Book Review: What We Saw

20522640Novel: What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler | Goodreads
Release Date: September 22nd, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

Kate Weston can piece together most of the bash at John Doone’s house: shots with Stacey Stallard, Ben Cody taking her keys and getting her home early—the feeling that maybe he’s becoming more than just the guy she’s known since they were kids.

But when a picture of Stacey passed out over Deacon Mills’s shoulder appears online the next morning, Kate suspects she doesn’t have all the details. When Stacey levels charges against four of Kate’s classmates, the whole town erupts into controversy. Facts that can’t be ignored begin to surface, and every answer Kate finds leads back to the same question: Where was Ben when a terrible crime was committed?

This story—inspired by real events—from debut novelist Aaron Hartzler takes an unflinching look at silence as a form of complicity. It’s a book about the high stakes of speaking up, and the razor thin line between guilt and innocence that so often gets blurred, one hundred and forty characters at a time.

What We Saw was been of my most anticipated releases of the Fall 2015 catalog, and let me tell you, it’s a show-stopper.

Aaron Hertzler’s sophomore novel brings into question how our society deals with rape cases, through the eyes of Kate, a girl who struggles with her own role in the events. The book opens with Kate attending a party and getting incredibly drunk. Her childhood friend, Ben, who she has only recently started talking to again, takes her home, and a romance between the two begins to blossom. Through her friends and social media, Kate grows to understand that something happened at the party, but she has no clue what exactly it was. People are talking about Stacey Stallard, one of Kate’s former friends, but Kate doesn’t know what to believe. Sure, Stacey may have been drunk and acting crazier than usual, but she wouldn’t do anything stupid.

When the cops arrest a group of her classmates – and some of Ben’s closest friends – for rape and child pornography, Kate has to wonder if Ben was involved. He may have dropped her off, but he went back to the party. Was he involved and he’s just not fessing up? Rumors fly and Stacey is apparently the girl who the boys raped at the party, but the video that will incriminate them hasn’t been found. Kate battles between her desire to reach out to Stacey and the part of her that wants to be like everyone else and brush the events under the rug. Kate’s inner struggle is what drives the novel, because you want to know what she’ll end up deciding to do, and also if the boys will go to jail. As well, you don’t know exactly what happened at the party, so the questions surrounding that are also left up in the air.

Hartzler incorporates social media seamlessly into the storyline, unlike many novels I’ve read in the past. The characters use it in a way that is relatable for most teens, which I think is why so many teens will connect deeply with the novel. I connected with Kate, who when confronted with the opportunity to set things straight, has to decide if she wants to do the right thing and sacrifice her reputation or let the boys get off scott-free.

What We Saw should be read by every teenager, in my opinion. I hope this book will be as ground-breaking and thought-provoking for other readers as it was for me. I’m interested to see what happens because of this book, because it has potential to change the minds of readers everywhere.