Thursday, January 4, 2018

Book Review: The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith

Young Adult, Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date:March 22, 2016
Published By: Simon Schuster Audio
Website:Amber Smith

The Way I Used to Be on Goodreads
My review copy:
Borrowed from local library

Where to get:

In the tradition of Speak, this extraordinary debut novel shares the unforgettable story of a young woman as she struggles to find strength in the aftermath of an assault.

Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes.

What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved—who she once loved—she now hates. What she thought she knew to be true, is now lies. Nothing makes sense anymore, and she knows she’s supposed to tell someone what happened but she can’t. So she buries it instead. And she buries the way she used to be.

Told in four parts—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year—this provocative debut reveals the deep cuts of trauma. But it also demonstrates one young woman’s strength as she navigates the disappointment and unbearable pains of adolescence, of first love and first heartbreak, of friendships broken and rebuilt, and while learning to embrace a power of survival she never knew she had hidden within her heart.


The Way I Used to Be is a powerful and emotional novel. I listened to it in two days, finishing as an eBook because I couldn't stop and had to find out how it ended.

The story starts with Eden's rape. It's not grotesque, but not pleasant either. She wakes the next morning thinking it was a dream but quickly finds out it was real. She knows she should tell her Mom, but has trouble finding the words to do so. Instead, she showers and heads downstairs to have breakfast with her family and Kevin.

What follows is Eden's experience through high school while dealing with this traumatic event she has not told anyone. She experiences many common firsts in high school (making friends, losing friends, romantic relationships, etc.) while at the same time trying to "move on" from what happened without actually moving on.

Her relationships with her parents and brother suffer, she sleeps in a sleeping bag on the floor, and finds a comfort in continually updating her number with a string of random guys.

This story is raw and powerful. While a work of fiction, it's heartbreaking to know that some semblance of Eden's story and character is true to life. Individuals who have gone through traumatic experiences and are trying to cope with what happened to them. Trying to live.

It's at times uncomfortable and unsettling, but Amber handles this with grace, class, and honestly. Eden goes through a hard and lonely journey, but at the same time her journey is a meaningful one that ends with something we could all use a little more of: hope.

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