What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler – ARC Review – ANOTHER All-Time Favorite!!

Posted September 16, 2015 by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction in All-Time Favorites, Reviews / 20 Comments

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler – ARC Review – ANOTHER All-Time Favorite!!What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler
Published by HarperTeen on 9/22/15
Genres: Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Source: Edelweiss
My content rating: Mature YA (Sexual content, including rape)
My rating:
5 Stars

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.


My Take

Read the synopsis for this book and you can probably imagine why it was so powerful. The fact that it’s inspired by real events is simply chilling. A book like this (when done right) can make people think deeply and transform them. This book was done right.

What fed my addiction:

  • Kate’s POV. One aspect of the book that I was surprised about was the POV. We found out pretty early on that Kate didn’t actually see anything – she was very drunk pretty early on in the party and was escorted home by her longtime crush (and best friend) Ben. This accomplishes two things: First of all, Kate is trying to piece together what happened that night, so we get to piece it together with her. You don’t know quite how serious the crimes against Stacey were or who was truly involved (or, at the very least, stood by watching) until almost the end of the book. Secondly, Kate is a very sympathetic narrator. I thought the book was going to be told from the POV of someone who had seen the crime and struggled with whether or not to tell about it – that still could have been a very powerful story, but it would have been harder to relate to the main character because you would be so opposed to her choices. But that was not the case here. Since Kate hadn’t actually seen anything and wasn’t willing to just accept the skewed version of events that she was given, we support her throughout the book. Her sense of justice and passion for the truth are laudable – she’s just the type of person we want to get behind!
  • Why we look away. The sad truth is that we look away from pain and injustice a lot in this world – especially when it’s more convenient than facing it. In some ways it’s easy to condemn the people of this small town (deservedly!) – but the book also makes us reflect on the little ways that each of us turn our heads away and make excuses to cover the ugly truth. And the truth in this book is very ugly. I have to tell you that this is not an easy read. When I got to the part where you actually find out what happened to Stacey, I felt literally sick to my stomach. The idea that so many people had stood by and then supported the guys who had done this – vilifying the victim because she of the way she dressed or her “reputation” or the fact that she had been drunk (at a party – when plenty of other people were drunk too – really, where is the logic here and how could they justify this type of thinking?) – it was horrifying, and it made me so angry!! Then there’s the way social media was used so realistically – how sad is it that kids today circulate evidence of their cruelty and darkest moments so that people can laugh over it? It is so incredibly insane to think about – and yet, this really happens! The more Kate learned, the more appalled she was over what had happened – after all, she had been drunk at that very same party. I don’t want to go into too many details here, but her feelings about this aspect of what happened are some of the deepest, most painful realizations in the book.
  • The ending. I thought the finale to this book was perfectly fitting. A book like this can’t have a “happy” ending, but it was definitely bittersweet. This was one of the few times when I really didn’t want everything to be tied up with a nice pretty bow at the end –  and that’s not what we get. What we get are the complexities of life spelled out for us – and both hope and uncertainty for the future. And that’s about as realistic as it gets.

What left me wanting more:

  • Nothing. Honestly, I can’t think of anything negative to say about this book. I’m sure there were flaws, but whatever they were, they were so overshadowed for me that I can’t actually think of any of them. I’m just not even going to try.

Sadly, this subject matter is all too real. When I was in college, my roommate’s girlfriend had a lot of anger and mental health issues – she finally broke down one night and told us about how she had been raped in high school – by the football team. Not a player – the team. Just like in this story, the coach and many people in the town had turned on her, blamed her or simply claimed she’d been lying. She never got any justice for what happened to her. I was shocked and horrified to hear her story then. That was over twenty years ago. The fact that things like this still happen – and that we now have social media pictures and videos to pile onto victims’ misery – makes me nauseated. Everyone should be aware of this issue – no girl or woman is ever “asking for it.” And we can’t sweep pain and injustice under the rug, no matter how convenient it may be to do so. Obviously, I give this book 5/5 stars. It’s also a new All-Time Favorite. (I know, that’s two books recently added to this list, but I just can’t help it – I don’t think I’ll be forgetting this book for a very long time.)

All -Time Favorite

***Disclosure: This book was provided to me by Edelweiss and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***

About the Author

Aaron-HartzlerA writer and actor, Aaron’s autobiographical performances have been seen in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York where he received a GLAAD Media Award nomination for Outstanding Off-Off Broadway Performance. He’s performed in plays and musicals on regional stages across the country, and was featured in several TV pilots no one saw. You might have seen him in the very first episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia in the role of “Handsome Guy”–although you may have missed him, too, because at the time, his hair was strangely blond and decidedly not very handsome. Aaron lives by the beach in Los Angeles with his two dogs Charlie and Brahms. Aaron Hartzler is the author of Rapture Practice (Little, Brown), a memoir about getting kicked out of his Christian high school two weeks before graduation. His next book, a novel called What We Saw, will be published by HarperTeen on September 22, 2015


Author Links:
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20 responses to “What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler – ARC Review – ANOTHER All-Time Favorite!!

  1. It is so sad and scarey to know that things like this happen every day. This book sounds so moving. I usually stay away from anything that isn’t fantasy or paranormal related. But, your review has touched me and I really want to read this book now. My best friend was raped at University, and she couldn’t get it in herself to tell me until months later…it is such a traumatising thing and people love to just turn away, busy with their own lives. Amazing review.

  2. Everyone seems to like this one, it sound similar to All the Rage but a little different. Rape is horrible though.. I think it’s the vilest thing that can happen to someone. It’s really sad when some people in small towns don’t acknowledge it and victim blame. Great review overall 🙂

    Benish recently posted: ARC Review: One by Sarah Crossan ♥
  3. I actually saw this book and decided it wasn’t for me. But now I have started to see some outshining reviews for this book coming up and I think I am going to give it a try now! It sounds like it is going to be an emotional read and it is going to show us that we look away from pain, which might not be easy for a lot of ourselves to accept. But I believe that is something that needs to change.

    My recent post: http://olivia-savannah.blogspot.nl/2015/09/the-fast-and-furious-movie-review.html

    Olivia Roach recently posted: The Fast and Furious (Movie Review)
  4. Most people shy away from these type of stories, but these kinds of stories, I live for. I’m definitely checking this out. Loved your review, it got me all hyped up to read the book!

  5. What a great review. I was disappointed that my ARC request was denied for this one. I was a little worried this one wouldn’t live up to its potential. I am so glad it did. This book is even sadder because stuff like this DOES happen. That is awful about your friend in college, but it sucks even more that our society has not advanced in that kind of victim blaming. I will be reading this one for sure. Thanks for the great review.

    Cynthia @ Bingeing On Books recently posted: Top Ten Tuesday - Top Books I Need In The Event of an Apocalypse

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