About two weeks ago, I read the YA novel “What We Saw” by Aaron Hartzler. I heard about the book from NPR when they were talking about how YA novels and the importance of showing teens what a healthy first sexual encounter looks like. I picked it up because I like YA novels and I trust NPR’s book recommendations.
This is one of the best books I’ve read in a while. It’s so well-written! I stayed up late just to finish this book.
It takes place in a small midwest town where high school basketball rules. The book opens with a girl waking up from a crazy high school house party. Gradually, the reader learns that this was no ordinary party. Other students are rapidly sharing pictures and videos from the party and using #r&p and #gobucs since the high school basketball team is the Bucaneers. The book is so clearly set in 2016 that it’s refreshing to show how teens integrate social media into their daily lives.
News breaks out in the small town that a girl who had drank too much was raped at the house party the other week and some of the basketball players have been accused. The victim is perceived as a social outcast so some girls say terrible things about her behind her back. The stuff they said was heart-wrenching to read.
Our main character develops a crush on her childhood friend, who plays for the Buccaneer basketball team. The two of them move pretty quickly in their relationship but he is understanding when she tells him she wants to wait to have sex. They eventually do go all the way, but not before he asks her, “Kate, is this okay?”
Things get complicated in the main character’s relationship when she realizes he was at the party, possibly when the assault took place. He tells her he didn’t see anything but he doesn’t seem too sure about that. He also has a mom who has a shopping and couponing addiction.
I liked the suspense of the book and how things weren’t immediately revealed. Like, the reader doesn’t learn til the end that the sexual assault was caught on a cell phone camera and that #r&p stands for rape and pillage.
The book addressed so many important issues that I wish every high school student could read it. For example, the main character catches her brother ranking girls from 1-10 based on their Facebook photos and confronts him, asking why he thinks it’s okay to treat women that way.
The author intertwined relevant information whenever possible. For example, in their high school science class, they learned about a scientist who stood up for what he believed in and dedicated his life to finding the truth. Not surprising, this scientist had a lot in common with Kate, who eventually decides to make a tough, but right, decision.