What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler – Review by Sally Kruger
“Imagine being so dedicated to finding the truth about something that you’re willing to go against the prevailing thought of everyone around you, and become an outcast.” When Kate hears this comment by her geology teacher, she is focused on the subject of his lecture, a geologist named Alfred Wegener and his theory of continental drift. She never dreamed that the quote would apply to her in the near future, and it would have absolutely nothing to do with geology.
WHAT WE SAW by Aaron Hartzler begins with a high school party complete with lots of alcohol, loud music, sex, and everything else that goes with teens at an unsupervised event. Kate is staggering drunk by 10:30. Fortunately, her friend Ben helps her get to her truck, drives it and her home, and helps her inside before her parents find out.
In the days after the party several things become clear to a now sober Kate. Number one: something terrible happened to a girl named Stacey and some of the school’s most popular kids may have been involved. Number two: Kate’s childhood friend, Ben, is now asking her to the Spring Fling.
Kate is reeling from the thrill of learning that Ben is interested in her as more than a friend. Having had a crush on him since their days on the soccer field in elementary school, she can’t believe the feelings may be mutual. Now her life is full of his amazing smile, stolen kisses by the senior stairs, and make out sessions that leave them both panting. Ben is kind and gentle and treats her with respect.
As the events of the earlier party become the focus of news media across the country, Kate becomes concerned that her fellow classmates and even her father seem to want to shove aside the fact that a girl was allegedly raped. The basketball team is on the verge of winning the state championship, and the principal and coach are determined to hide the facts to “protect” the guilty. The more Kate learns, the more she realizes that even though she will be everyone’s enemy, she must step forward to reveal what she knows.
Author Aaron Hartzler tackles a subject that stirs up passionate emotions. Why is it that if those involved are perceived as important or popular, the rules that apply to most aren’t enforced? Why are people afraid to speak up even when the facts are made clear? Hartzler doesn’t hesitate to hit this subject hard and drive home what is right and just. He also lets readers know that the decision to do the right thing is not easy and sacrifices will be required. Excellent book!
Sally Kruger teaches high school English at Morenci Area Schools in Morenci, Michigan, and also teaches Intro. to Children’s Lit and Adolescent Literature at Siena Heights University in Adrian, Michigan. Her passion is getting her students excited about books. She takes special pleasure in finding confirmed non-readers just the right book to get them hooked. Sally spends most of her free time reading and posting reviews on her own blog ReadingJunky’s Reading Roost at readingjunky.blogspot.com. A career highlight for Sally was presenting at NCTE/ALAN with the author of the Monument 14 series, Emmy Laybourne. When she’s not in the classroom, you can find Sally at her Morenci home deciding what to read next.