ARC Review: What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

Title: What We Saw 
Author: Aaron Hartzler 
Genre: Realistic, Contemporary 
Source: Edelweiss 
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: September 22nd 2015
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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.


I am at a lost for words. Hartzler took a tough subject buy the horns and nailed it. I've seen a lot of authors try to tackle rape in their stories, and usually it is just a minor detail and never really expanded upon. Hartzler made his whole book about it. As I reader I like to read things that are going to evoke some form of emotion for me. I was shaking with rage and anger as I read What We Saw. It is based off a true event, Steubenville Rape Case where a young girl was raped at a high school party. 

What We Saw is told from the point of view of Kate. She was at the party, but was driven home early because she had gotten drunk. The next morning she sees pictures of her and Stacey doing shots together. When the weekend is over Stacey doesn't show up for school for the next two days, and on the third day, four teenage boys are arrested and accused of rape, and the distribution of child pornography. Now, you would think people would feel bad for Stacey, right? No. People began horrible rumors, called her horrible names, said she asked for it, claimed it was the clothes she wore, that she was too drunk. Never once did they blame the boys who actually committed the crime. The four boys claim they are innocent even though there is a video going around of them raping Stacey! In a town where everyone believes that Stacey is lying, Kate is set on not letting the boys get away with such a horrible crime. 

Kate is someone I can called a modern YA heroine. She believed Stacey even when no one else did, and did the hardest thing she could have done and made herself hated by her school. In my heart I don't think anyone else would have came forward with that video. Every character in this book was a coward in their own way. 

Here is the thing that gets me: If it would have been any other person other then Stacey that this happened too, people might have actually believed it. But because Stacey dressed on revealing clothes, and liked the party, drink and get high, and her mother was rumored to be a prostitute it made it acceptable in they eyes of her rapists to do what they did. In the video Stacey is beyond wasted that she couldn't even fight them off, no consent was even given. The four boys that raped her were given less then a years jail time, and possibly be on parole a few months after they are arrested. 

What We Saw is terrifyingly real, it is something that happens everyday. It won't be a book for everyone, but I highly recommend that you give it a shot.



  1. Wow. Real world rape stories where no one believes the victim are horrifying, and more attention clearly needs to be bought to this serious issue. I find it so sad that even when there is proof of rape people tend to treat the victim as a pariah, and still people act like they were "asking for it" . This seems like a very thought provoking novel. Amazing review! :)

  2. I'm definitely looking forward to this book after reading your review, Amber. This sounds like my kind of book - gritty and real. :)

    Julie @ Books and Insomnia

  3. I loved this book and totally agree that the content is incredibly real and every day life (unfortunately). That's why I loved it; it didn't back away from the tough topics and didn't paint the topic in a way it shouldn't. Love the book and love the review!


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