Going into this book, I knew it was going to be hard. This book and review include trigger warnings for rape and sexual assault, please proceed with caution.

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, today it is What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler.

The story follows Kate, a teenager who, on Saturday night, went to a party. She danced, she got drunk, and she was driven home by her best friend, Ben. When she wakes up Sunday morning she is hungover but she is in her bed, she is safe. Then, come school Monday morning, everyone is talking about the epic party. Everyone except Stacey, who is mysteriously absent. During lunch, four of the schools most priced basketball players are arrested for sexual assault. Kate is reeling and as details become clearer, she realizes that it could have been her. She was just as drunk, partying just as hard.

This book allows for a refreshing take on a story about sexual assault and rape while taking a close look at rape culture, especially in today's world of social media.

The story is told in Kate's perspective - an innocent bystander in the whole situation. I was surprised to see that it wasn't from Stacey's perspective, but I think in the end it was the best choice, especially in terms of writing a book that is about changing a way of thinking. Unfortunately, I think Stacey's perspective would have been too close to the issue for readers to be able to keep an open mind.

The premise of the story itself is, unfortunately, nothing new. A group of athletes sexually assault a girl and their small, sports-minded school and town rally with them. This is the story we see all the time on the news and, more often than not, the assault is blamed on the victim. She was drunk, she was dressed a certain way, she was in it for the money, etc. All these horrible reasons why the victim is at fault are addressed in the book.

Hartzler really explores the after-effects of something like this. Almost immediately, the town is divided between those who are supporting the guys and those (a fewer number) who are supporting the girl. Some of her so-called friends turn on her, they can't see the bravery it took to come forward. Because of the perspective the story is told in, Hartzler is able to show other people's reactions: one of Kate's friends believes she had it coming, another sees it as a result of her wrongdoings and sins. Only one of Kate's friends is willing to accept that she is telling the truth.

I think this book also did a good job of exploring the corruption of officials when something like a sexual assault charge is brought on students or athletes. The principal kept preaching how the boys were innocent until proven guilty, but he would not accept that they may, in fact, be guilty. The coach was just downright horrendous, how anyone could hold a pep rally in the wake of everything and say the things he said is beyond my comprehension.

This is another one of those books I think everyone must read. It was eye-opening for me, and I consider myself to be fairly open-minded, to begin with. I was heartbroken by the ending, but unfortunately, not surprised. In things like this, it's about who you know and I guess in the end they knew the right people.

There were some fun moments throughout, nothing that seemed to stick out of the story as insensitive, but just a few moments to lighten things up a bit. I had a blast reading about Ben's mom's extreme couponing, it brought me back to my own not-that-extreme extreme couponing days.

Overall, this is an important and extremely relevant book that everyone needs to read.