Monday, September 21, 2015

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

What We Saw

Kate got really drunk at John Doone's party and her friend (and basketball star), Ben, made sure she got home.  After she left that party, well, something happened, and there's a lot of people saying a lot of things.  

Stacey, a girl Kate was friendly with years ago, presses charges against 4 members of the basketball team.  

Basketball isn't just any sport to the people of Coral Sands, Iowa.  It's an obsession.  And winning the state tournament is top priority.  Now that these charges have come down, it looks like some of the stars won't be able to play, which pushes the town into uproar.  The media have arrived, and people in Coral Sands are quickly closing ranks to support their own.

The only thing Kate knows is that she's seen one picture of a passed out looking Stacey slung over one of the boys shoulders.  She wants to know more, but now that her and Ben have something going, she's scared to push too hard. S

oon Kate starts believing that there are a lot of people who know more than what they are saying, and she's determined to find out what that is.

This was one of my most anticipated books for 2015.  When I read the synopsis, it just sounded like a "me" book.  I also love books that are based on real events, and this one so obviously is loosely tied to the Steubenville rape trial.

It blows my mind that people can care more about sports than about someone's well-being.  Or that people would be willing to let someone get away with something awful just because they might be able to help a team win a title.

Sometimes I just don't get people or our society at all.  But this is the reason I really liked this book, it made me think and question things.  It brought up important issues like rape culture and the "boys will be boys" attitude that we sometimes have in our society.

It's always hard to read books like this because it brings out so much angry emotion in me.  It makes me wonder- why we are like this??  Just because we enjoy watching someone play a sport or enjoy the glory that the win brings us, how can we let that let us overlook something so wrong??  Why do we protect them so fiercely?  And why do we have this need for victims to be perfect in order to see them as victims??  Especially when those victims are female?  Those are hard questions, and those are the things that went through my head the entire time I was reading this book.

The story in this book followed Kate.  Kate didn't actually witness anything, and she really wasn't close with anyone that was involved.  It was sort of odd to read from someone's perspective who didn't really have a dog in this fight.

To be honest, I didn't care for Kate or her soccer friends.  There wasn't a ton of personality to her, and although she said she wanted to know what happened to Stacey, part of me couldn't help but think that she really didn't want to know at all.  Most of what she found out just fell in her lap.  She also never argued her opinion when her friends or Ben would say ridiculously offensive things.

I thought Ben was nice, but a little too perfect.  And their relationship was too insta-lovey.  He was one of those fictional high school boys who says all the right things, tells the girl everything he's feeling about her, and also treats her as if she's made of porcelain.  It's too much.

So, while I think this book brings up important topics and questions, I also couldn't shake the after-school special feeling.  There were a lot of obvious things in the book that said "this is wrong, and this is right".  I felt like maybe this book could have allowed the reader to see the right and wrong of it on their own.

The writing, I must say, was very good.  Kate was into Geology and I loved the way she compared life and love to the way the Earth is formed.  There were parts that I found to be so beautiful, that it made me forget I was reading about something really awful.

OVERALL:  I loved the writing and the message of this book.  I loved the way it made me think about life and society.  But I wasn't as wowed as I wanted to be.  It was a little after-school special-like.

Date Published: 9/22/2015
How I got this book: BEA
Publisher: HarperTeen

Add it to your To-Read List!!

This Book Contains:
  • Basketball
  • Partying
  • Swearing
  • A lot of lewd terms to describe females
  • Hashtags
  • Iowa
  • Geology
  • Friends to more than friends relationship
  • Soccer
  • Grease (the musical)

My Rating: 3.5/5

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  1. I just read another review on this and the reader loved it, like favorite read of the year love--so it's interesting to see the difference in opinion. It definitely seems like a "me" book for me, so I'm gonna check it out. Can't wait to see what I now think of it. Nice review!

    1. I've seen a lot of really positive reviews for this book, so maybe it was just me! I am usually in the minority when it comes to opinions of popular books.

  2. "the after-school special feeling" - that alone is enough to make me hesitant to pick this up. I'm not a huge fan of stories that come across like that.

    Thanks for your honest thoughts!

    1. That was really my only complaint. I can get over the fact that I didn't like the main character or her romantic relationship, but the after-school special feeling is what dropped this book down for me :(

  3. Thanks for sharing your review, Michelle. I got this one at BEA for my friend Natalie who wrote a similar book (and even had to change her mc's name because it was the same as here). I love Natalie's book (had many drafts ha) and hope it sells so you can compare to this book. I'd be curious to see your reactions!

    1. Yeah if it gets published, I would definitely read it. I love reading books about the tough subjects!