Title: What We Saw
Author: Aaron Hartzler
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: September 22, 2015
Format: egalley provided by Edelweiss
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
My Review (originally posted at Read, Run, Ramble):
Thank you, Harper Teen via Edelweiss for providing me with a copy of this book!
I knew from the second I read the synopsis of What We Saw that I had to read it and that it would be a monumental book. I wasn’t wrong, and it was every single magnificent thing I thought it would be AND more.
Aaron Hartzler has taken on an issue we’re facing in our society all too often. He handled it with moving words, well thought out storylines, and without stereotypes or preachiness. This novel is simply real. Within a few pages my heart was in my throat and there it remained for the next several hours as I devoured the entire book. Additionally, it was less than halfway through when I became emotionally involved – anger, sadness, disbelief, disgust. By the end, there was also some hope.
Kate and the other students in a small town in Iowa are forced to face a lot of facts and reality when a party gets out of hand. As an investigation begins, Hartzler shows how the media, a town’s misplaced allegiance, and society’s blindness to the culture around them (a culture propagated and often supported by all) mix together to create a group mentality that easily blocks the truth. He shows how quickly even the innocent are wrapped up in the herd and just doing and saying what they’re told is correct. He shows how simple things we hear, watch, and support every day build a culture that allows this group mentality – this protection of the accused vs. protection of the victim.
Kate’s character is a refreshing view. Readers will follow her through varying feelings as she tries to navigate her memory and others’ to determine what happened. It is the Kates of the world that make a difference. Someone willing to look past the view everyone wants the world to see. Someone willing to look for the truth even when it hurts. Hartzler was brave with Kate and it made a world of difference in the book. She’s unapologetic about her choices and decisions. Though they hurt, though they take her places she doesn’t want to go and separate her from those she loves, she does what she feels is right and she does it with courage and strength. Though she is often confused and scared, Kate is one of the strongest and bravest protagonists out there in YA right now.
This book needs to be read. It needs to be on shelves across the nation. Its content needs to be discussed and understood … and felt.
I was provided with an ARC of this book by the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. I am not compensated for any of my reviews.