Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Top Ten by Katie Cotugno

Top Ten by Katie Cotugno
Release Date - October 3, 2017
Publisher Website - Harper Collins
Publisher Social Media - Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/Frenzy
Pages - 320 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received for an honest review from publisher**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
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?
Katie Cotugno's novels always offer up great romance and incredible friendships. Top Ten combines the two to create a complex look at the special bond that exists between two delightful characters. She looks at whether these particular characters are better off as friends or if they could be something more. Their story is told in a unique and heartfelt way that adds an extra layer to this novel.

The story is told in sections counting down the top ten moments of Ryan and Gabby's friendship. This creates a non linear format for telling the story. It pieces the story together in a way that fills in all the gaps, but not in the order you necessary expect. It provides glimpses at how their relationship morphed and changed during their high school years, and the impact these events had on them as individuals. It was an interesting way of telling the story, and ensured that I kept reading. I wanted to discover what the next moment was and how it fit into the story of Ryan and Gabby.

I found myself both rooting for Ryan and Gabby's relationship to remain strictly a friendship as much as I wanted them to become something more. They are each other's 'person'. They are the most important people to each other and there is something very special about their friendship. They love each other and seeing that take any form feels satisfying. The only thing I wanted by the end of the novel was for their relationship to be intact, no matter what form that may take. It's a testament to the chemistry that Katie Cotugno was able to create between these two characters.

The story focuses as much on Ryan and Gabby as individuals as it does them as a unit. There are secondary story arcs of Gabby's anxiety and Ryan's hockey that flesh out the characters and the story. Gabby's anxiety, to me, was especially well done. It felt very real in a way that was natural to the character. This was very much Gabby dealing with anxiety and not just a simplification of everyone with anxiety. Ryan's story arc is one that I am less familiar with, but I felt the pressure he would be under, and the scary realization that something could prevent you from following the path you assumed you would take. It was woven into the story really well, and used a catalyst to further the relationship between the main characters.

Gabby is bisexual and her bisexuality is expressly stated and shown on the page. We see her have interest in both guys and girls equally. This part of her character is also not the driving force for her story arc. It is simply part of who she is and is represented in her interactions without being all that her character is.

Most people want to know what Ryan and Gabby decide in terms of their friendship/perhaps more relationship. That has to be discovered by reading the story. The ending, for me, was exactly how this story should end. It's emotional in the best way, and felt exactly perfect for Gabby and Ryan's story. It is something that needs to be experienced as part of the story, as I felt it had more of an impact because I took the journey with these characters.

This novel is classic Katie Cotugno. She makes you care about her characters, and their relationships so effortlessly. If you enjoyed her previous novels this is a must read for you. Ryan and Gabby's story isn't just a story of friendship, or romance. It's about those special relationships and how they help us in both good and bad times.

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