Imagine living your whole life not knowing what the world outside is like? Then imagine that you royally messed up and you have to go outside to fix your mistake! In short, that is what Topside is about. Jo, a young maintenance technician makes a mistake that destabilizes her planets core and must go on an adventure to find Oblexium, the only substance that can fix her error. Jo comes face to face with a scam artist, a shapeshifter, and pair of bounty hunters in the form of a shark in a dress and a sentient lightbulb. Jo’s adventure gets complicated when agents from the interior, her home, start pursuing her with the thought that she has been abducted.
What I most enjoyed about Topside is that Jo finds friends in the most unlikely of places. Funnily enough, she stumbles upon these friends due to her likeability and sheer ignorance of the world beyond the interior. Monk creates a world of danger but also of acceptance. Jo, while skeptical, accepts these odd people around her for who they are and forms an interesting little gang of friends. I thought that it had a really good message for a kid’s graphic novel.
Also, Jo is an interesting and fun protagonist. She has this aura of exhaustion from the constant work, but she also has an enthusiasm that makes her enjoyable. The balance for this character is very good and it made me care for her. She is honestly just trying her hardest to fix her mistake and help her family move up in the world. She is an underdog and I liked her.
The pacing in this graphic novel, while quick, feels perfect for the target audience. It moves quickly enough to hold kids attention while also having enough detail for an adult to enjoy. One minute your following Jo as she wanders through an apocalyptic style town the next your in hot pursuit following the interior agents, it really holds your attention.
Something unique about Topside that I particularly enjoyed was the not so antagonistic antagonist. He is just a guy forced to do a job he doesn’t want to do, and he is forced to jump through a bunch of ridiculous bureaucratic hoops. He’s comical and seems to embody the tedious nature of office work and adulthood. I don’t hate him and I think that there should be more “bad guys” like him in children’s books.
I also want to praise Harry Bogosian’s illustrations in Topside, they are gorgeous. Jo’s appearance reminds me a little of Steven Universe, I’ve mentioned that show before and honestly I’ve only seen a few episodes, I think it’s great.
I give Topside a 5/5, I was really charmed by this one. As always thank you to NetGalley and also a thank you to Lerner Publishing Group, without them this review wouldn’t be possible.