(YA Review) What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 8.28.19 PMWhat We Saw
Author: Aaron Hartzler
Published: Sept. 22, 2015
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Themes: Peer Pressure, Drugs, Alcohol, Sex, Rape
Rating: 5 stars
Why’d I read it?:
This book covers a topic that is so important, which is our societies’ tendency towards victim-shaming, blaming the victim, and generally the appalling “rape culture” we live within.
Hartzler, Aaron. What We Saw. HarperTeen. 2015. Print. ISBN-13: 978-0062338747.
Formats available: paperback, ebook, hardcover Paperback $6.87. Kindle $10.99

Synopsis: (from amazon)

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?

My Thoughts:

This is such an important story to be told because it sparks discussion on a topic which is often swept under the rug and ignored. Rape Culture in the U.S. is a serious problem. Victim-shaming and victim-blaming are tendencies which run rampant in our society. This story is inspired by the true story of the Steubenville rape case 0f 2012 and also of other similar cases to arise lately. Teens throw a party in which there is a lot of drinking and drugs. One girl drinks so much she becomes unconscious and the next day accuses several members of the school’s basketball team of sexually assaulting her while unconscious. The story deals with concepts of truth and lies, perception, betrayal and trust. It also deals strongly with the idea of opening your eyes and seeing beyond the pressures of our community, and also of how to do what’s right once you’ve seen the truth. It can be very hard to see the truth, and to speak up when all of your friends and even your entire town seem to be willing you towards blindness and silence.

This book was quite excellent in the way it broaches such serious topics, and while it in no way flinches from the true horror of these kinds of events (gang-rape of an unconscious girl is discussed), the author keeps the story from being so graphic as to be distracting from the true issues of right and wrong. I highly recommend this to readers of all ages and gender, and I challenge you to consider what you would do in such a situation. Being human means doing more than spectating; it means we must act to create the world we wish to live in.


Silhouette of man in the fog in a forest





** On a personal note: 

  • Unfortunately we live in a time where sexual assault is increasingly common, especially against women.
  • Most often, the person assaulting you is someone you know. You may be friends or even love this person. Even if its a friend or loved one, sexual assault is wrong.
    • If you said “no,” then it is wrong.
    • If you were incapable of saying yes or no, it was wrong.
    • If you were drunk, high, asleep, or even wearing “provocative clothes,” sexual assault is still wrong!
    • Every one has the right to wear, do, say, and act exactly the way they want without fear of assault.
    • Please don’t let anyone convince you that this was your fault. It is never your fault when you are assaulted.
  • Please be sure to see a medical specialist and speak with a trusted adult if you think you may have been assaulted.

Liked it? Loved it? Gotta have more of it?
You might also enjoy:

(ARC Review) Anne & Henry by Dawn Ius

Anne & Henry by Dawn Ius

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Ius, Dawn. Anne & Henry. , 2015. Print. ISBN-13: 978-1481439411.
Formats available: hardcover, ebook. Hardcover $9.89. Kindle $10.00.

Releases September 1, 2015

Fairy Tale retellings are all the rage today, but what happens when the love story being re-told isn’t a fairy tale, but rather a tragedy? In Anne & Henry we get to see how the initially enchanting, but ultimately tragic love story between Anne Boleyn and Henry Tudor would play out in modern day, between high school students. Henry is wealthy, popular, and powerful. He’s dating the equally wealthy, popular, and powerful Catherine, who is a socially and mother-approved match for Henry in every way. Then mysterious, hard-eyed, dramatic and passionate Anne Boleyn sweeps into his life. Henry and Anne are instantly smitten with each other, and Henry is compelled by her passion and her different-ness. But Henry is the only one who thinks Anne makes a better match for him than Catherine, and eventually even Henry isn’t so sure the love he and Anne have is enough for him.

My Thoughts:
This book was a quick, enjoyable, and quite different contemporary YA romance. Those who are unfamiliar with the original and true story of Anne Boleyn and Henry Tudor may miss out on much of the enjoyment the reader gains in reading this modern YA re-telling, but fans of contemporary high-school complication romances might still enjoy it. Readers familiar with history know not to expect a happy ending but the suspense of seeing just HOW exactly Henry will make Anne lose her head in this modern rendition keeps readers happily tuned in for the grand finale. Subjects of drug use, sexual content, and underage drinking are addressed, as well as reckless behavior, bullying, and familial and peer pressure. This is a somewhat shallow read that doesn’t dig quite as deeply into the characters or world as some might like, but does prove to be ultimately a quick and enjoyable read.

