Review: What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

Title: What We Saw
Author: Aaron Hartzler
Release Date: January 2016
Retail Price: $16.99
Overall Rating: 8.5/10
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Drama (Based on a true story)

Do you ever just stop at the end of a chapter and go, “This writing, this storyline and these characters have been put together in a way that literally just made my heart stop and my mind spinning in amazement.” Well, that is basically what happened whilst I read Aaron Hartzler’s What We Saw. After finishing this novel, I was left with a smile and a cold chill and I didn’t know a novel I could relate to so much, could throw such a starking reality on me. Each day we check out phone, check our Facebook, go to parties; it’s just what us teenagers do. Everyday we hear of the consequences but with each word spoken, just seem to slip past our ears: forgotten or casted deep down in our minds. As we grow older social media, our friends and the parties all become more and more energetic and intense. It’s books like What We Saw that redirect our minds to think of things in a new light- more cautiously and more in depth.

Aaron Hartzler’s What We Saw, will pull you and intrigue you. Questions will be left on your mind, the characters are relatable in more ways you could imagine and most importantly the ending is so thought-provoking that you begin to wonder: What happens if that really and truly happened to me? I seriously recommend What We Saw, if you are looking for a thought-provoking, serious and dramatic contemporary. Don’t stray away just because it says, “Based on a true story” because that just makes the book more striking than it already is.

What We Saw is a new release based on a true story. Kate wakes up one night to realise she’s hungover, she is unable to piece many of the things that happened at the party last night but she does remember her childhood best friend, Ben who helped her drive her home last night. When she wakes up she thanks Ben and as they grow closer into something more, she discovers that something big happened at that party last night. As Kate dives deeper and deeper into the details, something about Ben and her school throws her off in a completely different direction and she doesn’t know is she could ever come back. It’s best to not know anything about the novel before you read it. 🙂


No words can honestly encapsulate what I felt whilst I read and when I finished the novel. It kind of felt like a calming but cold wave that just laps on you when your swimming by the sea. (Yeah… I think I’m going to miss summer 🙂 ) It was dark, yet light novel that reminded me in some ways of Lauren Oliver’s Vanishing Girls. Aaron Hartzlers’s writing is so beautiful. His writing throughout the story is careful, yet it reflects the thoughts of Kate so well and if I were in her shoes, Aaron Hartzler’s thoughts would match mine. I remember reading about the “sea of phones” and I love how he always talks about “Iowa being an ocean,” and “Seismic shifts,” and then links them back together as metaphors with events in Kate’s life. It is so rare to read a novel where the author does this really well but it seems like Aaron Hartzler’s really did that. Every paragraph in the story was carefully thought-out to manipulate the reader’s feelings and no word was wasted, which goes to show how well this novel is written.

Now onto the plot: honestly, I have never read a plot like this one. A plot that deals with the darker side of teenage reality. I know this novel is based on a true story but the story was executed to well. Through the story there are happier parts which contrast with the darker parts, such as, the cute Ben and Kate moments and the fun prom moments and every once in awhile there will be a pun that makes you smile. However, when it gets dark it’s not unbearable its intriguing like, “Curiosity killed the cat,” You just want to know more and when you continue reading it gets so thought provoking and you wonder, “That could happen to me,” The whole case with the party and how it got uncontrollable due to the increase in social media, really goes to show that as teenagers with this huge social platform in front of us, things and cases like the Coral Sands case could really happen to you. This book is like a warning to all of us and I will definitely be recommending this to people who are not into reading but do like social media. The chain of reactions that happen in the novel will make you question, “Would I have done the same?”

Kate’s character was relatable. More often than not, we are witnesses to these things: small hashtags or long videos, which all can impact in the most sensitive ways to everyone. Kate was the witness and even though I probably wouldn’t haven done the same things as her in response to what happened at the party. Reading about how she felt and how she dealt with it, really shows you how to respond in times such a the events in the novel. I loved Kate and Ben together but I knew Ben had something going on and I wasn’t surprised when I discovered that he witnessed the crime but didn’t speak up. I was a little stunned that Kate just broke up with him in a few minutes but then again, I couldn’t imagine what she would be going through.

Overall the book is beautifully written and I honestly enjoyed it so much. There are quotes and lessons learnt in this novel that will always be engraved into my head. It’s a great eye-opener and I definitely will be recommending this title as time passes.

Have you read this novel? Did you like it- comment below?

Also, I’ve redirected my instagram and you can follow me at: @hashtaglovebooks.alicia

That’s all! Thanks so much! Also I would like to thank Harper Teen for sending me this novel.




6 thoughts on “Review: What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

  1. Sounds like very strong writing; I’m glad this book came together in perfect fashion! I love YA Contemporaries, but I’d not heard of this one before – but as it’s an ARC, I guess that’s not too surprising. 🌺🌸🌷


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