Parents' Guide to

What We Saw

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Thought-provoking story about consent and truth.

What We Saw Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 17+

Based on 1 parent review

age 17+


This book is NOT APPROPRIATE for children! My son's teacher started reading this to the students WITHOUT ALERTING THE PARENTS!!!! Like, SERIOUSLY?! My son (13 years old!) came RUNNING TO ME IN TEARS describing the part where they RAPED A HIGH SCHOOLER WITH DETAILS!!! They mentioned motor-boating, fingering, describing the insides of a human, vore, blood, blood sex, Gay. Motorboat, Ben. Human inside each other. This book is ONLY OKAY FOR ADULTS! Even if you are an adult, STAY AWAYRE! As this book is pretty disturbing. My son will not be attending this gross school anymore.

This title has:

Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (1):
Kids say (2):

Although it's not easy to finish a story about a rape at an unsupervised high school party in a town that's basically complicit in covering up the crime, this is a powerful, must-read book. In his first novel, Hartzler, a hilarious memoirist (Rapture Practice), tackles dozens of hot-button issues, from slut-shaming and cyberbullying to male privilege and sports culture, but it never feels too much or too preachy. Kate is genuinely outraged, but she's also authentically confused about what's the right thing to do in the situation. She bravely puts herself in Stacey's shoes in a way virtually no one else, even most girls, are willing to do. Everyone's too busy thinking about the poor boys' (also known as rapists) futures to give a girl with a loose reputation a second thought.

By making the main character Kate instead of Stacey, Hartzler allows readers to see how we're all accountable for what happens in our midst -- how standing by in silence is an act of complicity but how speaking the truth, even when it's costly and may brand you a whistle-blower or betrayer, is an act of courage. Kate isn't perfect. She occasionally yells or retreats when she should ask questions, and she makes a decision even many readers will consider extreme. But it's in her uncompromising support of Stacey, of humanizing the girl who was raped despite what she happened to drink or wear or say the night she was assaulted, that makes Kate such a laudable character. Hartzler does a fine job chronicling Kate and Ben's attraction, so perhaps his next book will be a romantic comedy. WHAT WE SAW may be tough to read, but it stays with you, and that's what a good issue book does.

Book Details

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