Liked it? Loved it? Gotta have more of it?
You can find recommendations from others who liked Anne & Henry on goodreads.com

About the Author:
Learn more about Dawn Ius and her books on her website.

Citation & Credits
Book cover image: Courtesy of Amazon.com
Kelsey Bogan. 2015. All rights reserved.

Angus, Thongs, & Full Frontal Snogging

Angus, Thongs, and Full-frontal Snogging

Rennison, Louise. Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging. New York: Avon Books, 2003. Print. ISBN-13: 978-0064472272. Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook. Paperback $7.78.

Info 684 Genre: Chick-Lit

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Angus: part Scottish wildcat, goes crazy in his longing for the Scottish Highlands.

Thongs: Useless underware. Only a wet slag would wear them.

Full-frontal Snogging: Full on kissing, open mouth.

Boys, parents, and a big nose means Georgia has all kinds of problems this year. But never fear, she’ll skate through it all with a big laugh, minimal boy-stalking, and most of her eyebrows intact.


My Thoughts: This one is an “oldie but a goodie,” and it was great to re-read it recently! The Georgia Nicholson series really finds its brilliance in its absolutely laugh-out-loud hilarity. These have me laughing so hard I cry, so if you are in the mood for a light read, or something to pick your spirits up, these are a great option. It’s like a young adult version of Bridget Jones’ Diary.

Themes include: Growing up, friendship, family, budding sexuality, physical maturation.
Awards/Honors: Michael L. Printz Honor Book, ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults

Liked it? Loved it? Gotta have more of it?
The next book in the series is On the Bright Side, I’m now the Girlfriend of a Sex God


  • Locate Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging at your local library through Worldcat.org
  • Find similar titles at goodreads.com
  • Here’s some “extras” including Georgia’s thoughts on applying makeup, snogging, eating chips and other crucial life lessons.

About the Author: Louise Rennison is the author of the entire Confessions of Georgia Nicholson series.

Citation & Credits
Book cover image: Courtesy of Amazon.com
Book Talk: Kelsey Bogan. 2015. All rights reserved.
Paramount Movies. “Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging – Trailer.” Online Video clip. YouTube.com. 3 August 2012. Web. 13 July 2015.
“Louise Rennison.” Louise Rennison. Web 13 July 2015.

(Review-YA) Upstate by Kalisha Buckhanon


Buckhanon, Kalisha. Upstate. London: John Murray, 2005. Print.ISBN-13: 978-0312332693. Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook. Paperback $12.32.

Info 684 Genre: Street-Lit

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17-year-old Antonio finds himself in jail, separated by what might as well be an ocean from his family, his life, and his girlfriend Natasha. Upstate tells Antonio and Natasha’s story through the letters they write to each other while Antonio serves his time. As both their lives take them in unexpected directions, Antonio and Natasha fight for a relationship that is put through incredible tests. This is their love story.

Themes include: Love, relationships, responsibility, coming of age, prison, violence, overcoming expectations

Awards/honors American Library Association ALEX Award, Hurston-Wright Foundation Debut Fiction Award


About the Author: Kalisha Buckhanon currently has two novels out, and a forthcoming 3rd in the spring of 2016. Her works have won several awards and she has taught writing, humanities, and English through PEN American Center’s Prison Writing Program, many inner-city schools, summer arts camps and library initiatives.


  • Locate Upstate at your local library through Worldcat.org
  • Here is an excerpt from the audiobook version of Upstate

Citation & Credits
Book cover image: Courtesy of Amazon.com
Book Talk: Kelsey Bogan. 2015. All rights reserved.
Macmillan Audio. “Upstate by Kalisha Buckhanon — Audiobook Excerpt.” Online Video clip. YouTube.com. 12 April 2012. Web. 14 July 2015.

(Review-YA) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Alexie, Sherman, and Ellen Forney. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. New York: Little, Brown, 2007. Print. ISBN-13: 978-0316013697 Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook. Paperback $9.45.

Info 684 Genre: Multicultural

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There once was a kid named Junior. He already had a hard time fitting in on the Indian Reservation because of his various medical conditions. And then he decided to go to school off of the reservation (GASP!). Which made everyone there hate him (traitor! traitor!). and then he got to his new school and didn’t fit in there either. At first.

