Review: What We Saw

Aaron Hartzler - What We Saw
Published: September 22, 2015 by HarperTeen
Pages: 336
Genres: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult
Find on: Amazon, Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: 4/5

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.  
This still hurts a whole day later.

I actually hadn't heard of the Steubenville case, so prior to this review, I decided to read up. My heart and eyes stung. I genuinely wish I hadn't.

After a photo of a drunken Stacey Stallard tossed over a basketball player's shoulder circulates around school, Kate Weston can only remember the night of the party in a haze. After that dreadful night, Stacey refuses to return school. Kate's classmates jeer and jab and mock Stacey. Kate refuses to take sides. But when police officers storm the lunchroom one morning, abruptly charging four basketball players with sexual assault, and leaving Kate and all of her shocked.

Though the sportsmen are the ones being charged, Stacey is singled-out because she'd been drunk at the alleged party. Much to everyone's shock, Kate chooses to defend her, claiming friendship. In all honesty, Kate and Stacey hadn't exactly sounded like friends, but m'kay. I thought what she did was sincere.

Kate had been extremely intoxicated at the party as well. Like Stacey. Though unlike Stacey, she'd been hauled safely out of the party by a childhood friend, longtime crush, Ben. Kate plays Nancy Drew throughout the novel, questioning everyone's whereabouts, trying to force herself into Stacey's life. Yes, I appreciated most of what she did for Stacey, but it got to the point where I was like, "MIND YOUR DAMN BUSINESS, KATE."

But when I saw these kids slutshaming Stacey, I was literally enraged. Not even kidding. I pretty much choked the book. I wish I could say this doesn't happen. I wish I could laugh it off at the end, saying, "Oh, it's just YA!" but I can't because it isn't. Slutshaming. Consent. It's all real. It needs to be heard. It needs to be understood.

It's worth the read.