[Book Review #41] ARC: What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler


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.

Book Specifications:

Author: Aaron Hartzler

Format: ARC

Part of a Series: No.

Release Date: September 22, 2015

Publisher: HarperTeen

No. of Pages: 336 pages

Price: None. Sourced from local book bloggers.

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Mystery

Book Review:

NOTE: This is my first ARC Review, and I sourced said ARC from local book bloggers when I attended an event with them, and my winning of this ARC did nothing to sway my opinions of this book.

The Cover: The front cover features an image of a door knob with a spunky font for the title etched on it’s entirety. I find it relevant and gorgeously informal. It gave me the impression that there is something odd and mysterious about the story, which, as it turns out, is true. But the font style is absolutely to die for and I liked it as a whole! (3.5 out of 5 stars)

The Story: What We Saw is inspired from a real life criminal case, and it focuses on the life of Kate Weston, a senior soccer player, who soon discovers the terrifying truth about her friends’ personalities and the lengths they’ll go to for their own personal gains and pleasure. Also, it tells the story on how a common girl goes out of her way to do what she feels is morally correct, even if her whole social circle goes against it.

The story itself is interesting enough to spark the interests of Young Adult readers, and yes, that’s coming from a lover of YA romance books. One bookish goal I’ve set for myself this year is to read outside of the box, and choose a genre which I feel intimidated to read, thus, my choosing of this specific book. And this book did not disappoint. It tackles real life issues like rape, alcoholic abuse, among others and it brings me joy that these things won’t go unnoticed even in the literary world. Hartzler did a great job in tackling these modern day issues, that even Young Adults could easily be tapped on to show their support and interest.

Lastly, Aaron Hartzler’s writing style was impeccable. Readers won’t have a hard time imagining Coral Sands, Iowa, and there is something about the way he tells stories that just makes you read with optimum speed, which, for me, makes a book epic. (4 out of 5 stars)

The Ending: *This part is filled with spoilers. I suggest you skip this part if you don’t want to cry later on.*  Everything ended as it should. As Kate found the courage in her to do what is right and be a child with a great moral conscience, it proved to me that there is still hope for humanity. Also, Kate and Ben’s break up, as inevitable as it was, still gave me a slight pinch to my heart. I didn’t expect it to hurt a little as it did. And lastly, I’m so glad that Stacey found a way to move on from the criminal case. And when she gave Kate a sketch of a flying bird, that tore me apart, and yet, I am ecstatic for her and her starting over again. I loved the ending, even if it’s a little predictable.  (4.5 out of 5 stars)

The Verdict: The plot was insanely refreshing for a Young Adult Mystery novel. It is not something that I usually read since YA Romance and YA Fantasy are my main genres, but I am glad to have listed this as one of my most anticipated release of 2015. Incredibly fast paced, with a vividly interesting story line and well developed set of main characters, this debut novel by Aaron Hartzler will not only appeal to Young Adult readers, but also to long-time fans of the mystery genre as well. (4 out of 5 stars)

Quotable Quotes:

“A [This] video doesn’t show you everything.” – Kate Weston (This is one of the best and most overwhelming first lines I have ever read)

“It’s okay if you mess up. Everybody does. All you can do is try your best.” – Kate Weston’s Mom

“Math and logic are closed systems. Like in Algebra, there’s only one possible answer to a problem. You solve for x.

“Remember that words have specific meanings depending on context. When we say that evolution is a ‘scientific theory’ we mean it’s the most likely explanation – the one strongly supported by all our observations of the natural world.” – Mr. Johnston

“I uncovered something beautiful buried deep within my heart, and realized it had been there all along.” – Kate Weston

“Sometimes, change happens over eons. Other times, in the blink of an eye.” – Kate Weston.

“The thing about betrayal is that it cannot be explained.” – Kate Weston

About The Author

Aaron Hartzler is the author of the critically acclaimed Young Adult Memoir Rapture Practice. What We Saw is his first work of fiction. You can visit him online at http://www.aaronhartzler.com

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5 thoughts on “[Book Review #41] ARC: What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

  1. JM, what happened at the end made me so sad! Even after the truth was revealed, it seemed like nobody cared about the truth 😥 And I’m so sad that Ben didn’t end up coming with her to the police station. I thought he was going to redeem himself then.


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