What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler
Published September 22nd 2015 by Harper Teen
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
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.
Trigger Warning: Rape
This book was pretty hyped up by my friends, and from what I’ve heard, it’s pretty similar to Louisse O’Neil’s Asking For It (check out my spoiler-free review of that here). In a way it is, but I kind of like this one so much more.
The story is set in a town Iowa, where the school treats their basketball players like royalty. It follows the events that happened after a huge party was thrown, told from the POV of Kate, who attended the party and ended up drunk as hell with Stacey. Kate got driven home by her long time childhood friend, while Stacey remained at the party. When Stacey doesn’t come to school after that weekend, rumours start to fly. It only gets more controversial hen the police arrive and arrest four students, on the charge of rape and child pornography.
I really liked this book. The writing style was good, and I liked reading things from Kate’s point of view. She’s stuck in that town, where rape culture and victim blaming is prevalent. Her friends keep on insisting that “those kinds of things don’t happen to them,”, cause “they’re not that kind of girl”. Her other classmates are saying that “Stacey just made that up to get attention”, “why would those boys rape her, when they could have any girl they want?”
I like how Kate started voicing out her opinions to her friends and family, questioning these “rules”, and one of her friends actually agreeing with her. I liked Lindsay as a character, she’s those people who do share these beliefs too, but are too scared to voice it out. Kate was such a brave character, on the other hand. I especially loved this line
“What about me? Did you owe me something? I was just as wasted as she was. Why do I get driven home and kept safe but not her?”
I even liked how the book talked about Grease, too. I mean generally on the surface it seems like a feel good musical with catchy songs. I mean I like Summer Lovin’, but honestly, “Tell me more, tell me more, did she put up a fight?”
“You forget that at the end of the show, Sandy gives in. Sure, Danny makes that half-assed attempt to join the track team, but you can tell he doesn’t really mean it. Nobody at Rydell High expects him to change. For that matter, no one in the audience expects him to either. It’s a funny part that we all laugh at. How ridiculous! Boys don’t change for girls. We all expect Sandy to do the changing.”
While some may argue with me, I think the romance in this book is important. It could not have portrayed consent in a more natural way, which I loved. It also added a layer of depth with what Kate ultimately decided to do, and I think she made the right choice.
This is overall a very powerful book, and teaches you stuff but not in that informative way. I mean I don’t know about you guys, but this book should be in schools. It’s THAT important. You do not want to miss out on this book, go check it out.