Friday, October 02, 2015

Review: What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

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I received this book for free from HarperTeen in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: What We Saw by Aaron HartzlerWhat We Saw by Aaron Hartzler
Published by HarperTeen on September 22, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, YA
Source: HarperTeen
Buy on Amazon

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.

You know how I would describe “being speechless” by something? It’s when you’re overwhelmed with so much emotions that words escape you. Something made you happy so much that you could only cry. Something made you so sad that your throat tightens and you can croak nothing out. Something made you so angry that find it hard to mutter a single word because you’re just fuming inside. This is basically what happened to me after reading What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler. It rendered me completely speechless.

I honestly don’t know how to review this book, if I can even review this book and give it the justice it deserves. It’s the sort that you know everyone – and I mean, everyone – should read; the sort in which when people ask you why they should bother allocating time in their lives to read it, it’d  be hard for you to explain and you simply just say, “Please, just do it. You’d miss such an important message otherwise.”

I, however, would add something else to that: “Because it made me sad. Because it made me angry. And because it made me ashamed of ourselves.”

There are three kinds of angles in a story when it comes to rape and rape-shaming: the victim’s, the rapist’s, and the mob’s. This is a story of what happens behind the scenes, how the people around the two central figures of a fucked-up situation reacted when and after the rape and sexual harrassment of a schoolmate happened, and how the very same people coped with it when the victim and the rapists, as well as their small, no-name town suddenly were at the world’s centerstage.

And trust me, reading it is not a all rainbows and butterflies.

Here’s the thing, ladies and gents: this book is real. This book is so fucking real that it hurts. A girl was raped by a couple of popular athletes, a bunch of boys who were heralded as the town’s “saviors” because of their skills in basketball, a bunch of fucking cowards who took advantage of an unconscious girl and then thought nothing of it. You think that by 2015, we as humanity as a whole would have gotten rid of our barbaric way of thinking and moved on with the times, but this book, which perfectly mirrors the mentalities of many of us today, proves to us otherwise. Do you guys remember the Steubenville High School rape case? We all know how the media portrayed that one, and how so many people turned their backs on a vulnerable, helpless young lady and instead defended their town’s heroes despite the atrocious thing they did. In the end, however, the boys were found guilty, but something was said after the announcements of their verdicts that shocked and shook me to the core: the fact that a reporter, a female reporter at that, said how it was a pity that their “promising careers” were now ruined.

Doesn’t that just make you want to see the world burn to ashes?

This is what you should expect in this book: a mirror of this kind of mentality. The indifference. The injustice. The way how some people think it’s okay to go to a party dressed however you want, but as soon as you’ve been violated, it’s your fault because you acted like a slut, you drank too much, your skirt was too short. You’re a friend until you get your school’s basketball heroes into trouble because they were stupid enough to think a no, a silence, meant a yes. And how one girl sees all of this, feels rightly uncomfortable by it, and so strives to seek the truth, even if it meant going against the tide. Even if it meant “betraying” her own best friends.

Because as cliché as it sounds, the truth hurts, but it shall set you free.

This book was absolutely heartfelt and so heart-breaking at the same time. It made me feel so much pain for particular characters, knowing this is the story of many girls out there who have been sexually abused and yet find themselves alone and harrassed even further; at the same time, it made me feel so much anger at those who refuse to see beyond their narrow-minded ways, knowing that so many people still think this way, and will continue to perpetuate that mentality to their own kids, unless we stand up just like what Kate did, see the greater picture, and encourage others to do so.

This is not a book to be missed, folks. Please, for the love of all things holy, read this book and spread it. Sometimes, taking the first step is to see what it’s like in their shoes.


4.5 Hot Espressos

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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

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5 Responses to “Review: What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler”

  1. Hannah

    This was definitely a powerful book, and I’m glad its getting the critical acclaim and exposure that it deserves. The bystander effect, the people who do nothing, is something that I think hasn’t been paid enough attention in the media or been critically discussed, especially in cases such as these. It’s hugely problematic.

  2. Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

    Faye this is such an incredible emotional review. I can see how powerfully it affected you, and it’s such an important and difficult to read book that is incredibly eye-opening and relevant. Lovely review hun!