What’s a boy to do? Junior tells his story through humor, both written and visual, through his cartoons and diary entries.


Themes include: Identity, bullying, violence, alcoholism, courage, friendship, culture, death & loss, overcoming adversity
Awards: 2007 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, 2008 Boston Globe-Horn Book award, Fiction and Poetry.

My Thoughts: Junior documents his circumstances with such humor and honesty that you can’t help but love, sympathize with, and root for for him. This is a realistic under-dog story that gives us a somewhat rare glimpse into the lifestyles, culture, and difficulties faced by American Indians living on Reservations in the U.S. The story touches on some dark and upsetting concepts, but I’d recommend this read for anyone. Those younger than 12 may not understand or be prepared for some of the topics and situations.


  • Locate The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian at your library through Worldcat.org
  • If you liked this book, you can see similar titles at goodreads.com
  • Here’s an interview with Sherman Alexie where he discusses, among other things, living in America as part of the non-dominant culture

About the Author: Sherman Alexie is a poet, novelist, short story writer, and performer.

  • His writings have won several awards
  • He is a Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian who grew up in Wellpinit, Washington on the Spokane Indian Reservation.
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is based loosely on Sherman Alexie’s life growing up.
  • You can learn more about Sherman Alexie and his writings on his website
  • Follow Sherman Alexie on twitter @sherman_alexie

Citation & Credits
Book cover image: Courtesy of Amazon.com
Book Talk: Kelsey Bogan. 2015. All rights reserved.
Mathe Steer. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Audiobook 1.” Online Video clip. YouTube.com. 26 April 2015. Web. 13 July 2015.
Moyers & Company. “Sherman Alexie on living outside boarders.” Online Video clip. YouTube.com. 12 April 2013. Web. 13 July 2015.
“Sherman Alexie.” Sherman Alexie. Web 13 July 2015.

(Review-YA) Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Brown, Jennifer. Hate List. London: Little, Brown Young Readers, 2009. Print. ISBN-13: 978-0316041454. Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook. Paperback $8.20.

Info 684 Genre: Realistic Fiction

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Val Leftman returns to school after her boyfriend, Nick, brought a gun to school, killing several students and injuring others, including Val. While Val tries to recover, emotionally and physically, dealing with her feelings of guilt and anger, her community regards her with suspicion and distrust.

Video Book Talk:

Themes include: Violence, bullying, hatred, family tension, identity, and suicide
Awards/Honors: ALA best book for YA, VOYA “Perfect Ten,” and School Library Journal Best Book of the Year.

A personal note about bullying: Bullying is a powerful theme found in Hate List and a recurring theme in many of our lives. As someone who suffered severe bullying in school, I want to remind my readers that you aren’t alone. You don’t have to suffer in silence, some of the people you might talk to include; your parents/guardians, teachers, counselors, clergy, friends, parents of friends, law enforcement, your librarian, and me. If you talk to someone and feel you aren’t being heard, talk to someone else. Don’t give up. Ever. You are not alone.

There are also resources online that might help, heres just a couple.

About the Author: Jennifer Brown writes YA and Middle grade books.

  • In addition to Hate List she has several other books currently published.
  • You can learn more about her and her books at her website.
  • She also encourages readers with questions or comments to reach out to her at JenniferBrownYA@gmail.com.


  • Locate Hate List at your local library through Worldcat.org
  • See what other teens thought about Hate List at Teen Ink
  • If you like Hate List, find similar books at Goodreads.com

Citation & Credits
Book cover image: Courtesy of Amazon.com
Book Talk: Kelsey Bogan. 2015. All rights reserved.
“Jennifer Brown.” Jennifer Brown. Web. 6 July 2015. http://www.jenniferbrownya.com
JenniferBrownYA. “Hate List Trailer.” Online video clip. YouTube.com. 9 Sept 2009. Web. 6 July 2015.

(Review – YA) Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher

Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher

Katcher, Brian. Almost Perfect. New York: Delacorte Press, 2009. Prin ISBN-13: 978-0385736657. Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook. Paperback $8.60.

Info 684 Genre: LGBTQ

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 1.56.25 PMSynopsis:
18-year-old Logan lives in a small town. New student, the weird, loud, and beautiful Sage shows up like a whirlwind, and Logan is instantly “obsessed” with her, thinking she’s just about perfect. Until he learns that Sage wasn’t born with a girls body, and for the first time in his life Logan is confronted with the fact that the world is bigger and more diverse than his small-town life has prepared him for.

