Book Review: What We Saw (ARC) by Aaron Hartzler

20922826This review is based on an advanced reader’s copy of the novel obtained through Edelweiss at the permission of Harper Teen. This is in no way had an effect on the integrity of my review. Please note that published novel will differ from this ARC.


Young Adult, and Contemporary


336 pages

Part of a Series?:

Standalone Novel

Release Date: 

September 22nd, 2015

You Can Find the Book At:


Barnes and Noble

Book Depository


Author Website

GoodReads Summary: 

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:

I knew immediately that this was a book I needed to read. It sounded amazing for one thing, and I absolutely adore Aaron and his writing and his writing style. I knew that it would be good. I just didn’t know how good it was going to be.

This book completely blew my mind. As soon as I had downloaded it onto my Nook, I couldn’t stop reading. It was like a train wreck, you couldn’t look away. When it came down to it, I think the realism of this story, the fact that this is based on a true story and based on real events that happen all the time, I think that’s what drew me in and kept me there right away.

Kate is faced with an incredibly difficult obstacle. She was at the same party as Stacey. She was drunk, and yet she made it home and Stacey didn’t. Or so Stacey says. But she’s torn because the guys accused of raping Stacey are basketball royalty, the entire town worships the ground they walk on. There’s no way they did this…and even if they did, Stacey deserved it. She dressed provocatively. She’s from the “wrong” side of town. Its everything we face in the news, on Facebook, everywhere, all the time right now, and watching it through Kate’s eyes was hard to take.

This book was incredibly emotional for me. I felt so many different emotions at once. I felt sick and angry and anxious as hell. Its been awhile since I’ve had such a visceral reaction to a story and I felt this one all over. I cried, I got angry, I felt helpless, even though this is all fictional. But is it? I was so angry because this sort of thing happens and this sort of thinking-that a girl deserves it, that she should have taken care of herself, she shouldn’t dress that way or drink that much-exists all over the place and its WRONG. But because of the rape culture we have…people are confused. And Kate is confused. She’s torn between her feelings for Ben Cody, and for his friends and for the popularity they have.

I think the thing I had the most visceral reaction to was everyone’s thoughts about the boys and Stacey. The way they built up the boys, the way the boys acted like it was a joke, the way they tore apart Stacey…it made me feel awful every single time I read a line. People genuinely think this way! They do, and its just terrible and to read a book about something like this, something that actually really happened…it was hard to stomach.

But I think what makes this book as great as it is is that Aaron provides a beacon of hope about this. Sure, you feel hopeless at times, you realize how close to home this story hits because of how incredibly real it is. But at the same time, you have Kate. And Kate is the light in this story because you see her journey through uncertainty and confusion and determination and finally, resolution. She’s the light, she’s the hope. She’s the good. She gives you the hope that there are so many people out there that know to do the right thing. That’s what makes this book so beautiful. Kate. She’s an incredible character and you follow her through this book, experiencing the same emotions as her, wanting to reach into the pages and hold her hand and tell her its going to be okay, even if you’re unsure its going to be. She’s the beautiful bright spot of the novel and she’s what makes this book SO incredibly good.

This book doesn’t come out til September, and I’ll definitely repost the review closer to release day. I just wanted to share this now because I want to build up talk for this book NOW. It blew my mind. The writing, the characterization, everything…its just amazing. I already was impressed with Aaron from Rapture Practice and now I’m a complete convert. This is a one of a kind novel and I know that we will see more of this incredible talent in the future.



5 out of 5 Stars