The Hottest State: A Novel

The Hottest State: A Novel

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by Ethan Hawke

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When William meets Sarah at a bar appropriately called the Bitter End, he is a few months short of his twenty-first birthday and about to act in his first movie. He is so used to getting what he wants that he has never been able to care too deeply for anyone. But all of that is about to change. And it is Sarah--bold and shy, seductive and skittish--who will become…  See more details below


When William meets Sarah at a bar appropriately called the Bitter End, he is a few months short of his twenty-first birthday and about to act in his first movie. He is so used to getting what he wants that he has never been able to care too deeply for anyone. But all of that is about to change. And it is Sarah--bold and shy, seductive and skittish--who will become William's undoing and his salvation.

William's affair with Sarah will take him from a tenement on the Lower East Side to a hotel room in Paris, from a flip proposal of marriage to the extremities of outraged need and the wisdom that comes only to true survivors. Anyone who reads The Hottest State will encounter a writer who can charm, dazzle, and break the heart in a single paragraph.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The actor's first novel of young love in Manhattan. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Sure he can act, but can he write? In his much-touted debut novel, Hawke evidently takes the time-honored advice to write about what one knows and weaves a tale of young love.
Kirkus Reviews
A first novel by the young actor featured in the Dead Poet's Society has a lot in common with the world of his film Reality Bites: It's a young man's idea of hip romance, with plenty of gestures to satisfy teeny-bopper fans.

Hawke's mercifully brief story is really an extended hissy fit over being dumped by the type of girl his narrator doesn't usually date—she's a bit plump, rather graceless, not beautiful by conventional standards. She is, of course, smart, which is important to 21-year-old William Harding, a working actor in New York City who admits he's got by on his good looks and charm. Certainly not his intellect—he's impressed by his ability to recite a long poem by Gregory Corso by heart in response to Sarah's reading to him from Adrienne Rich. His own mother warns him about the limits of life as "a handsome bullshitter," but William blunders along, full of his own importance as he lovingly records his every little foible and endearing personality trait, which seem to include smashing furniture when he's frustrated. Sarah, meanwhile, withholds sex, and hands him a tract on "Rape and the Twentieth-Century Woman." Pouting William must use a condom when the big moment finally comes. A Parisian interlude, where he alludes with false modesty to his career, contributes to their breakup—she realizes that she needs space, and William is sent packing, back to his beautiful, empty-headed girlfriend from the past—but not before reciting Shakespeare to Sarah from the street outside her apartment.

This clumsily written novel takes itself very seriously, although it is mostly content to name but not to show: We have to take Hawke's vague descriptions of "brilliant" friends, "great" books, "stupid" hair on faith, and then there's that "French" moustache on a waiter in . . . France. Skip the movie, if there is one.

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Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vintage Contemporaries
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.21(w) x 7.96(h) x 0.54(d)

