Review – What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler


What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

Published September 22, 2015 by Harper

5 Stars!!!

I thought that this was a fantastic book. It does contain difficult subject matter that can be difficult to read at times, but it also has a great story-line that kept me interested while making me think. Honestly, it consumed me, if  I wasn’t reading the book,  I was thinking about it or talking about it.

Though it took a little while to get going once it did, I hated putting it down. I’m not sure what it is but I just really connected to this book.

“It’s okay, it’s going to be fine.”

Those are the words Ben says to his best friend Kate after she accidentally kicks him in the head when they are playing soccer at age five. Even though he’s the one hurt, he wants to console Kate as she cries because she’s hurt him. When he says these words to her again it’s over ten years later and for an entirely different reason. But still he wants to console Kate.

Kate Weston and Ben Cody have been friends for many years. There was a short time in between where they drifted apart, but a high school project brought them back together again.

The book takes place in Coral Sands, Iowa. A small town with a HUGE focus on High School Athletics, especially high school basketball. The basketball players are worshiped, treated like heroes. These boys can do no wrong in this towns eyes…can they?

Ben is hoping for a full basketball scholarship. Since his parents divorce his mother has been consumed with couponing, filling their garage with stacks and stacks of recent sale items. He’s concerned about his mom but he also wants to move far away from all of it. Kate is also an athlete and plays on the high school soccer team.

The book starts with Kate watching an old soccer video that her dad took of her and Ben when they were five years old. But as she says the video doesn’t show you everything. It’s one of the common themes throughout the book.

“Nothing is exactly as it appears. The closer you look, the more you see.”

Kate wakes up with a horrible hangover after a party at basketball player, John Doones house. She doesn’t have much of a memory of the night before. Her friend Rachel sends her a couple of pictures of Kate looking worse for wear after a few too many drinks.

One of the pictures is of her classmate and childhood friend Stacey passed out over a basketball players shoulder…

The next day at school four high school students are brought up on charges of assault. News travels quickly as the media descends on the small town. Everyone is immediately divided in their opinions on the “Coral Sands rape case.”

At first I was angry as it seemed like no one wanted to speak up. But then Kate surprised me, asking the tough questions that almost no one else would ask. Talking to herself telling herself not to get involved but she was consumed with questions. She wants to know what really happened after she left the party? Who was still there? What did they see? Where was Ben?

But will she be able to handle the answers to all of her questions?

Many of us remember the movie Grease. The catchy tunes that we sang along with. Over the years I’ve thought about the plot of the movie and the songs and this book really reminded me of some of those feelings. The lyrics to “Summer Loving” especially;

“Tell me more tell me more did you get very far? Tell me more tell me more like does he have a car? Or ” tell me more tell me more was it love at first sight? tell me more tell me more did she put up a fight?”

The author also uses lyrics from current songs peppered in throughout the story, in the background. For example at a dance or in the car when the teens are driving….

“you can’t have my heart, and you won’t use my mind, but… Do what you want with my body do what you want with my body”


“That fairy-tale ending with a knight in shining armor, She can be my sleeping beauty, I’m going to put her in a coma…”

Lyrics to popular songs that I’ve even sang myself without really thinking.

The media with their victim blaming and boys will be boys crap! It makes me crazy angry. How does this still go on? Things like:

The victim and the accused were all drinking
The victim was dressed provocatively
The victim had a troubling history
The victim had a single mother who was never home

Oh but the accused? The media says:

“all four were members of the top ranked high school basketball team. These young men are examples of fine sportsmanship and have rallied the community despite the difficult economy. They deserve the respect and privacy as the truth is figured out”.

But not just the media. Some of the other students were just as bad if not worse…

“All I’m saying is there are rules. You don’t get wasted. You don’t take off your top. You don’t flirt with raging drunks. You don’t dress like a slut. You have to play by the rules. If you don’t, this is what happens.”

Sometimes, especially when I see females blaming the victim I wonder if part of the reason is because they are scared. “If it can happen to them it can happen to me.” But some think it won’t happen to them because “I’m not like her….I wouldn’t break the rules.”

I was really impressed with this book and this author. The tough questions Kate asked and the tough decisions she had to make. I think this book will stay with me for a long time.

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