Video Book Talk:

Themes include: LGBTQ, identity, friendship, attraction, bullying
Awards/Honors: 2011 Stonewall Children’s and Young Adult Literature Award

About the Author: Brian Katcher is the author of Almost Perfect as well as several other novels with varying themes and subject matter.

YA LGBTQ Resources:

A personal note about bullying: Bullying is a powerful theme found in Almost Perfect and a recurring theme in many of our lives. As someone who suffered severe bullying in school, I want to remind my readers that you aren’t alone. You don’t have to suffer in silence, some of the people you might talk to include; your parents/guardians, teachers, counselors, clergy, friends, parents of friends, law enforcement, your librarian, and me. If you talk to someone and feel you aren’t being heard, talk to someone else. Don’t give up. Ever. You are not alone.

There are also resources online that might help, heres just a couple.

Citation & Credits
Book cover image: Courtesy of Amazon.com
Book Talk: Kelsey Bogan. 2015. All rights reserved.
“Brian Katcher.” Brian KatcherWeb. 10 July 2015. http://briankatcher.com/site/
Kelsey Bogan. “Don’t Shush Me booktalking Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher.” Online video clip. YouTube.com. 10 July 2015. Web. 10 July 2015.

(Review-YA) Monster by Walter Dean Myers

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

Myers, Walter D, and Christopher Myers. Monster. New York, N.Y: HarperCollins Publishers, 1999. Print.ISBN-13: 978-0064407311 Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook. Paperback $8.95.

Info 684 Genre: Classic

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 11.03.13 PMReview
What does it mean to be “guilty” or “innocent?”

Who decides?

Monster follows 16-year-old Steve Harmon as he recounts his experiences in prison, and during his court case, where he is being tried as an accomplice to murder during a robbery-gone-wrong. Unable to accept that he’s really in this situation, Steve recounts his experience largely in the form of a screenplay, where he and everyone else are ‘actors’ starring in his real-life drama. The daily court scenes are mixed with nightly journal-like entries where Steve reflects on the day’s events, his prison surroundings and fellow inmates, and the steps that have led him to this point in his life.

As we read, we ride intimately along inside Steve’s head throughout the trial as he thinks about guilt and innocence, life in prison, suicide, truth and lies, and the perception of who he is. At the end both the reader and Steve are left to decide what really makes someone a Monster.

My take: I think you guys will be immediately pulled in by this suspenseful and uniquely told court-case drama. The story moves along quickly, and the characters taking part in the trial are so interesting (and dislikable) its hard to put this book down. The journal-like entries let us see inside Steve’s head while he deals with the terrifying experience of not only the trial, but of being in prison as well. The unique writing style, relatable characters, mystery, and suspense make Monster a compelling and intense read. This is an excellent addition to any library and any personal collection for young and old.

Themes include: Prison, the nature of truth, lost innocence, crime, identity, peer pressure, and dehumanization.
Awards: Michael L. Printz Award and Coretta Scott King Award in 2000.

About the Author: Walter Dean Myers (1937-2014) was an African American writer. He grew up mostly in Harlem, New York with a speech impediment. He defines himself as having done poorly in school and as frequently responding to teasing by “leading with [his] fists.” He dropped out of high school to join the military at age 17, but often found solace through reading, and later, at the urging of a beloved English teacher, in writing. Since then he has expressed himself through writing, and defines himself as writing “books for the troubled boy I once was, and for the boy who lives within me still.” You can read more of his bio at his website.


  • Find Monster at a library near you at OCLC’s Worldcat, the world’s largest library catalog!
  • If you liked Monster you can find similar titles at Goodreads.com.
  • See what other Teens have to say about Monster at TeenInk.com.
  • Debuting in October 2015 is Monster: A Graphic Novel, a black & white graphic novel interpretation of Monster.

Citation & Credits
Book cover image: Courtesy of Amazon.com
Review: Kelsey Bogan. 2015. All rights reserved.
“Walter Dean Myers.” Walter Dean Myers. Web. 27 June 2015.
Walter Dean Myers. “Monster.” Online video clip. YouTube.com. 8 April 2014. Web. 27 June 2015.
Myers, Walter Dean, & Sims, Guy A. “Monster: A Graphic Novel.” Amazon. Web. 27 June 2015.