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The Hottest State 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
TheStephanieLoves More than 1 year ago
The Hottest State chronicles one year in the life of young, dashing William Harding: aspiring actor and charming lover. When he first meets Sarah, a girl unlike any he's ever seen, he knows from the beginning that he's a goner. She's beautiful. She's elusive. Every little thing she does strikes William greatly. The passion the two share, the chemistry; it's all so surreal, that even he can't believe it. He knows right then and there, that she is the one, that she's the one that he'll love forever, but little does he realize that though she may be the pursuit of his pleasure, he is just a twenty-year-old fool in love, and by time he's twenty-one, he'll just be a broken-hearted man. The way Hawke captures your interest in enthralling. He makes you become William Harding. I by all means, am not a helpless twenty-year-old boy in love, but throughout reading the book, I really felt like I was. All of William's movements and thoughts, I could relate with. It was so eerie. When William cried, I felt like crying, and when he got psychotic over his breakup with Sarah, I could feel the pain tugging inside of him. There's this one funny scene where he throws furniture around, and it's not funny like "haha!", but funny because, it's a scene where it should have been a turning point. I should have said "Wow, this William is nuts". But I didn't say that. Instead, I found myself cheering him on, because as crazy as he was, the emotion that was seeping throughout all of it, was so legitimate. This novel was by far one of them most entertaining novels I've ever read, and not only because I feel like it's something straight out of my own past, or future, for that matter. Ethan Hawke will make you laugh, and he'll make you love William's story, but in the tragic end, Ethan Hawke will break your heart. Rating: 10 hearts- Extraordinarily amazingly wonderfully fantastically marvelous.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read Ash Wednesday and I loved. Knowing Hawke's work on and behinde screen, I was aware of his book would be wonderful. I have also recomended it for my friends. Congratulations Hawke.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a very good change of pace from all of today's mystery and intrigue novels. I went into it blind without knowing what it was about. I was very impressed with Hawke as a writer and storyteller. Would recommend to anyone that needs a change of pace.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having seen the Hawke films 'Before Sunrise' and 'Before Sunset' I was aware of his literary depths. With his hand in the theatre and film, it was a natural progression to turn to the written word. I read this a while ago and I still return to it at least twice a year. I have also recommended it to countless friends who applauded the work when they finished. Yes, I can understand the views of being 'boring' stated by other reviewers, but I do not agree with them. I beleive that the message of confusion and pain are well executed and add a certain haunting element to the themes of the novel that give it sustenance. Hawke has moved me deeply with this book, and I hope those that read it will be moved as well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was an extremely boring, and a pointless read. It's 196 pages of a pretty boy whining and complaining about how this girl, which you realize from the begining has some SERIOUS issues, broke his heart. I think that teen girls in the 14- 17 age range may like it, but I dont reccommend it to anyone over the age of 20, unless you like whiny, pointless books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Everyone else wrote how surprised they were that an actor could write such a good book, but it was pretty much what I expected of Mr. Hawke, actually. It's idiotic to assume that someone is going to be less intelligent based on his/her profession, and Ethan has never come across to me as anything but genuinely intelligent and heartfelt. The book isn't as flowery or as graceful as some people might expect (being marketed as a romance), but it makes up for that in passion and truth, even if the truth sometimes hurts. For a realistic look into the heart and head of a fledgling adult, read this book...with an open mind.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I started reading Hawke's work with Ash Wednesday rather than with The Hottest State. I see many similarities between the two; they both are remarkable. I can't help but picture Hawke in an acting role as Harding (the narrator), which I attribute to him being so well-known. Nonetheless, though at times some statements can be considered randomly placed, the novel is worthwhile for a change of pace from your traditional romance, for the romance moves so quickly, taking readers on a journey through the characters' happiness and disappointment.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ethan Halk has earned my respect as an artist. I never recognized him as well as I do now. His writing is so to the point and almost blunt, because of it you feel what he's saying. It's the sort of book full of things that everyone thinks but never puts into words as well as Halke does. The first chapter of this book was the best introduction to any novel i think i have ever read. The best part about it was hearing the situations from a guy's perspective. I would reccomend this book to any guy who enjoys reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book as part of our quarterly reading in English. I was in love with it for awhile. Hawke has a creative writing style and I liked his use of the english language. The storyline was great. I liked the characters and the setting, but overall I can give this book no more then a three. The end half of the book didn't do justice for the first half. Worth the read on a rainy day.