Review: What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

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What We Saw is told in the first person account of Kate Weston, a High School Junior. The book opens up with Kate waking up on a Sunday morning incredibly hung over after drinking way too much at a party the night before. She only remembers small snippets from the previous evening….one of them being her friend, Ben, driving her home from the party early. At school on Monday, more and more forgotten details begin to emerge for Kate about all that happened at that fateful party. One of them being a picture of an old friend of hers…passed out, slung over the shoulder of another male student. When four male students are shockingly arrested at lunch on that Monday for sexual assault, the school is suddenly divided into sides. What really happened? Who is lying, who is telling the truth? And to what lengths will the students go to find out the truth?

“Nothing is exactly as it appears. The closer you look, the more you see”

This is an incredibly important book. It’s a book that I think should be required reading for the older junior high/high school aged student. Because the subject matter is heavy…it’s obviously about sexual assault and rape and there is one particular scene that is detailed and somewhat graphic… I’ll reserve my age recommendation to 14 and older. What We Saw is obviously fiction, but it definitely has aspects of it that were inspired by recent stories in the media of similar situations. It addresses so many things that I think are so important to young people today; consent & what exactly IS consent and when it can be given, sexual assault, rape culture, and victim blaming. Social media and it’s effect on young people’s behavior and the long term consequences for that behavior is also addressed quite appropriately in this book.

“Not being able to say NO isn’t the same as saying YES.”

I absolutely LOVE the fact that this book was written by a man, but it addresses, so well, the double standards and challenges young women face when it comes to their sexuality and their choices. The fact that this book was not told in the perspective of the victim, but rather a friend, was unique to other books that address sexual assault and I quite liked that perspective. Reading the story through Kate’s perspective helped to address the issue of speaking up for what is right even when it might not be the easy choice.

“I wonder which is worse: the fear of the unknown? Or knowing for sure something terrible is true?”

This was a very quick, but intense read for me. At slightly over 300 pages, I got through this in around 24 hours…because it’s told in the perspective of a young adult, the writing is pretty simple but it’s also such a gripping story that I just could not put it down. It’s a book that I stayed up way too late reading just to find out how it ended. I’ll say it again…my opinion is that this is a very important book that brings awareness to a very real and current issue facing women everyday. I’m actually surprised that this isn’t getting more attention than it is and I’m thinking that maybe it’s because it’s a relatively newer book…just being published in September 2015. Highly recommended  by me and right into my “favorites” shelf.

My Rating: 5/5 stars

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