We all know it’s a jungle out there when it comes to the corporate world. What we didn’t know was that there is a jungle in the final year in schools when it comes to getting top marks. Put this down to the school system, which demands higher and impossibly higher grades from students with an eye on the world outside. Few parents want their children to be happy —they want them to be rich and successful.
Aayush’s Toppers is the teen story with a twist — the quest for high scores and popularity turned into a battle of skill.
Aayush has a cast of characters that include a princeling determined to live by ancient Rajput rules, a girl from the disadvantaged set determined to climb the ladder of success, the school star who is unpopular, a topper who will not lose, another topper who is soft spoken and prefers to lurk in the shadows and a nasty boy wonder. All of them are determined to move forward in the public school that they study in — Woodsville, led by Director Walia who relies on his student counsellor to ferry his top students through the stress of always being at the top of their game.
This of course results in a collision course since there can only be one winner and no one remembers who came second, according to the best mode of corporate quotes. And, being a teen tale there is the appropriate clash of hormones with girls determined to win a topper’s heart and being let down or being exiled from the ranks of popularity. Aayush gives them all different home situations — two are scholarship students with a greater axe to grind when it comes to proving a point. And then there is the child wonder who has the Machiavellian nastiness to upset the whole game simply because he is a greater reader of strategy and has nothing to lose. Aayush keeps the pace fast and the action savage. The problem is everyone is so universally nasty that the book is a little hard on the moral scale, even though he does throw in mitigating circumstances. In a way you could say that there is a reflection of Lord of the Flies somewhere — that ambitious teens have a primeval streak in them somewhere and that being the alpha male or female is the final aim. Also that lies and manipulation are part and parcel of coming out on top.
Is it a book for young adults? Possibly but Toppers verges more on the adult scheme of things. It would be a good backgrounder for parents who see nothing but the lifestyle frills and are determined to force their children to greater and greater heights, helped of course by a school system that sets impossible standards by scaling up the grading so that achieving a cent per cent rating appears quite possible for the lucky few.
Of course, the toppers in this book are focused on economics and presumably the grading is on a multiple choice level rather than essays, though we do have the example of someone who argued his English teacher into giving him 100!
The reviewer is a freelance contributor