Title: The Way I Used to Be
Author: Amber Smith
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
The Way I Used to Be was the March pick for one of the book clubs I go to, and man, was this selection a doozy. It burrowed its way into my mind and heart, making me feel sick, enraged, and incredibly hopeful, all at once. A heartbreaking, realistic and all too timely depiction of a young woman dealing with a brutal rape at the hands of her brother’s best friend, The Way I Used to Be was a hard work to get through, but I’m so glad that I read it. Now more than ever do we need stories like Eden’s, and I will never forget it; I couldn’t, even if I’d tried. The book is divided into four parts, one for each of Edy’s years in high school. The rape occurs when she’s a freshman, and she spends the rest of her high school career angry, hurt, and afraid. This book cut me to the quick, especially since there are real life stories just like hers, every heartbreaking, excruciatingly painful moment of it.
Eden was raped by her brother’s best friend in the middle of the night when she was fourteen years old, by someone she loved, trusted, even idolized. Forced into silence by the boy’s violent, vicious threats, she deals with the trauma the only way she knows how: by taking control of her own body, having meaningless sex with near-strangers, and pushing everyone she loves away. Her friends and family don’t understand why she’s acting so unlike herself, but Eden just wants to forget. But when she discovers that Kevin has hurt another young woman, she must make the choice to stay silent or speak up, even if it means finally facing what happened four years ago.
This book—I’m not going to lie, it was really hard to get through, even though I finished it in two and a half days. It was painful, heartbreaking, and it cut me right down to the soul. It was timely, though, and absolutely unforgettable. I wept, I raged, I screamed. Eden wormed her way into my heart and will never leave; this book, to me, was as groundbreaking and truthful as Laurie Halsie Anderson’s classic, Speak, just in a different sort of vein. The pacing was breakneck, the prose spare but powerful, and my heart broke for Eden and her situation, partly because it was so true to life. I also really liked the supporting characters of the book, especially Mara, Cameron, Josh, and Caelin. But it was Eden who stole the show, for me: I liked the way she took control of her situation the only way she knew how, even as my heart broke for her. I liked the way the book was broken up into Edy’s four years of high school. This book—it hurt so much. It made me feel everything, but by the end of it all, I was ultimately hopeful. A searing, all too timely portrait of a young woman trying to deal with a life-changing trauma, The Way I Used to Be is an unforgettable, terrifying book that should be read by all—the only issue I had was that I had trouble with the fact that none of Edy’s friends and family seemed to know what was wrong with her, or even wanted to try. But nonetheless, this book was amazing, eye-opening, even though it was unbearable at times. The bottom line: A tender, sympathetic book that chronicles a young woman’s journey from victim to a person who accepts herself, The Way I Used to Be was amazing, an emotional journey that was like a punch to the gut. Required reading for all. Next on deck: The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross!