Book Review: What We Saw

What We Saw
By: Aaron Hartzler
Published by: Harper Teen
Release date: September 22, 2015
Genre: YA thriller
336 pages
Source: ARC kindly provided by publisher
What We Saw is Aaron Hartzler’s first fiction novel. In this novel, Kate Weston was at a party on Saturday night. She remembers doing shots with Stacey Stallard, then remembers her childhood friend, Ben Cody, taking her keys and driving her home. Kate doesn’t remember much after that.

When Kate wakes up the next morning, her best friend Rachel calls her after texting her picture from the party. It’s a picture of Kate & Stacey doing shots. Kate is trying to piece together what happened but her hangover is so bad it’s pretty difficult for her. So Kate ends up driving over to Ben’s house to see what he remembers. When she gets there, she definitely remembers how much Ben has grown up over the last 10 years and realizes she wants to be more than friends with Ben. What happened at the party somehow becomes second on her list of priorities.
As Kate and Ben navigate their way through the relationship waters, they also try to piece together what took place at Dooney’s party last Saturday night. The high school varsity basketball team was there and is getting ready to play for the championship. However, when Stacey alleges assault and rape charges against 4 members of the basketball team, everything changes. Kate is suddenly on a mission to figure out exactly what happened at the party and who saw what. And if they do know something about what went on at the party, do they have a responsibility to report what they saw?

What We Saw is definitely on my Top 10 List for 2015. Hands down one of the best novels I’ve read in a long time. This was thought provoking and really made me take a look at some things in a different light. I didn’t know this book was based on a true story - the Steubenville rape case. I suggest you wait until AFTER reading the book to look up the facts of the case. I was glad I had waited to do that.

Kate Weston’s character was amazing. If you are looking for a fictional character to emulate, she has it all. Courage, moral character, intelligence, compassion, and she is a great example to her younger brother. It was awesome to see the concern she had for Will and how all of this could affect him in the future. I had so much respect for Kate and the very difficult decisions she made. Once all the details came to light, her entire family really stepped up. It was reassuring to see that there are still families who will stick together and have the courage to do what is right.

I will say it was wholly disheartening to see so many in Coral Sands who had the wrong attitude about the victim and the athletes who committed the crime. It doesn’t matter how Stacey was dressed or how drunk she was, you cannot blame the victim. And the excuse “boys will be boys” never works for me. I’m the mother of 4 boys. I ought to know! And the school employees ought to be ashamed of themselves. Their behavior was disgusting.
Aaron Hartzler did an amazing job catching all the many emotions in this book. I felt the anger, joy, despair, confusion, frustration, and fear just as everyone else. I also stayed up way too late several nights wanting to know what was going to happen next. I can’t say enough wonderful things about this book, so just go read it! You won’t regret it. Even though the book is written from Kate’s point of view, I definitely think boys would benefit from reading it!

Content: Language, drinking, mild sexual content

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.


  1. I'm glad you enjoyed this book! I have the ARC on my Kindle and now I really want to read it!

  2. This is such an important topic for kids to be aware of. Social media can capture a moment in anyone's lives, and it's not always pretty.


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