What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

what we sawTitle: What We Saw
Author: Aaron Hartzler
Publication Date: September 22nd 2015 by HarperTeen
Source: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss
Rating: ★★★★
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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.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange of a review. No compensation in any form was received for the review of this book.

I don’t even know how to start this review. This book left me in awestruck. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to talk about this book comprehensively and in a way that people can actually understand, but I’ll try to.

This book got me hooked from page one. It’s mysterious and it kept me on edge the whole time. The topic discussed in the book was very sensitive and it was presented in a way that I’ve never read before.

“Sometimes, change happens over eons. Other times, in the blink of an eye.”

Reading this book made me angry. My Goodreads status updates could definitely prove that. I was angry about what happened. I was angry at some… or most characters that I even contemplated about marking this book as DNF. But no, a book as sensitive and as socially and morally concerned as this one shouldn’t be left unread. As much eyerolls and groans I could give to this book, I still read it until the end.

The only character I actually liked was Kate. Ben, sometimes yes but mostly he was sketchy. I actually loved Mr. Johnston more than Ben.

Kate was the only one who’s actually sane in this book so naturally I would root for her. I like the way she thinks, her concern for Stacey, and her concern for the truth to be revealed. I love that she spoke up about the incident, and that she’s brave enough to do it.

“Sometimes, when change happens, you can’t stop it or control it or direct it. You can only hang on for the ride.”

The other characters, I’m most definitely concerned about. If I was a character in that book, I would probably feel detached to them. Me, being a feminist, cannot fathom how cruel these characters were. Slut-shaming, victim-shaming… IT IS NOT OKAY. IT’S NEVER OKAY. This leads to more problems like having double standards, the ever lasting “boys will be boys” argument which I personally find bullshit by the way.

Going back to the book, I’m glad the story went the way it’s supposed to be. If anything, I just wished more people could be moved by this book and make their eyes and minds open about what’s really happening in our society. Aaron Hartzler writes effectively as well. I’m really excited to read more from him.


Written by

A 22 year old bibliophile from the outskirts of Manila, who loves reading books for passion.

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