An out of practice reader discussing the books I get around to reading.
First book of 2018! Woo! And what an interesting read it is. The Hot One is Carolyn Murnick's exploration of her own life and maturation framed by the murder of her childhood best friend, Ashely. We follow Murnick from childhood to early adulthood to navigating the legal system as a spectator of the trial. Throughout her journey she tries to answer the question of why her life turned out so differently from her friends.
Overall I enjoyed this book. Murnick is really a spectacular writer, the kind where you have to go back and reread the lines because it's just so incredible. And the flow of one memory to another worked really well. From a purely technical perspective, this is an incredible book.
The Hot One also presents a perspective I don't think we see a lot of in the true crime genre. Usually these stories are told by a completely separate third party or by someone who knew the killer. As far as I know, there are only a handful of true crime books that are from the perspective of the friends and family of the victims. I appreciated that perspective, particularly during the sections of the preliminary hearing. You don't think about how little details, like the wording of the defense attorney's questions or a photo presented by the prosecution, affect those sitting in the gallery. I really appreciate Murnick for being so vulnerable about her thoughts and reactions to these details in order to present this side.
The biggest critique I have of this book is it really is more about Murnick than it is Ashley or the crime. I suppose that's more of a marketing problem and a personal issue, but I was expecting to learn more about a crime through the eyes of the victim's childhood friend, rather than learn about the friend through the crime, if that makes sense. And honestly, for the first third or half of the book, I didn't really care for Murnick. I found her whiny and pretentious, which only made me want to learn more about Ashely all the more. Overall, I came out of reading the book feeling as if I really didn't learn that much about Ashley, and in that way I feel Murnick failed in her mission - determining how she and her friend ended up on such different paths. I understood how Murnick got to where she was, but for someone who talked so much on the shame that people were judging her friend without really knowing her, she didn't really help us know Ashley much better. So I definitely had an issue with that and wish Murnick had taken more time to focus on what she implied she'd actually be focusing on.
Final rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. A very fresh perspective for the true crime drama, though you'll have to get through a lot of teenage/young adult angst for the good stuff.