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The Hot One: A Memoir of Friendship, Sex, and Murder Hardcover – August 1, 2017
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"Both an introspective look at young female friendship and a riveting true-crime tale."
– Entertainment Weekly
"Murnick is an engaging writer and her story of the seamy side of young Hollywood sucks you in like a link to TMZ."
– USA Today
"Riveting...A thoughtful examination of how we grow up and apart."
"Darkly beautiful...Poetic and riveting."
"While the specific story is tragic and interesting in its own right, the central themes — of friendship, and of how you can share a childhood with someone, then come to hardly know them at all — will resonate with many."
– The New York Post
"A rueful exploration of how two New Jersey girls, such close friends in fifth grade that they felt they were nearly the same person, found themselves on very different paths."
"An elegy to female friendship and the ways it shapes us, even as we grow older and grow apart."
"Thoughtful and thorough, both in exploring the dynamics of female friendships and reporting from chilling courtroom hearings."
– The Cut
"A true crime page-turner and also a really lovely meditation on friendships between women and the way they change."
– Slate's DoubleX Gabfest
"Murnick’s memoir will shock and fascinate."
“Original and engaging.”
"This fusion of memoir and procedural should be welcomed by readers of autobiography as well as true crime."
– Library Journal
"Carolyn Murnick’s insights into the freighted complexities of youth, beauty, and sexuality, and how these forces collide within long, close female friendships, turn an already affecting murder mystery into a story for our time. Never morbid or sentimental, always honest, The Hot One is a wholly original memoir that explores and unpacks the often vexing reality of what it means to be a young woman in the 21st century."
—Kate Bolick, bestselling author of SPINSTER: Making a Life of One’s Own
"A journalist’s investigation into her childhood friend’s murder—a riveting subject on its own—is so much more in writer Carolyn Murnick’s hands. Murnick exposes the sticky complexity of female friendship and identity. She questions what our debts are to the dead and forces us to look at ourselves. Three pages in and I knew that I wouldn’t get anything else done. I inhaled The Hot One in 24 hours, riveted from its haunting preface to its heartbreaking final sentence."
—Susannah Cahalan, bestselling author of BRAIN ON FIRE: My Month of Madness
"Carolyn Murnick's The Hot One is as suspenseful as it is heartfelt and honest— an affecting, revealing investigation into the mysteries at the heart of young friendship."
—Robert Kolker, author of LOST GIRLS: An Unsolved American Mystery
About the Author
Carolyn Murnick is an online editor at New York magazine. She received an Emerging Writer Fellowship from the Aspen Institute in 2014. Her personal essays have appeared in two anthologies: Before & After: Stories from New York and Lost & Found: Stories from New York. She lives in Brooklyn and The Hot One is her first book.
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The author makes horrid and insensitive jokes such as when she describes the technique that the killer used to mutilate her friend and imagines herself on Jeopardy saying, "Alex, I'll take Piquerism for $200." Really? How did anyone sign off on that? She is obsessed with seeing the photos of her friend's destroyed body, and she constantly insinuates herself into the circle of Ashley's actual friends and covers the country gawking at every place Ashley had been under the guise of "finding out what happened" and nobly "bearing witness." Murnick spends 15 years after the killer is incarcerated, working her butt off to be a part of this story, and she finally gets her wish: She gets to be a witness in the penalty phase of the trial! Finally, she gets the stage so that she can show everyone that she is the smart one AND the "hot" one now, too!
The title is offensive and meaningless except in Murnick's own self-indulgent mind. She posits several times that she and Ashley (who were best friends when they were nine-year-olds) formed their own self-worth in judgment of each other because someone once remarked that Ashley said of her, "She's smarter than I am." So, obviously because Ashley was the "hot" one, Ashley measured herself against Murnick's intelligence and found herself lacking. Murnick never finds out any significant truth about her friend as a young adult, and it's evident that she was never sincerely trying. She was simply researching a book. She even receives the idea and the "blessing" to write this book from Ashley’s spirit as it hovers around the house where the murder occurred (according to the in-tune woman with Murnick). Ohhhhh. So, that’s why Ashley was murdered! It was all orchestrated so that Murnick could pen her first book!
The last time she saw Ashley, Murnick turned up her nose at Ashley's "stripper" attire and Ashley's confidence in her own body and how easily Ashley snagged the man Murnick wanted. Ashley knew that she was "hot" and used it to her financial benefit. Murnick feigns anger at the lawyer for the accused for trying to make Ashley out to be a "slut," and that's just what Murnick has accomplished with this thin excuse for a story about "friendship, sex, and murder."
Most of us had childhood friends whom we loved and from whom we became estranged as we left elementary school. And, of course, we'd probably feel horror and sadness and loss if one of those friends ended up brutally murdered. It's even true that many of us would feel that "It could've been me" thing that kicks in when the car in front of us gets T-boned. So, if what you want to do is to write a book about how awful someone else's tragedy is for YOU, at least own up to it so that readers know what's really between the covers.
Throughout the book, I kept wondering what Ashley's parents would say about Murnick and her claims of being Ashley's BFF. I'll speak plainly: I think that Murnick was a semi-competent writer at a third tier info-tainment magazine and she seized upon the murder of a woman from her hometown as a way to make a name for herself. From the insensitive jokes Murnick makes about the murder, to her pathological need to sully the memory of Ashley, to her passing around the autopsy report like candy to her similarly career-stalled friends, I felt that Murnick derived a perverse satisfaction from inserting herself into the case. I can only imagine that the legal teams on both sides must have had a chuckle about the trial groupie that thought she was the next Truman Capote. No true friend would tarnish Ashley's memory out of a misplaced sense of Puritanical morality. This is especially the case after it becomes clear that Murnick is/was terribly threatened by Ashley and jealous of Ashley's beauty. At the end of the day, perhaps this spiteful book would not have been written had Murnick been more attractive to men or had pursued a career which gave her the attention and accolades she feels entitled to.
Finally, if I sound angry, it's because I feel that I wasted my money and time on a book that advertises Murnick's pathology in lieu of a worthwhile analysis of this murder. I'm left feeling that, although I never met Ashley, I feel far more protective of her memory than her supposed "friend." In life, Ashley was exploited by the men who wanted to be around her beauty. In death, Ashley is exploited by both her association with a B-list actor and her "friend" who seeks to bask in Ashley's reflected glory. The author's glibness and hollow attempts at self-depreciation only serve to show me that in addition to being "the hot one," Ashley was also "the kind one," "the moral one" and "the self-aware one."
She seems to grasp at straws and throws in some feminist theories in an attempt to parlay some sociological explanations for an upper middle class girl who simply moved to Hollywood and partied. She's not a part of the victim's life when she is murdered, and her "research" on the case is banal and doesn't really contribute to the case. Her motive is clear: play up her connection to a longlost pal with Hollywood allure to score a book deal.