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing, I just finished reading it and I wanted to immediately turn to the first page and read it again. It was definitely a book that I couldn¿t put down. Not only is Ethan a great actor, but hes an awesome author as well. Reading this book made me appreciate him more as an individual...of course I dont know him, but reading this book was one of the best things that could have happened to me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I absolutely love this book. Ethan Hawke has proven himself not only a gifted actor but an author as well. I related heavily to this book. The text parallels my own life in many ways, especially in regards to relationships. There is no greater a bitter experience than to love a girl who will not accept you. Its bad enough when people are rejected based on superficial characteristics, but when a girl professes her love and rejects you for no apparent reason, it will drive you mad. William, the main character faces just that problem, along with a slew of family issues. This book portrays a vulnerable male lead, instead of the female cliché. The characters are intricate and I appreciate that. I hope this is made into a fantastic film, and sara can be played by shannyn sossamon or winona ryder. Moreover, this novel is drenched with emotion. I highly recommend!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm just a 17 year old student, perhaps I shouldn't read books such as this one, but I love the way Ethan Hawke writes. The whole book made me think about life, love, relationships, friends, family and choices. I couldn't put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked this novel up on a whim one day, mainly due to my wife who is a fan of Hawke and who spotted the book, but when I decided to finally sit down and read it, I was surprised by the depth at which he had developed his story. Where I expected to find the usual trite writing and bland story telling from an actor that now all of a sudden is an author, it was in fact a pleasure to read. Through the use of good physical description of locations, action and the main characters and their dialogue that sounded real, the book fairly leapt from the pages and came alive. I also believe Hawke did a very good job in researching the mind of each of his characters. Along with the story this is a crucial point. Sarah is shy and mysterious, sometimes never quite sure of herself, William is arrogant, but in the end not without feelings and even his minor characters showed some depth to their makeup. Most of all Hawke showed he has the talent to move a story along and with brevity, which for a new author is sometimes a difficult thing to master. I do think the story could have used a bit more developing however, especially the ending which seems rushed, but I suppose in time his writings may become more polished.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Hottest State is a very good debut work from Ethan Hawke. The characters are interesting and realistic, the story definitely passionate. Although I tend to like more sweeping, innocent and idealistic love stories like Shade of the Maple by Kirk Martin or The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks, I appreciate Hawke's honesty and straightforward writing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
just the best book i have read. the way you can feel a connection with them one paragraph and hate them the next. Ethan surprised me with how great he is. To be honest i wasnt expecting anything brilliant but boy did i get it smack in the face. Keep it up Ethan.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I couldn't help but see so many of my own insecurities and characteristics in this book, both from the main character, William, and Sarah, his girlfriend for a while. There were paragraphs on the page that often were an exact reflection of my feelings oftentimes.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In my opinion Ethan is one of the most brillant writers. In this novel he is so realistic and a character that you only meet in one chapter you can actually see in your mind.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Beautiful. Dark and erotic. A wonderfully told ambling story of strange passions and love.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Simple words were knitted into a poignant love story. The feelings were genuine and run deep between the characters. Hawke painted beautiful scenery even though the surroundings and the characters were not glamorous. The use of 21 chapters in the book was clever; it's like each chapter represents each year of the hero's life. I enjoyed reading it and I look forward to his upcoming book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I gave this book a four star because of his honest passion. I remember when I stumbled into it at the bookstore. I started reading it an became instantly hooked and found myself waking up only to continue reading. What I found most interesting about it was the fact that he was able to deliver his own persona into the book. I later realized how much more creative he was apart from his colleagues. I hope this is his debut and continues writting.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having heard his comments about an Irving Plaza Dylan concert in the 90's, I thought I'd check Ethan Hawke's book for references to Bob Dylan. I've met other authors as infatuated with Dylan's work as I am and there are usually many allusions to Bobby D. There was nothing here save a passing mention of the album 'Before the Flood.' As for the novella, it wasn't half bad. He details a young man's first lost love. An occassional funny line, and some interesting insight. More interesting to me cuz it takes place in my home, Manhattan & Bklyn. It can definitely be enjoyed as a light read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had no idea that Ethan Hawke had this much passion, and honesty in him. It takes a lot to be able to write this well, and he's definately got it. I loved the way he described Sarah, she seemed so down to earth and genuine, not like some of the beautiful model types that I expected from him. I couldnt put this book down and I recomend it for anyone who has had a broken heart.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I first picked up this book, I had no idea the impact Ethan Hawke's novel would have. I read it staight through, one of the hardest books to ever set down. I can't seem to shelve it. I must have picked it up to re-read it at list ten times. This book is too true to the heart , I couldn't help but feel this could be me, I could be part of this story. A must read for anyone who has ever fallen so HARD in love it hurts , or who has loved and lost,and felt the frustation of love......The absolute best book I have ever read. I hope he continues to write more!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ethan Hawke's book is truely wonderful. I enjoyed the many relationships and the craziness of the protagonist. I wasn't surprised that the book was so engrossing because Hawke himself is an actor and ran a theatre company, he understands what emotion is nessasary to carry a good story.