Book Review: What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

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

“‘Boys will be boys’ is what people say to excuse guys when they do something awful.”


What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler tackles the topic of rape through this honest, yet heartbreaking story.  Small town. Biggest party of the year. One girl. Dressed suggestively. Wasted. Video and photos gone viral. 4 boys charged. All plead “not guilty.” No witnesses speak up.


Summary by Goodreads:

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.

This story may be a work of fiction but it is inspired by a true event that had an impact on his life. I appreciated that the story was not told through the victim’s or the accuser’s perspectives. Instead it is told by Kate, who had been at the same party, but left early because she had had too much to drink.  Kate is determined to figure out the truth about that night even if it destroys her and along the way tries to teach her younger brother, right from wrong.

There are few books that impact my life and I know I must share with students.  What We Saw  is one of them.  This book is important and the actions among the members of the town MUST be talked about.  Right vs Wrong. Silence vs Telling the Truth. “Good Kids” vs “Those From the Wrong Side of the Tracks.”  If you haven’t added this to your to-read list, do it now. And then talk about it with someone.  The book’s message is too important to keep quiet.

Aaron Hartzler Explains What We Saw and the Importance of Discussing Difficult Topics

Rating:  5 stars #mustread2016


One thought on “Book Review: What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

  1. Pingback: #WWWWednesday | For the Love of Books, Tech, Coaching, and More

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