Critically acclaimed memoirist Aaron Hartzler, author of Rapture Practice, takes an unflinching look at what happens to a small town when some of its residents commit a terrible crime. This honest, authentic debut novel—inspired by the events in the Steubenville rape case—will resonate with readers who've ever walked that razor-thin line between guilt and innocence that so often gets blurred, one hundred and forty characters at a time.
The party at John Doone's last Saturday night is a bit of a blur. Kate Weston can piece together most of the details: Stacey Stallard handing her shots, Ben Cody taking her keys and getting her home early. . . . 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 questions: Who witnessed what happened to Stacey? And what responsibility do they have to speak up about what they saw?
National Book Award finalist Deb Caletti calls What We Saw "a smart, sensitive, and gripping story about the courage it takes to do what's right."
Hartzler (Rapture Practice) moves from memoir to fiction with a novel that strongly echoes the Steubenville High School rape case in 2012. Teens at an Iowa high school are left reeling after a photo surfaces online showing a classmate drunk and topless during a party; soon, four students are arrested for sexually assaulting her. If characterizations sometimes take a backseat to the headline-grabbing plot, Hartzler captures the small-town vibe of a place so insulated that residents know the jersey numbers of the varsity basketball team but not the names of their legislators. Narrator Kate Weston questions the knee-jerk reactions of many of her peers, who slut-shame the girl and side with the accused athletes, while negotiating a new romance with Ben, a longtime childhood friend and member of the school's basketball team. Hartzler offers a thought-provoking look at victim blaming, the pressures of a win-at-all-costs athletic program, and the tendencies of schools and teams to circle the wagons and protect their own while hammering at the obligation of bystanders to speak the truth. Ages 14 up.