Expected publication: September 22, 2015
Publisher: Harper Teen
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.
Nothing is exactly as it appears.
The closer you look, the more you see.
Daunting, riveting and topical. What We Saw spares no expense at depicting a story that can easily happen in today’s day and age.
What We Saw is my first experience with Hartzler’s writing, and he’s managed to catch my attention with how he weaves a story that highlight current issues and behaviors of young adults today. Seeing the effects of irresponsible behavior and coupling that with the power of social media, this story is one that is relevant and realistic to our times.
Kate Weston doesn’t quite remember what happened the previous night she and her friends partied at John Doone’s house. When she wakes up the next morning with a massive hangover, she’s safe in her bed and her truck is parked in the driveway. As she begins to piece together the events of the previous night, she remembers her lifetime friend Ben Cody was responsible for getting her home safely. There has always been an underlying connection between these two high school juniors, and after the previous night’s party, Kate takes a chance to see if Ben is open to a relationship.
When Kate and her friends head back to school a couple of days later, pictures from the party begin to surface on several social media sites such as FaceBook, Instagram, and Twitter. In the advent of Coral Springs High national basketball tournament, four of Ben’s teammates are arrested for sexual assault and distribution of child pornography… all of which stems from the night they partied at Doone’s house.
As the case against the basketball stars escalates, the town begins to see a divide between the victim and her assailants, and Kate is on a quest to uncover what really went on.
This book had my attention from the first page. Aaron Hartzler did a masterful job of escalating the events at a deliberately slow pace to keep me riveted to the story. As the events unfolded, I remained at the edge of my seat. Absolutely amazing storytelling!
As far as the characters go, I really felt a connection to Kate. I appreciated her moral stance throughout the book, and I really liked how she was committed to helping her younger brother realize right and wrong when it came to cyber behavior.
I felt sympathy for Ben’s situation where his mother was concerned, and I appreciated his desire to want to get out of the small town and go out on his own. At the end of the day, I felt he was a good guy that was simply caught up in a circumstance not of his doing.
Overall, What We Saw is a great novel that spares no expense as sugar coating what goes on in high school and on social media. To see the consequences of one’s behavior as well as lack thereof is a perfect tale of possibilities that most can appreciate. Hartzler’s novel is well paced, perfectly casted and realistically narrated. Well done!