Everyone knows that Morgan Matson is my favourite author, and when I found out she’d written more books under a different name, I needed to get my hands on them ASAP! Luckily, my friends bought me the Top 8 trilogy for my birthday and I have not been able to put them down since! Top 8 follows Madison MacDonald after her Friendverse profile is hacked and her life basically starts to crumble around her. The adventure that ensues is a whodunit? mystery, with added romance and moral messages perfect for a tween audience.
Mad was a really interesting character, at first I thought she was going to be the classic high school popular it girl, with her tight knit group of friends and perfect boyfriend, but I was mistaken. There was real character development, something that I always love about Matson’s books, because Mad does start out as the kind of girl who bitches about people behind their backs, but she learns some valuable lessons that make her a better person. Her voice was the perfect essence-of-teenager that makes a contemporary great!
I didn’t like Madison’s friends as much, though. I was so disappointed in them! Even after being friends with them for how many years they still believed that she made the changes to her profile on purpose. If any of my friends told me they were hacked I’d believe them! Schuyler was probably my favourite friend because she was so intriguing, there was so much in this book that could easily be continued into the next story, like why does Shy never want to talk about her past school and Nate’s breakup with his past girlfriend hasn’t yet been explained. There was a lot of conflict between Mad and the other students because they all seemed to have a motive to hack her and destroy her perfect life. The use of secondary characters was perfectly done, they each really added something to the plot and I felt by the end I understood them as much as the main character. The integration of the profiles and the messages really enhanced the whole story – thank goodness for foreshadowing!
Nate is our love interest and to put it bluntly he was adorable. Yeah, I could have done with more build up in their relationship, but I can’t complain since he’s basically the perfect guy. Mad’s inner monologue about Justin vs. Nate was extremely annoying, only because she wasn’t being true to her feelings. The comments she made about her and Justin’s relationship were pretty laughable at times, so I wasn’t very upset on behalf of their breakup.
Plot and Pacing:
I think the only down side to these sorts of internet-based stories, is that the internet evolves so quickly, and so does people’s understanding of it. So in 2015 it’s slightly strange to be reading about a girl who hasn’t got her online profile’s privacy settings as tight as they can be. But in 2008 when this was published the whole ‘be safe online!’ lectures were still super prevalent, whereas now they’re pretty much a given. HOWEVER, this took absolutely nothing away from my enjoyment of this series, it was still relatable and translatable to today!
The pacing was relatively slow in the beginning, with the majority of the action occurring in the second half. Yet, the build up was what made this story so addicting. Katie Finn made it so that there were so many people to suspect and as something new was revealed you had to question what Mad was being told. Of course, everything came together in the end and nothing was left unexplained. I have to say that I guessed the hacker, but not as quickly as my love of detective shows would suggest. THAT WAS WHAT MADE THIS BOOK SO BRILLIANT. I completely fell for all of the red herrings and my attention was always drawn away from the hacker. In hindsight, with all the foreshadowing, that I didn’t necessarily understand the relevance of until the very end, it seems obvious who the hacker was, but it’s written in a way that means you always suspect someone else.
Overall, I gave Top 8 4 stars! It was a really fun and engaging read that was super hard to put down. I was completely sucked into Madison’s world and thoroughly enjoyed guessing along with the protagonist. The ending was satisfying and I can’t wait to read about the aftermath in the next book!