What I Saw by Beck Nicholas

In brief: Callie Jones is a good girl, so nobody would think she would be outside the school dance in the bushes when a king hit is thrown. But she was and now she’s faced with a dilemma: stick up for bad boy Rhett or destroy a family? (Read more about the book here).

The good: Loved Rhett, he’s a sweetheart.

The not-so-good: The circumstances surrounding the king hit – why are people so horrible?

Why I chose it: Thank you to Harlequin for the ARC.

Year: 2016

Pages: 301

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Setting: Australia

My rating: 8 out of 10

I’ve never read Beck Nicholas before but I’ve heard only awesome things about her novel Fake. So naturally when I was offered a copy of her new novel, What I Saw, my fingers leapt so quickly over the keyboard I lost a few of the letterings! I’m enjoying reading the odd YA book as they deal with issues directly (none of this faffing about adults are so great at!) and aren’t afraid to tackle difficult subjects. What I Saw takes contentious issues from the headlines and turns it into an interesting, thought provoking read. But it’s also a sweet romance and an exploration of the labels people are tagged with so early in their life.

What I Saw is told from the first person point of view of Callie and Rhett. Initially, they are completely separated from each other in their relatively small town – nobody would dream of putting two opposites in the same room. Callie is the school captain, she’s a Good Girl® and she’s one half of the school’s power couple. Rhett is tagged the opposite – he’s a Bad Boy, not going anywhere except gaol. But are both these tags reasonable? We find out that Callie’s isn’t 100% early on in the book – she’s drunk too much spiked punch at the school dance after her boyfriend has failed to show and is throwing up in the bushes. Rhett is hiding out there and helps Callie out (sign #1 that he’s not a bad boy to the core). Rhett is also protective of his sister (another reason why he got his bad name) and works at the local vet after school. (Surely this would redeem him a little in the town’s eyes, but no – they see what they want to see. Having a father in gaol, a house on the wrong side of the tracks and a ‘lazy’ mother is enough to label him). When Scarlett (cool names here!) is about to be attacked by the school football team, Rhett stands up for her and the star player is king hit. Callie sees the entire thing. But why doesn’t she speak up immediately?

The king hit of Hayden is dealt with in an interesting way – it almost seems to be a school matter with the police on the fringes. This allows the characters to seek out revenge (and hopefully redemption in Rhett’s case) over the weekend before action is taken. And what a weekend it is – with alcohol, violence and a sweet romance developing between Callie and Rhett. The romance is a nice juxtaposition as the town rages as the football star Hayden lies in a coma. It slows everything down and puts it in perspective. I loved learning about Rhett’s past (really, he’s no bad boy) and Callie’s chequered history. I would have liked more page time for Rhett’s twin Scarlett. She seems like a quirky, funny girl with hidden talents who is unfairly slutshamed and marginalised in the town. Some chapters from her perspective would have been great (sequel perhaps?). The other supporting character Bree (Callie’s best friend) was intriguing too – she could be a two faced bitch, but also had the ability to be very mature and sensible. I’d love to know more about how she switched between the two (besides teen hormones!).

I’ve also written that the setting for What I Saw is Australia, but really it could be anywhere – a small town on the beach in America would easily fit the bill. The setting is quite generic and I’m not sure if that it is intentional to make the reader focus even more on the issues facing the characters. It’s only for the use of the words ‘mum’ and ‘uni’ (aka college) that I get the feeling it’s set in Australia.

The point of view switch between Callie and Rhett also showed how similar they are, even in their thoughts! It’s a bit of an instaromance when you consider the whole story takes place over less than four days, but hey, they’re so cute together that I’m happy to let that go. What I Saw is a story that balances the heavy with the sweet nicely and faces all the issues honestly. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to check out Fake.

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