What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

what we sa

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. (Goodreads)

When I saw this book on Goodreads, and saw that it is based on a true story, it was a book that I had to get my hands on as soon as I could. I attempted to get it on Netgalley, however, living in Europe, I wasn’t accepted! So, I had to wait with the masses. Before reading this book, I googled everything I could about this story so that I would know the general gist of what actually happened.

What I enjoyed most about this story, I think, was the fact that it wasn’t told from the perspective of the people who committed the crime or from the perspective of the victim. It was written from the perspective of someone who was at the party, but wasn’t there when the even took place – she was at home. So she, like everyone else, is trying to figure out what actually happened that night and whether or not her new boyfriend knew anything about it. We don’t get many books which are told from this sort of point of view – it is normally from either the person committing the crime or the victim.

What I liked most about Kate was the fact that she didn’t follow the crowd and hate on the victim like everyone else did because they were major sport stars. She tried to find out the facts that were, even if it meant accusing people with a major influence over the rest. Her voice wasn’t heard by the majority, only a minor few, and when she did speak out against the attackers, she was cast aside as well and was almost like a social leper.

Kate was a bit naive to think that Ben had nothing to do with it. I can understand her wanting to believe that something is true because she doesn’t want to think that he was capable of seeing something like that and not doing anything about it. However, I think she should have been more suspicious from the outset – even though he was lying to her all along.

This book also raised the big question of what is considered to be consent and what is rape. Is the lack of the word yes consent or is it considered to be non consent? What happens if the person in question is unable to say yes at the time because of the amount of alcohol consumed or other circumstances? Stacey’s inability to say yes because of her state is, for me, not consent. If someone cannot willingly and with a clear mind decide that that is what they truly want, then it isn’t a form of ‘yes’ and people should respect boundaries.

I think what angered me the most was the fact that Stacey became a social outcast because she was filing charges against the people who raped her, who just turned out to be major sports stars in the small town in which they lived. I think the amount on controversy that surrounded the case based only on the fact that they were sports stars is completely wrong. I also think that the fact that people attempted to protect the criminals is also wrong. If they commit a crime, they should take the consequences that go with it!

I really enjoyed this book and think it raised some important and relevant questions of today’s society and the youth within it. I gave this book 5/5 stars.

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3 thoughts on “What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

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