Book Review: What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler


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.

Title: What We Saw
Author: Aaron Hartzler
My Edition: A hardcover from HarperTeen with 336 pages, published in 2015.
Age: Young Adult (16+)
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery, Realistic Fiction

It was a total cover-buy you guys. Total cover buy. For once I thought, why not just buy a mystery, like I’m not a mystery-fan, but then I read A Head Full of Ghosts and I liked that one, and I like the idea of mystery, so I was like why not.

The plot is highly interesting and SO right for the time we live in. It’s about Kate, this ordinary girl in high school. She goes to a party, gets wasted and then, the next day she can’t remember much of the night before. Suddenly this picture surfaces from the night before of Kate and this girl Stacey drinking together, and Kate remembers being really good friends with Stacey long back. But then another pictures surfaces, a picture of Stacey passed out drunk, hanging over the shoulders of this guy Kate knows, and then the rumors start.

Kate is friends with a few girls in school, she knows this guy Ben from her childhood, but they grew apart, and now they’re becoming friends again because of the party where Kate got drunk and can’t remember anything. Apparently Ben drove her home and she goes over there thanking him and everything evolves from there.

This book is confusing. I can tell you that much. Not only do we follow Kate’s life in detail, we also follow the incidents following the night where Stacey was too drunk and the rumors of what happened to Stacey. Kate is like a stand-byer to everything that happens. And it’s confusing and realistic at the same time. Stacey files a report with the police of being raped, and all though Kate doesn’t know Stacey anymore she feels torn between her “new friends” and her old one. Who is she going to believe?

I feel like it’s so realistic to be that girl standing on the outside. We have all been in a position where we get two truths, and we have to kind of select which one we believe the most in. We have all been Kate in some sort of way.

The writing is pretty much ordinary. It feels like it’s over the level of the young adult books I’ve read language-vise. It felt like I had to google a lot of words to really understand what was happening. Too many words in my experience. So I think it’s written in a way that suits adults more than young adults in one way, but it’s so close to reading someone my age’s diary. Like it feels like a young adult book, but at the same time not.

It also feels kind of lacking. Like it’s a report. Like the author just observes but doesn’t make any comments, and it feels lacking to me.

I liked Kate, I liked that she was for once, not that naive. I mean, I feel like often in YA novels it’s all about this naive girl who either falls for the bad guy or just doesn’t see what’s right in front of her. This novel isn’t about a naive girl, it’s about a smart girl, who questions everything. Who at least, in her mind, dares to question the people around her and I feel like that is so important to show in YA novels. That girls aren’t naive, that they can make their own decisions and that it doesn’t matter what the cute guy says or does. So that is why Kate is likable, and why Kate is a good protagonist.

I didn’t like the other characters to be honest. I felt like Ben, Kate’s friend is a huge dirtbag, I did not like him from the beginning. It’s a book that makes you think, especially about the fact that we often take sides before we even know what we’re taking sides for. That we make first-assumptions and that we stick with them just because we think we “know” someone. So that is the core of the characters, you have the stereotypical people who’ll stick with the guys who did something wrong just because it’s the people you think you “know”.

The ending was okay, but I don’t want to say much more than that because I want it to be a surprise!

This was one of those books I REALLY wanted to like. It was so difficult to even make up my mind about the book, mostly because of the theme. It’s an important book, and the theme should be mandatory at school, but I didn’t like the writing, or the characters, and I felt like it had this unnecessary part about Kate and her life.

Page 4 / 1% “aaw kinda cute thooo”
Page 42 / 12% “romance romance”
Page 69 / 20% “woho only took like 70 pages for that to happen… #slowbook”
Page 74 / 22% “that was predictable”
Page 117 / 34% “It’s so slooow… seriously..”
Page 122 / 36% “What really annoys me about the theme of this book, is that it’s so realistic it makes me want to hide and not walk outside ever again. Rape is so terribly wrong, done to either girls or boys, men or women, child or adult. I mean, WHY was this word even invented in the first place, there shouldn’t be anything called rape because it’s a terrible terrible act, and you can never ever get away from it. It’ll stick with you for the rest of your life. Trust me. This book hits right home, and that is why it’s so terrible and great at the same time.”
Page 230 / 68% “so cliche haha”
Page 247 / 73% “The problem with american books is that I have absolutely no idea what “Combo Plus” is”

Favorite quote: “nothing is exactly as it appears. The closer you look, the more you see.”



One comment on “Book Review: What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s