORYX AND CRAKE by Margaret Atwood, which is all of four words long. So that was a fascinating and kind of baffling experience.)

Well, I’m not going to go that far, but I do think there’s an interesting juxtaposition between the opening paragraph that’s pretty depressing and the first bit of dialogue that’s kind of hysterical (which is pretty much how I describe Courtney Summers books to those who haven’t read them yet), and it’s just so honestly and unapologetically high school. Even when I first read it, I had been out of high school a few years and I still got those (highly unwelcome) flashbacks to high school, which is just about the worst time in anybody’s life and if someone tries to tell you differently, they’re lying (so thanks for that, Courtney Summers. I hadn’t been missing high school).

And, of course, we have to talk about Parker. She has to be one of my favourite narrators/characters I’ve ever read about. I mean, let’s be real, in high school, I would never have been friends with her, not that I think there’s remote chance she would have ever wanted to be friends with me. She’s a mean girl. There’s no way around it, and she wouldn’t claim otherwise—just look at the way she purposefully tortures Jake, who’s got to be one of the most patient guys I’ve ever read about.

But Parker is so expertly written that you’re drawn in anyway. At least, I am. That’s why I like Parker as a character so much. We start to see hints that she’s maybe not the person she used to be, but there’s still something so calculated to her actions. Like she says in the opening paragraph—“everything you do here counts.”

Plus, I won’t lie, I think it helps that she’s funny as hell. I think it’s one thing to have a mean character (though those are often my favourite ones because it’s interesting to see what makes them the way they are). It’s an entirely different thing to have a mean character who’s also hysterical (and it’s okay if I laugh at the things Parker says about people because they’re fictional and therefore you can’t make me feel bad about it!).

So what do you think of Parker as a character? As a narrator?

Is she an “unlikeable” character? What even constitutes “unlikeability”?

Do you connect to Parker?

How does humor work in these beginning chapters?

What do you think about the relationships between these characters, especially with Parker? One of my favourite moments in this book is in chapters 4 and 5, when Parker and Jake take the bus together (sort of) and go to the ravine to get the picture for art class. Their interactions in these chapters, I think, are really revealing of their characters, especially Parker and this sort of mask she puts on for other people. And also, I kind of wanted them to kiss, but of course you know they’re not going to.

And, because it has to be asked, how adorable is Bailey?

What are YOUR thoughts on the first seven chapters of Cracked Up to Be?

- Ciara (Lost at Midnight) 

Thursday, September 5, 2013


Hi, Read-Alongers!

Tuesday was the release of What Goes Around by Courtney Summers! What Goes Around is the bind-up of Courtney Summers' two novels Cracked Up to Be and Some Girls Are. Here's a description!

Courtney Summers fans are in for a treat! Two of her most critically acclaimed titles bound together for the price of one. In 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, is that a horrible thing has happened and it just might be her fault. In Some Girls Are, climbing to the top of the social ladder is hard--falling from it is even harder. Regina Afton used to be a member of the Fearsome Fivesome. And just like the other members of this all girl clique, she was both feared and revered by the students of Hallowell High... that is until vicious rumors about her and her best friend's boyfriend start going around. (Summary from Goodreads)

I think it's a fantastic idea to re-release these two books so that more people can enjoy them! And it is perfect timing, my dear read-alongers, because now you can get the first two books for the read-along for the price of one! What's not to love? I, personally, am really excited to have this pretty bind-up on my shelf next to all my other Courtney Summers' books.

In honor of the release (and thanks to the awesome people from St. Martin's Press), I'm offering up FIVE COPIES of What Goes Around!

Giveaway Rules:
- Must be 13 years or older
- Open to US/CANADA ONLY (sorry, international folks!)
- We are not responsible for lost or damaged items
- Enter the Rafflecopter form to enter
- You do not HAVE to be a part of the Read-Along but it's greatly appreciated if you are! (*hugs to Read-Alongers!*)

I want to say a huge THANK YOU to Sarah from St. Martin's Press for providing the copies and for being such a huge supporter of the read-along!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck and happy reading!

- Ciara (Lost at Midnight) 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Courtney Summers Read-Along, Month One: CRACKED UP TO BE

Hi everyone!

Today is the day! Welcome to Day One of the Courtney Summers Read-Along! I am really excited to be hosting this event, and hope you guys are too. If you don't know about the read-along CLICK HERE and it'll give you all the information. If you're interested in participating and you haven't already signed up, just mention in the comments or leave your link in this month's link-up!

This month we are going to be reading CRACKED UP TO BE, Courtney Summers' first published novel. It's also a special month because one of my very awesome friends is going to be co-hosting this month with me! Please welcome, Crimson!

I'm Crimson, and I co-blog over at Anyone who knows at least a little about my taste in books knows I'm a giant Courtney Summers fan. As unfair as it might be to other books, I do sometimes have a tendency to hold up Courtney Summers books, unconsciously or not, as the standard by which all contemporary books I read must compete.

CRACKED UP TO BE was the first Courtney Summers book I read, so I'm excited to be hosting the first month of the Courtney Summers Read-A-Long, CRACKED UP TO BE month.

CRACKED UP TO BE is one of those rare books that achieves the perfect balance between crying-I'm-laughing-so-hard and crying-my-heart-is-being-shattered. Narrated by the unapologetically "unlikeable", and deeply sympathetic, Parker Fadley, CRACKED UP TO BE is like the perfect guide on how to lose friends and alienate people, as well has how to laugh and cry and break your heart and maybe even put it back together again.

Brilliant writing, dynamic characters - this books is the perfect introduction to Courtney Summers and, I'm sorry but I have to say it, it's definitely all it's cracked up to be. 

When "Perfect" Parker Fadley starts drinking at school and failing her classes, all of St. Peter's High goes on alert. How has the cheerleading captain, girlfriend of the most popular guy in school, consummate teacher's pet, and future valedictorian fallen so far from grace?

Parker doesn't want to talk about it. She'd just like to be left alone, to disappear, to be ignored. But her parents have placed her on suicide watch and her conselors are demanding the truth. Worse, there's a nice guy falling in love with her and he's making her feel things again when she'd really rather not be feeling anything at all.

Nobody would have guessed she'd turn out like this. But nobody knows the truth.

Something horrible has happened, and it just might be her fault.

So, here's how the month is going to work. Each week we'll be reading designated chapters from the book (the list of chapters is below)! Every Sunday, there will be a discussion post about that week's chapters! You can read as fast or as slow as you want (aka you don't have to follow the schedule, that's just how we'll be separating the discussions), and I hope you guys will participate in the discussions on Sunday. Throughout the month, there will be guest posts, reviews, and other cool things (including giveaways)!

CRACKED UP TO BE Chapter Breakdown
Week One: Chapters 1 - 7
Week Two: Chapters 8 - 12
Week Three: Chapters 13 - 17
Week Four: Chapter 17 - end

Add the link to your review/post/etc. below if you have one and hope you guys have fun!

- Ciara (Lost at Midnight)