Published by Balzer + Bray on October 3rd 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Diversity, LGBT, Romance, Young Adult
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The newest stunning and unforgettable contemporary realistic romance from the New York Times bestselling author of 99 Days, Fireworks, and How to Love. Perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen, Jenny Han, and Morgan Matson.
Ryan McCullough and Gabby Hart are the unlikeliest of best friends. Prickly, anxious Gabby would rather do literally anything than go to a party. Ultra-popular Ryan is a hockey star who can get any girl he wants—and frequently does. But somehow their relationship just works; from dorky Monopoly nights to rowdy house parties to the top ten lists they make about everything under the sun.
Now, on the night of high school graduation, everything is suddenly changing—in their lives, and in their relationship. As they try to figure out what they mean to each other and where to go from here, they make a final top ten list: this time, counting down the top ten moments of their friendship.
Top Ten is a novel that exceeded all of my expectations. I was not a fan of Katie Cotugno’s 99 Days at all (in fact, I pretty much hated it) so I tried to go into Top Ten with an open mind and ended up really enjoying it. It’s also no secret that I love the ‘friends to more’ trope so that probably explains some things :). Here are ten things you should know about the novel:
1. Friendship story
While this book is marketed as a “can a boy and girl be best friends without being more?” story, the novel was much more focused on the friendship aspect than the romance, which I really appreciated. The novel starts off with the possibility of the main characters, Gabby and Ryan, becoming more than just friends but then spends the majority of it taking us back to the past and exploring their friendship and how they ended up where they are now. I really enjoyed their friendship immensely and thought that their characters worked perfectly together. It was definitely a relationship that I wanted to read more about.
2. Likeable characters
This is an important point for me. It’s no secret that the characters make or break the story for me when it comes to contemporaries and I thought both Gabby and Ryan were relatable and interesting. I found it easy to connect with them and the dual perspectives in the novel really allowed me to get into their heads. I also liked that Gabby and Ryan’s characters were really different and seeing how their friendship came together despite their differences made the novel even more interesting.
Gabby is bisexual and this was explored quite well in the novel. I also liked that the novel was really sex-positive and the author wasn’t afraid to go there. Gabby also has social anxiety and I thought this came through in the novel. I’m not sure that I was explored as much as it should have been and I felt like the author rushed through some things that I would’ve liked to have seen a bit more of.
4. Ten chapters
The novel is split into ten chapters to go along with the title of the book, with Gabby and Ryan’s perspectives changing throughout each chapter. Each of the ten chapters represented a certain period of their lives and I really liked this format. The first and last chapters of the book were set in the present during the summer after their senior year and the other chapters explored their earlier high school years. What I wasn’t a fan of was that these chapters in the middle weren’t chronological. The story would jump from the spring of their junior year to the winter of their junior year, which led to a lot of confusion… and let’s be real, I really don’t pay attention to chapter headings.
5. Characters with real problems
I loved that the book explored a lot of real problems that teenagers often face. I liked that there was a lot of focus on college and the problems and difficulties that can come with that, including being separated from loved ones, having to rely on sports scholarships to afford college, and being too anxious to try out new experiences.
6. Families that are present
I absolutely loved Gabby’s family. I thought they were so quirky but also just a normal family. They play together Monopoly every Friday night and her dad makes a new party-pleasing appetiser from his book of 1001 recipes. I also really liked Ryan’s family and how the dysfunction of it contrasted with Gabby’s.
7. A little rushed at the end
I thought that the book was really well-paced for the majority of it. But the last 50 pages of the book felt extremely rushed and I think some of the issues were resolved a bit too quickly. I wanted to savour the ending a little bit more but the novel ended pretty abruptly.
8. Unexpected ending
The novel answers the question of whether a boy and a girl can just be friends, but it might not end the way that you’d expect.
9. Beautiful writing
I was much too filled with rage at the plot of 99 Days that I didn’t really get to take in the writing. But the writing style of Top Ten really blew me away. There was just something so easy about the way that it flowed and I absolutely flew through the book (when I was actually reading it and not rolling around in my slump).
10. Third person omniscient
This probably explains why I loved the writing so much. Third person omniscient will always be my favourite narrative style.
I really enjoyed reading Top Ten and thought that it was a really great story about friendship that also explored other topics like family, sexuality, and making tough choices. I enjoyed the writing and the pacing and thought that it was a wonderful contemporary story.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Thank you to HarperCollins Canada for the review copy (and inviting me to the Fall Frenzy event!).