Book Review: Top Ten

Top Ten
Published By: Balzer & Bray
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Page Count: 320
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Young Adult - Contemporary

Have you ever had one of those best friends that becomes such an integral part of your universe you aren't sure how you'd ever function if they weren't around? I certainly envied friendships like that as a teen, but while I had some strong ones, I didn't have anything remotely like the friendship that exists between Gabby and Ryan. The pair has been through their ups and downs, but somehow they always manage to come out on the other side still friends. But can they keep their friendship in place when romance enters the picture?

Gabby has always been the wallpaper sort of girl. She likes to blend in and observe, but never wants to call attention to herself. Due to severe anxiety, Gabby often misses out on experiences in high school because she is not willing to get professional help and new people cause her to have panic attacks. On the other hand, Ryan is popular and outgoing. As one of the stars of the high school hockey team, he doesn't mind the spotlight. The pair strike up an unlikely friendship during their freshman year of high school which will sustain them through graduation when things get a bit more complicated. The novel is about growing up, firsts and lasts, and that one person who gets you but loves you in spite of your shortcomings. Standing on the cusp of high school and college is a scary place, but with friends supporting you and dreams to follow, anything is possible.

One of the strengths of this novel is Gabby's relationship with her family. She has a typical existence with two sisters - arguments but genuine love. I was most impressed by her parents. They make mistakes with their kids (what parent doesn't?) but they always want their girls to be happy. They are supportive of Gabby's choices and welcome Ryan into their family traditions with open arms. So often in YA novels, the parents are absent and oblivious. It was nice to see a set of parents who were positive role models.

The timeline of the novel makes for an interesting narrative as it bounces between past and present. The structure also mimics the top ten lists that Gabby and Ryan enjoy creating together. It took awhile to settle into this style, but I found that it worked and made the novel more memorable. I also liked that the narration switches between Gabby and Ryan. I'm a fan of novels that have two main characters providing insight into the action and conflicts.

For me, the biggest frustration I had with this novel was the choices made by Gabby and Ryan. Their interactions with one another as well as their lack of being upfront about their feelings at times made me question their intentions. As they aged, their relationship evolved, and by the last chapter I felt like they had both matured and found the perfect spot to exist, but it took some time and a lot of growing pains. I also felt like a lot of the friction in their friendship stemmed from the fact that they were both stubborn and insecure. I did like that they tried to help the other one see past their weaknesses and focus on the things they had control over.

One Last Gripe: The ending felt lackluster.

Favorite Thing About This Book: I felt like this novel tackled some important issues and presented them in realistic yet respectful manner.

First Sentence: Sitting with his ankles crossed in Gabby's leafy green backyard two hours after their high school graduation, Ryan tilted his head back and squinted up at the proud June sun.

Favorite Character: Chelsea

Least Favorite Character: Ryan's Dad

Ryan McCullough and Gabby Hart are the unlikeliest of friends. Introverted, anxious Gabby would rather do literally anything than go to a party. Ryan is a star hockey player who can get any girl he wants—and does, frequently. But against all odds, they became not only friends, but each other’s favorite person. Now, as they face high school graduation, they can’t help but take a moment to reminisce and, in their signature tradition, make a top ten list—counting down the top ten moments of their friendship: 

10. Where to begin? Maybe the night we met.
9. Then there was our awkward phase.
8. When you were in love with me but never told me…
7. Those five months we stopped talking were the hardest of my life.
6. Through terrible fights…
5. And emotional makeups.
4. You were there for me when I got my heart broken.
3. …but at times, you were also the one breaking it.
2. Above all, you helped me make sense of the world.
1. Now, as we head off to college—how am I possibly going to live without you?