Gabby Hart and Ryan McCullough meet at a house party thrown by Gabby’s older sister, Celia. It’s kinda awkward because Gabby isn’t really a party-goer; she’d much rather be holed up in her bedroom with her snacks and a good book. When she discovers Ryan barfing in her bathroom, though, it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship. That’s the premise of Katie Cotugno’s YA novel Top Ten.
Ryan and Gabby could not be more different. Gabby is awkward and suffers from extreme anxiety, which she mostly keeps in check unless, y’know, parties or other situations that make her uncomfortable. She has great parents and siblings, a nuclear family that plays a weekly game of Monopoly. Ryan is a star hockey player, probably considered too cool to be hanging out with Gabby, but the thing is, he discovers he wants to hang out with Gabby, and so he invites himself to her house to play Monopoly. His parent’s marriage has just dissolved and he finds comfort in Gabby’s house, and in Gabby herself.
The novel actually begins just after high school graduation, when Ryan asks Gabby to recount the “Top ten moments of high school.” They both know that their lives are going to change when Ryan goes off to play hockey in Minnesota and Gabby heads to NYC to study photography. Gabby can’t imagine life without Ryan because
He was Gabby’s social security blanket, her failsafe against miserable, crippling anxiety; she had no idea what she was going to do without him come fall. Thinking about it was terrifying on a physical, visceral level, and so mostly she did her best not to think about it at all.
And then, in a decision that is decidedly not split-second, they decide to cross over into something that is more than friends. The novel then travels back over all the pivotal moments in their lives.
Top Ten is charming to the 100th power, probably because Ryan and Gabby felt like real people. Their friendship will ring true to anyone who’s ever had a bestie you’ve wondered “what if?” about. Romance aside, this is also a book about overcoming your own fears, what it means to be a friend to someone, even when they make it extremely difficult, and how to navigate those tricky teen years.
I really, really liked it.