Every now and then, a novel comes along that really challenges our traditional viewpoints and prompts us to evaluate our own lives, perhaps taking action to right the wrongs society has committed or begin to change the world. And then we have to do something. And we have to be more.
Um, Katie Finn’s Top 8 is not that book. What it is, instead, is a light and highly entertaining look at life for high school junior Madison MacDonald, a whip-smart girl with a bevy of close friends and a gorgeous new boyfriend, Jason. Fresh from a vacation in the Galapagos Islands, Madison returns stateside only to discover someone has hacked into her Friendverse (read: Facebook, MySpace) profile and completely changed her profile.
And broken up with her boyfriend. And said terrible things to her “friends,” who promptly unfriend and alienate her. And posted the most unflattering, somewhat incriminating photos of Madison — and others — imaginable.
What follows is Madison working eagerly to get to the bottom of who did this — who disliked her so much that they would purposely set out to destroy her reputation, friendships and relationship. And as a little slice of the times, it all involves plenty of cyber-research, interrogation and the help of unexpected allies. By the end of the book, there’s quite the shake-up among Madison’s top 8 friends . . . and that’s probably a good thing.
I know this is probably going to surprise you as I recently ripped up, poured kerosene and lit Julie Kraut and Shallon Lester’s Hot Mess: Summer In The City on fire, but I actually really, really liked Top 8. Where the former failed in the same genre and time period, Finn’s debut novel was funny, fast-paced and felt like a genuine high school experience with dimensional characters. As a narrator, Madison was intelligent, witty and someone to root for — basically, a cool girl. And though her friends could be a little taxing on the brain (particularly Lisa, whose Francophilia translates into her constantly spewing French sayings), overall? Well, I liked these kids. And got to know them.
The mystery surrounding who hacked Madison’s profile was the story’s anchor, and what propelled me through the plot. With a number of “suspects,” all who appear to have good cause to hurt Madison, I truly didn’t know who did it until the pieces came together toward the end. And by that point? Well, I was all kinds of invested.
And in loooove. Nate, who happened to travel with his family and the MacDonalds on their Galapagos adventure, makes a reappearance partway through the story — and by that point? It was obvious Jason was nothing but a numbskull jock and not worth Madison’s attention. Nate won me over immediately with all his broody hotness, and is my personal archetype for awesome teen love interests in novels.
Madison really won me over — and reminded me of myself at 17. Like our lead, I was a theatre geek — an actress who spent most of her time backstage and with the Thespian Society. I fluctuated between different groups of friends, like Mad, and am also the daughter of a sportswriter. Madison has a little brother of whom she’s inherently suspicious, and I have a little sister of whom I’m inherently suspicious. (Just kidding, Katie! …Heh.) So reading Top 8? Well, it felt a little like reliving my own high school experience.
Minus social media, of course. In the giveaway I offered for this book, I asked entrants how they thought platforms like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc., would have impacted their school days. Each entrant responded that it would have made things worse for them, more complicated, etc., and I agree. Reading Top 8 has done nothing but reaffirm how glad I am to have been born in 1985 — and not 1995. It was bad enough when people would write notes about you in class, but whole websites, newsfeeds and tweets dedicated to talking trash about you? Yeah, I’d have an ulcer.
Fans of young adult fiction looking for a quick, light and undeniably fun read need look no further than Top 8. I’m not going to hit the hay tonight with visions of Nietzsche, philosophy and changing the world in my head, but who cares? Sometimes, girls just want to have fun.
4 out of 5!