Publisher: Harper Collins

Book Review: What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

Posted on 02/28/2017 in Book Review / 0 Comments

Book Review: What We Saw by Aaron HartzlerWhat We Saw by Aaron Hartzler
Published by Harper Teen on September 22, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 321
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gift
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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.


“Nothing is exactly as it appears.
The closer you look, the more you see.”


Trigger Warning: Rape.

This book will make you angry. It will break your heart. And I think it should be required reading for anyone entering high school, as well as their parents. Inspired by actual events, it chronicles the life-altering events that take place  after a girl accuses several basketball players of raping her at a party. The school – and the entire small town – rallies around the boys in a shocking display of victim-shaming. She is mocked, shunned, and made to seem as though she wanted or deserved it. She is blamed for trying to ruin the boys’ lives – their shot at a scholarship, and the team’s chances of a championship.

Little by little, details begin to emerge about that night. As the case gains national attention and reporters begin digging deeper, things get even more messy. The book focuses on Kate, who was at the party but had too much to drink and left early. Kate is an athlete, too. She’s in a brand new relationship with a basketball player who is friends with the accused. But she also used to be friends with the victim. Kate is smart and popular, and she’s brave enough to not sit back in silence, despite what everyone else is telling her she should do. She knows that this girl could’ve just as easily been her, or one of her friends. She is determined to find the truth, despite that it may come at a high personal cost. Does her boyfriend know more than he pretends to know?

It only takes one person to speak out and change everything. I found it appalling to see the lengths that the coaches and administrators went to in order to silence those who were trying to speak up. I had such respect for the teacher who made the boys in his class list things that they could do for an intoxicated girl who was flirting with them at a party. Get her some water. Make sure she gets home safely. Just walk away. I also liked that the book wasn’t preaching abstinence and it touched on consent in a positive experience.

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler could change – and save – lives. Never doubt that you’re brave enough to stand up when others are silent. Question everything. Trust your instincts. Know that silence does not equal consent. Remember that a picture, or a news article, or a video don’t tell the whole story. Look closer.