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What We Knew: A Novel Hardcover – July 14, 2015
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The Amazon Book Review
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Lisa and Tracy are best friends and both have wild imaginations. The legend of Banana Man has lived in their minds since middle school. Now in high school, Lisa still feels his presence and while she knows that the legend is not real, she still feels watched from the woods. Discovering a furnished tent in the woods only ignites her fear. Is this the work of Banana Man or something else? Once the girls decide that it is not real, a gift from Banana Man shows up only to spark their suspicions once more. The end result is not only tragic, but also tells an entirely different story of secrets and deception; readers come away understanding that there is always more than meets the eye. At times the story line is hard to follow with many secondary characters and love interests, though most readers will stay tuned to find out more about the legend of Banana Man. The characters are rough around the edges—they smoke and drink. They also take care of one another and will ring true to teens. VERDICT Older readers looking for a book that unravels the truth in an unconventional way will enjoy this urban legend.—Karen Alexander, Lake Fenton High School, Linden, MI
“The end result is not only tragic, but also tells an entirely different story of secrets and deception; readers come away understanding that there is always more than meets the eye... The characters are rough around the edges-they smoke and drink. They also take care of one another and will ring true to teens. Older readers looking for a book that unravels the truth in an unconventional way will enjoy this urban legend” ―School Library Journal
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Tracy and her best friend Lisa love to walk home late at night, but they also know which part of town to avoid. In this case, they don't go near the woods because of local legend Banana Man who is known as a pervert. Of course, they only believed that story when they were kids. As teenagers, Banana Man really hasn't crossed their minds until their boyfriends decide to take a late-night trip into the woods and see a mysterious shack. Could it be a homeless man, or could it be the infamous Banana Man?
All is well and good after the visit to the shack. Lisa loses her necklace and a flip flop but no harm done...until Lisa finds a glass eye (like ones they saw in the shack) in her room. Immediately she suspects the Banana Man. Having a younger sister, Katie, Lisa is especially wary and becomes very protective.
While Lisa struggles with her paranoia, Tracy is caught in a love triangle (would it be YA without it?), and she's also dealing with her parents' split. Plus, she has her own secret of something terrible that happened to her. Trying to figure everything out and increasingly becoming as paranoid as Lisa, Tracy decides there's only one way to handle Banana Man, and that could cost her everything.
This book reminded me a lot of a Goosebumps or Fear Street book. Each chapter leaves you hanging and wanting to continue on. Tracy's character is not without her flaws, and there are times when I really disliked her. While she is the main character, I identified more with Lisa and felt more sympathetic towards her and Katie. In fact, Lisa ends up being the driving force in a major plot twist.
We all have a local legend, that monster that no one has really seen but everyone claims that they have. The reader easily becomes a part of Tracy and Lisa's lives and carries that fear and paranoia with them. Feeling that peer pressure to do what you're not supposed to is very familiar to teens today, and here, they will see some of the consequences that accompany those actions.
More than a scary story, the book explores so many avenues that I can't mention without giving away major spoilers. Let's just say, you'll be jumpy and nervous the first half and angry and saddened the second half. It's definitely not what I thought it was going to be, and that's why I love it.
Dark, in more ways than one, What We Knew is equally tragic and frightening. www.reviewscomingatya.com
In What We Knew our main character Tracy has grown up alongside her childhood best friend Lisa hearing stories of a monster living within the nearby forests. As children, the stories terrified the two of them. Now that the girls are teenagers, Tracy recognizes that the stories are nothing more than urban legends. But when Lisa begins to insist that something is out there, the two girls are launched into a pursuit of something unknown that will test the boundaries of their friendship. Truths will come to light as the two girls begin to come to terms with the past and the present as they venture into the unknown and realize the line between reality and paranoia.
Throughout reading What We Knew, I won’t deny that I wasn’t certain of what it was I was supposed to be experiencing. Typically each chapter of a novel pushes he storyline forward. My main problem with What We Knew was that I didn’t quite understand just what the novel was supposed to be about. A quarter of the book felt like it was about discovering whether the urban legend of the man in the woods was real; another quarter felt like a story of discovering friendship; another quarter discussed sexual assault and the impact it poses on survivors; and another quarter of the novel felt a lot like filler.
I won’t deny that Stewart’s writing was good at keeping me reading. The chapters I enjoyed most were written as emails between characters and I found them the most gripping, exciting parts of the entire book. They garnered intrigue and made me interested in continuing the novel. However, as a teen reader reading a novel about teens, what took away from reading the majority of the novel for me was how the characters sounded ‘forced’. The flow of making the characters sound young and hip was inconsistent and made me wince from time to time.
What I can say is that the ending for What We Knew wasn’t at all what we expected. I genuinely enjoyed the novel’s ending and was content with the way that the story came to a conclusion. I do like the way that Sterwart treated the topic of sexual abuse and assault and the way she portrayed that in a realistic sense. I just wish that the novel could have been clearer in terms of storyline and offered an experience that felt engaging throughout.
I would recommend What We Knew to readers who are fans of authors like Cherlyn Rainfield. Readers who are looking for a novel that deals with serious themes should also give What We Knew a read. Any readers who are looking for a novel that can also be read easily should give What We Knew a try.