Title: What I Saw
Author: Beck Nicholas
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: 1st March 2016
Rating: 3/5 stars
It’s not as though he knows what I saw. No-one does.’
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.
This book had such great potential. I was really excited to read an Australian YA about alcohol-fuelled violence, seeing as the issue has permeated Australian culture so much in the past few years. HOWEVER, (and this is the part where I get a little SHOUTY!) what could have been an interesting and relevant comment on the Australian drinking culture regressed into a romance between the good girl and the bad boy! Bleugh!
Rhett was defending his sister Scarlett (yes, their mother is obsessed with Gone With the Wind) from Hayden Chapman and his no-good intentions. Hayden and his mates fight back – three against one is hardly fair, though! And then one of the boys accidentally king-hits Hayden, his own friend. An ambulance is called, and Hayden’s mates pin it on Rhett.
Callie Jones saw the whole thing. She’s the good girl, and she should tell the truth, but the boy who threw the punch is her own brother. I did quite like the ethical dilemma here – does she defend Rhett, the boy who is in the right, or her family, which already has enough dramas without this one? But I only liked it initially, before the decision became more about how much she wanted to be with Rhett……
What I Saw tried and failed to create a discussion about teenage alcohol use. The entire book revolved around Callie’s moral dilemma. Hayden doesn’t die from the king-hit – he is in a coma for the duration of the novel. Therefore, we don’t get to see much of the aftermath of this act of violence. Hayden is safely out of the way, and the author doesn’t bother much about his family after that.
It really bothered me that Beck Nicholas took this idea of alcohol fuelled violence and turned it into a good girl/bad boy romance story. It lacked depth, and it trivialised the issue at its core. What I Saw had great potential to teach teenagers a deeper lesson about alcohol and its effects, but it didn’t live up to it.
How do you feel when important cultural issues become trivialised in fiction? Do you think overplaying romance can detract from important themes in a novel?