Monday, January 11, 2016

Review: What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

What We Saw 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.

My Review: 5 Stars

This is an extremely important book that should be required reading for all high schoolers, and probably all adults in the country as well.  Society is pretty messed up when it comes to views of rape, and books like these try to help change this rape culture.  But people need to read these books to get the message.  I really loved this book, though the subject matter was certainly tough.  It made me super angry at a lot of characters throughout.

This book doesn't shy away from the harsh realities of rape culture.  It shows how so many people have a victim blaming mentality.  As soon as people know that the four boys have been charged with rape, they immediately assume Stacey was making it up.  They think she had too much fun with them and regretted it in the morning.  Almost no one considered the possibility that Stacey was telling the truth.  Instead, they worried about how the basketball team would play if their top person wasn't there to play.  They worried about the futures of the boys.  They were worrying about the boys while a girl was suffering from being raped.  Being raped would be bad enough without everyone assuming you were a liar who ruined the lives of four boys with promising futures.  When, in reality, those boys ruined their own futures when they decided that it would be okay for them to rape.  

I loved how this book really showed Kate's thinking and how it progressed throughout the book.  As the narrator, I was glad she wasn't a person who automatically assumed Stacey was lying, because it would have made me even angrier to have to be in the head of one of those people.  Kate really thought through everything and she was determined to find the truth, though she may have tried to stay out of it at first.  I think part of what made her so invested in the case was knowing that she too was very drunk at that party, and it could have easily been her instead who was raped.  Kate knew that doubting that the boys were innocent could make things hard for her, since it's tough to stand up for what's right against a crowd, yet she never backed off from finding the truth.  I also loved how she worked to make sure that her younger brother wasn't turning into a jerk.  He was on basketball like the guys who did the rape, but on the JV team, and he looked up to those guys.  There were parts when I didn't like him, but he ended up being a good guy.

There was a sweet best friends to romance relationship between Kate and Ben.  This relationship was not free of complications, and I can't really say what happened with it at the end of the book.  I really liked Ben at first, but near the end, this changed for me.  He was best friends with the boys who did the rape, and he seemed so sure they were innocent.  Kate didn't know what he could have seen at the party, or how much he might know, so she was determined to get this information.

If you like YA contemporary, read this book.


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