Published by Harlequin Teen on March 1st 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson
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One punch will shatter a town.
Is anyone ready for the consequences of the truth?
Callie Jones is not the kind of girl who gets drunk at school dances, and certainly not now, with her scholarship on the line. And she definitely doesn’t hang around with bad boys like Rhett Barker. Especially alone, at night. But these are the circumstances she finds herself in when she witnesses a king hit that lands the town’s golden boy in a coma.
With his reputation, no one is less surprised than Rhett when he is accused of throwing the punch. But he didn’t do it. And he knows Callie saw what really went down. He just has to convince the ‘ice princess’ to come forward and talk to the police – except, for once, good girl Callie doesn’t seem all that interested in telling the truth. Just what is she hiding, and why?
Drawn together by secrets, scandal and heartache, Callie and Rhett find themselves getting closer – even as the solution to their problems gets further away.
What I Saw has an important message about doing the right thing and being true to yourself. This book is about the issue of alcohol-fuelled violence and coward punches, which is a prevalent issue in Australia right now. While I really enjoyed and appreciated that the author brought this issue to light, I did have a few qualms about the book.
But let’s address the elephant in the room first, which are the similarities between What I Saw and What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler. I read What We Saw a couple months ago and when I first heard about What I Saw, I was a little bit taken aback by how similar the titles and the premises of the books were. Both of these books feature a horrific incident that is caused by the popular footballers of a small town. These footballers all come from respected families, while the victims/people who have been wrongly accused come from families who are frowned upon and ostracised by everybody else. Both books feature teachers who try to cover up the incident, and in both books, everybody trusts the word of the popular kids. It’s safe to say that I wasn’t very impressed with What I Saw for the first 50 or so pages because it was almost exactly like something else I had read before. However, What I Saw started to go off in a different direction and I was able to start enjoying it a bit more.
This book is about alcohol-fuelled violence and I thought it wasn’t explored well enough. There is an incident caused by a coward punch at the beginning of the book and an act of vandalism half way through the book, which I thought really shone a light on the issue of alcohol-fuelled violence and the consequences that drinking too much can have. However, I thought very little was done to really educate readers on what is appropriate behaviour and responsible drinking. I was missing the important messages that I thought needed to be included in a book about such a serious issue. The only message that I really got from the book, in regards to alcohol-fuelled violence was “don’t punch people when you’re drunk”, which wasn’t really enough, in my opinion. Instead of really focusing on the issue, the book is more about Callie’s internal struggle and development throughout the book, which is a great story but not enough to satisfy me.
“There’s always a choice. You’re not responsible. You can’t take the blame for someone else’s mistake.”
I also thought that some aspects of the story were very unrealistic and I didn’t understand a lot of the decisions that the characters made. Rhett had almost no motivation to clear his name even though he didn’t commit the crime. He’s just resigned to being the bad guy and seemed reluctant to take any steps to clearing up the misunderstanding, despite his acknowledgement that his family depends on him. I was baffled by all of his mental and physical running away, and at times it felt super melodramatic. I also couldn’t understand Callie’s thought processes and why she continued to accept drinks from everyone when she felt guilty about drinking and ruining her scholarship chances. But what I couldn’t understand most of all was why charges hadn’t been pressed against Rhett, if everybody assumed he was the perpetrator. I thought it was super unrealistic that the parents of the victim of the one punch attack were constantly by his hospital bed but hadn’t pressed charges immediately. I feel like I spent the whole book waiting for things that, in my opinion, needed to happen to happen, but they never did and the story just never felt genuine or realistic to me.
I also couldn’t really get on board with the romance. It was extremely insta-lovey and things developed much too quickly. The timeline of the book spans about 3 days and I was just frustrated by how quickly things were happening. They go from being strangers to kissing within the span of a day and a half, and during this time, Callie even managed to break up with her douche of a boyfriend. It just seemed really unrealistic and I would’ve liked the book a lot more if it focused less on the romance and more on the important issues of alcohol and violence. In addition to the insta-love, what I didn’t like about the romance was the extra influence it had on Callie’s decision about coming forward with the truth. I would have much preferred if she had made her decision purely on what she believes is right, and not because she had feelings for Rhett. I mean, I liked that they got to know each other but it added a lot of unnecessary drama, especially when Rhett kept telling Callie that he won’t be mad if she doesn’t tell the truth and even encouraged her to hide the truth. WUT?!
Despite the criticisms that I have, I thought there was a lot to like about the book. I enjoyed the characters a lot, even though they were slightly cliched at times. They weren’t dislikeable and I liked the dynamics between the characters. I also liked that the book was written from dual perspectives. It gave me a chance to get to know both characters and it made it easier to understand some of the decisions they made (though some of them still had me baffled). Their voices could have been a little bit more distinct but I was never confused about whose perspective I was reading from.
Overall, I thought this was a solid book. It did contain a lot of elements that I’ve read in other contemporary novels but I was still able to appreciate what the author was trying to do. I appreciated that she tried to highlight a serious issue that we’ve been seeing a lot in the news and media, but I do wish that it was tackled a little bit better. There was a bit too much focus on the romance and the characters, and not enough on the issue that the author was trying to highlight.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Thanks to Harlequin Teen Australia for sending me this book for review!