At Book of the Month, Judge Katie Cotugno is our go-to YA expert. So far, she's selected member favorites like A Million Junes by Emily Henry and Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert. This month, she's published a YA tale of her own: Top Ten, a romantic and delightful story about two high school students on the night of their graduation. We asked Katie our top five most pressing questions.


Book of the Month: Your new book, Top Ten, is about two unlikely best friends who make top ten lists about anything and everything. Give us the top ten words that describe this book.

Katie Cotugno: Dirty Hufflepuff charms anxious misanthrope; sparks fly/lives change. Makeouts!

BOTM: Top Ten is also about two best friends who hook up, but it goes terribly wrong. Where'd this idea come from?

KC: I love playing around with timelines in my novels—How to Love is a before and after story about a couple falling in love twice three years apart, and 99 Days is told in 99 chapters. With Top Ten, I wanted to see if I could write a slow burn romance that a) was told completely out of order and b) kind of turned the trope on its head by starting with, rather than building to, a hookup. I'm also a total sucker for familiar stories with a twist, so "best friends and maybe more" was always something I was going to get around to eventually.

BOTM: You're our go-to YA expert. What do you look for in a great YA novel?

KC: I look for mostly the same things in a YA novel that I look for in any book, be it high literature or dinosaur erotica—writing that's fresh and unexpected, characters that feel imperfect and real.

BOTM: You've written for adults and YA audiences. Which is more fun to write?

KC: That's a tough question! In a lot of ways the process is exactly the same, though I think there's sometimes the preconception is that writing YA is somehow easier or less serious. I love the YA community, though; at its best, it feels like a really smart, funny, socially engaged pajama party.

BOTM: Your Instagram reveals many photos of your beautiful dog, Avon. Tell us your favorite things about her.

KC: I had to read this question like three times to be sure someone was actually inviting me to do my favorite thing on earth: pontificate about my dog. I have a million favorite things about Avon—her put-upon grumbles, the way her butt waggles when she climbs a staircase, how when she feels overwhelmed she gives herself a time out in her chair of despair. But honestly my favorite thing about her is how hopeful she makes me feel. Avon had a pretty crummy first year of life before she came to us—starvation, abuse, what the vet called "a touch of gangrene". On top of which she's a pit bull, which means like half the population is weird about her to begin with. But in spite of all that, she is truly the most dopily loving creature I have ever encountered. She has every reason to believe that people are monsters, but she just goes right on climbing into their laps anyway, head-butting them until they scratch her behind her ears. We got Avon right after the Inauguration, when I was feeling pretty dark about the state of the world. And having her around has been such an incredible bright spot this year.


Top Ten by Katie Cotugno is a Book of the Month extra. Click here to learn more about it.