Title: What We Saw
Author: Aaron Hartzler
Edition/Pages: Hardcover, 321 pages
“Not being able to say no isn’t the same as saying yes.”
This takes place in small town Iowa where basketball reigns. Kate and her friends attend a big party at the home of a star player – Kate drinks too much and the boy she’s had a crush on since she was 5, Ben, gets her home safely. But the next day, a classmate is missing from school and Kate gets the impression something terrible happened at that party.
Later at lunch, four of the star varsity players are arrested on charges of rape.
The entire town erupts in defense of the boys. But what really happened that night? And why doesn’t anyone seem to want to find out?
“‘Boys will be boys’ is what people say to excuse guys when they do something awful.”
This books is intense – I’ll be honest and say it was a very triggering story for me. I barely slept after finishing this, my anxiety was so piqued. I’m so glad I read it anyways. Things like this (horrifically) happen all the time and these stories need to be heard.
Huge warning for a detailed depiction of sexual violence, tread lightly with this.
Content warnings: Rape, hoarding.
What I Liked
“I want to tell her that I don’t think a book from the Bronze Age is a good enough reason to relegate women to the role of “helpers” for all time.”
1. The characters were so realistic. The high school students felt like high school students. And everyone, including the teachers and parents, were so flawed. It was so believable but difficult to read some of the comments the characters made
“I just think it’s awful what that Stallard girl is doing to them. Dragging their good names through the mud.”
“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.”
People say garbage like this every day. This town cared more about the successful basketball careers of four smart-mouthed, privileged white boys than the health and wellbeing of single girl. Because she was flirtatious and wore short skirts.
2. But woven in, we see amazing depictions of people fighting back and standing up.
“Words have meanings. When we call something a theory in science, it means something. Reggie, when you say that you ‘can’t help yourself’ if a girl is wasted, that means something, too. You’re saying that our natural state as men is ‘rapist.’ That’s not okay with me, Reggie. That’s not okay with the rest of this class, either.”
3. This book covers it all – rape culture, misogyny, consent, victim blaming, slut shaming, gender equality.
“What does it mean to say yes? To consent to a kiss? To a touch? To more than that?”
4. I really connected with Kate. Her struggles to do what was right versus what was easy were so relatable. She was strong, intelligent, and always questioning but still read like she was only 17.
What I Didn’t Like
1. My half star deduction comes from the end. This is a huge spoiler for the ending so check out my Goodreads review for my spoiler-y thoughts.
Overall this book absolutely destroyed me. This sat on my TBR for years and I’m so glad I finally picked it up. I recommend this for absolutely anyone who can handle the subject matter.