Two years ago, I met Aaron Hartzler at YALLFest and just fell in love with him and his writing. He’s hilarious, super-friendly, and insightful. Even though we don’t agree on all things political or faith-based, I respect his point of view and couldn’t wait to get my hands on his debut fiction novel, What We Saw. And after reading it, I think you should read it, too! Here’s why.Summary of What We Saw:
When Kate Weston wakes up the morning after John Doone’s epic party, she has a hangover. But she’s thankful for that–it means that her soon-to-be-boyfriend Ben drove her home before things got too wild. But the same can’t be said for Stacey Stallard. After a photo of Stacey passed out at the party starts to circulate, her reputation is in the trash. But could there be more to the story? Is Stacey really to blame, or is her claim that four classmates assaulted her actually true? Kate won’t feel right until she discovers what actually happened.
Why read it?
1–It’s based on true events.
Hartzler was inspired by a story out of Ohio involving the sexual assault of a student. The accused were avidly defended by their school and town because of their identities, leaving the victim feeling helpless against the majority. This kind of thing happens. We don’t like to see it, and we don’t like to admit it, but underage parties that cross the line do happen. This book is intense, powerful, honest…and unfortunately sometimes true.
2–It raises necessary questions.
Questions like “How much will you fight for something?” “Is being a bystander just as bad as being a participant?” “How do peer pressure and social media affect teens’ decisions?” These are questions that pertain to more than a sexual assault case, making them necessary to consider. Kate as the protagonist allows readers to contemplate with her exactly how she should be involved (or not). Where do you draw the line between being a witness and a participant? Hartzler confronts these gray area questions.
3–It’s a survival story.
Not a dystopian, post-apocalyptic survival story. But a fight against the majority, a fight for the truth, and a fight for safety. Because Kate is unsure who to trust in Stacey vs. her accused classmates, she focuses on their opposite sides. She sees Stacey in her home, unwilling to leave or communicate. She sees the news reports insinuating guilt and the community insisting innocence. It is survival to fight through something so traumatic, and this book really brings that survival to light.
Disclaimer–Because this book revolves around a sexual assault accusation, it does feature mature content.
A powerful book with a powerful message!