What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler | REVIEW & DISCUSSION

Hey, guys! Today we will be discussing a very important novel, and that is What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler. This is a book that deals with a very serious topic: rape. This novel was very hard to read because it is super powerful and very realistic. This novel also has a heavy rape trigger because it is so raw and realistic. So if you are the survivor of a sexual assault, you definitely need to know that there is a trigger warning for rape. With that said, it was absolutely phenomenal, and I highly recommend you check it out, as long as you can handle it. But that is going to be it for the non-spoiler section, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, I suggest you leave, read the book, and then come back and we can discuss it together. So goodbye, non-spoiler people!

Now let’s get into the review!

***Warning: This review contains spoilers. If you wish to not know what goes on throughout this book, don’t read any part of this review.***


“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.”

My Thoughts:

Wow, this book was phenomenal.

This book deals with such an important topic, and it was very hard to read some of the portions of the book because they were so raw and realistic about what sexual assault survivors have had to live through. It was so realistic, and it was just so hard to read. It really just made me realize, completely, how this could happen to anyone. This could happen to me, to you, to someone you love. Its kind of jarring.

But let’s just get into the characters. To be honest, there were only a couple of characters that I liked. In fact, I hated almost every single character in this book. I obviously despised the rapists, but I think I might have despised a few people more than them, even. Let’s start with Christy. I wanted to stab her for the majority of this book. For the entire book, she kept going on about how Stacy was lying about being raped, and that she just was regretting something that happened when she was drunk when she woke up the next morning. She also said that Stacy was practically asking for it because she was drunk and she dressed provocatively (she used the words “dressed like a slut”). Man, that pissed me off like nothing else.

No matter what you think about this girl, it is never her fault that she was raped. Doesn’t matter how she was dressed, and the fact that she was drunk. Since she was drunk, she could not give consent. That is a given. Those bastards took what they wanted. They preyed on her while she was vulnerable because she didn’t live up to the standards that these jocks hold women to look like. They figured they could just have sex with her when she was practically unconscious, and it wasn’t a big deal. They even fucking recorded it, which was dumb on their part.

But let’s move onto Rachel. I had a love-hate relationship with her character. Rachel kept insisting that even though she and the rest of the girls had been just as drunk as Stacy at that party, they didn’t dress like Stacy and that if she let herself get that drunk and wear that kind of clothing, she was practically asking to be raped. And she was still a good friend of Kate (our main character), so at times I enjoyed her character. What really ticked me off was her speaking out about feminism. In the book, she says that feminists believe in evolution and “just don’t want anybody to tell them what to do”. She also mentions that they are pro-abortion. She also says that you can’t believe in the bible and be a feminist at the same time.

This really had me heated because I am a Christian feminist, so I believe in the bible and I am also a feminist. I do not support evolution, and I am pro-choice, meaning I believe women should have the right to choose whether to abort their baby or not. Do I agree with abortion? No, but I think they should still have that choice. Right there I just debunked everything that she said about feminists. She was so obviously a conservative Christian, a judgy one at that, so that made her blame the victim for being raped. I just can’t like her character because of all of this.

Moving onto Lindsay, she was one of the people that didn’t get under my skin. She definitely was questioning whether the jocks were innocent, and she was entertaining the possibility that Stacy was telling the truth. That made her one of the characters I was pretty okay with, but in the end, she would never testify against the jocks. She will never be okay with what those boys did, and what happened to Stacy made her sick, but she couldn’t risk making her family pariah’s in that town, which was very understandable, in my opinion. Even if Lindsay wasn’t willing to testify, Kate was still willing to and she wanted to tell the truth of what she saw in the video.

Now we should definitely talk about Kate. She was like the only person at that school, in that town, who would believe Stacy. She wanted to know what happened. She couldn’t just let it go. Because she was really questioning whether the jocks were innocent. She had to know the truth. She also was trying to prevent her little brother from turning into the jocks at that school because they were role models to him, and he was already starting to sound just like them. But once Will saw that video of Stacy being raped, I think that’s when he realized he should never be like them. That video made him sick. And that video is how they got the bastards convicted. Because Kate and Will took that straight to the police.

We definitely need to talk about Ben because while I really liked his character, I had this suspicion that he was in that room when Stacy was raped, and he did nothing to stop them. And he was in that video. That is really what broke Kate like nothing else. She couldn’t believe it; she didn’t want to believe it. But it was undeniably Ben in that video. Ben was kind and loving and just a really great guy. He screwed up on a global scale by not stopping them from raping Stacy, and that ended up screwing up his future because Kate gave him up to the cops and broke up with him.

I definitely feel like the sentence those boys received was light, but it honestly was realistic. Its usually pretty slim that rape cases even go to trial. They got off with less than a year in prison. That girl was traumatized, and they got less than a year because one of the jocks’ dad knew the judge, and helped him with his divorce, which encouraged him to be extremely lenient on the boys. It should have been a trial by jury, in my opinion…

I think the ending was really fitting. I do not blame Will and Kate for switching schools. Once she testified, Kate lost all of her friends at that school. She became a social outcast. I think she ended up being better off, and it was a very decent conclusion to this impactful book.

Overall, this book was emotional, extremely important, and just a book that I definitely think needs to be read by people (assuming you can handle it; it definitely has a high trigger warning for rape). I really enjoyed the writing, the development of the characters, and the realistic rawness to the story. This is definitely a book that is going to stay with me for a long, long time.


And there you have it! That was my review of What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler. But that is going to be it for this post today. Thank you all so much for reading this, I hope you enjoyed it, and I will see you next time!


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