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.
What We Saw is a dark, depressing book. It deals with some majorly heavy themes, and with no discretion at all. There are a few graphic scenes, which, although not detailed, leave many suggestions for the reader to be disgusted at. So, you’re probably wondering what these themes are. Well, rape. Specifically, underage rape.
Set in the small country-side town of Coral Sands in Iowa, What We Saw follows the moral struggle of a girl after the rape of her once-friend leaves the town shaking.
The thing that set this book apart from all other rape books was the fact that nobody sympathised with Stacey, the rape victim. After filing allegations against two of the most influential and popular boys in town, she is shunned and shut out by her whole town. She is slammed by the students in her class, most saying that she basically asked to be raped, wearing the skimpy clothes she wore. They go on to say things like:
Well, I just think it’s awful what that Stallard girl is doing to them. Dragging their good names through the mud.
The boys are well liked and play basketball for the town. They are popular and their fathers are rich and powerful. On the other hand, Stacey has not exactly had a clean past, and she certainly is not rich.
Another major theme of the book was the recurring motif of the media. The idea of how what we see and don’t see in videos can affect what we think about a situation, was executed well, and the manipulation of the media was portrayed intricately as well, through the figure of Sloane Keating, the reporter covering the story.
All in all, quite a good book, and one definitely for mature audiences. Prepare for disturbing images in your head, and do not think for a second that this book will not go where it does not need to go.
Edit: The Australian version of What We Saw is out on November 23rd, 2015. This edition has the cover featured above.
Thank you to HarperCollins for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest opinion!
Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆ 9/10
What We Saw is out now. Buy at your local bookstore.
- Title: What We Saw
- Author: Aaron Hartzler
- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: HarperTeen (September 22nd, 2015)
- Language: English
- URL: Goodreads