The Way I Used to Be Review

March 21, 2016 Reviews, Young Adult 1 ★★★★★

The Way I Used to Be ReviewThe Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on March 22nd 2016
Pages: 384
Source: Edelweiss
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I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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.

I was approved to read this novel on Edelweiss back in November and I figured that I’d wait a little longer to read it since the release date was still a good four months away. Once I started reading the very first page of this, I was instantly hooked. The book begins with some painful (but not overly graphic) details about the rape. It’s such an emotional beginning because you immediately sense the hurt and pain that radiates from Eden as this horrible thing happens to her by a guy that she has always trusted. After reading this, I knew that there was no way that I would stop reading. I had to know how Eden was going to respond and if this awful guy was going to be put away like he deserves. It’s safe to say that rape is an incredibly difficult subject to write about. It requires so much sensitivity and I can see why a survivor of sexual assault would want to stay clear of these kinds of books altogether. With that being said, I still believe that this book is such an important one to read. It tackles the subject with such careful sensitivity, but it still manages to be extremely realistic and honest at the same time. I was blown away by this powerful debut.

As I began this, I immediately had difficulty with it because like Eden, I have an older brother. Over the years, his friends have been nothing but nice to me and I’ve accepted each of them as my older brothers as well. That being said, it was hard for me to fathom that a brother’s best friend could do this. I was lucky that nothing like this happened to me, but I also know that it’s ALL TOO COMMON that this occurs to innocent girls like Eden. Our main character was a quiet and sort of geeky girl at the start of the novel. Once Kevin rapes her, she naturally begins to become a different person. She doesn’t tell anyone about it because he threatened her, and she’s forced to keep it a secret from her family. Yes, it bothered me that she didn’t tell, but I do understand how horrible and terrifying it would be to confess that this kid who has been a presence in the household for so long did something this terrible.

The book itself is split up into four different sections: freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior years. I liked this style because we were able to see her complete growth and changes that came following this traumatizing event. Most stories regarding rape only follow that specific year, so I found this to be particularly distinctive. It gives us more of an opportunity to see how it was still impacting her life and her relationships with the people closest to her years down the line. Eden makes some dramatic changes in her life once she hits high school. Although I didn’t always fully agree with all of her choices on a personal level, I also understand that everyone has different ways of coping with what happened to them. There haven’t been enough POV’s where the victim responded in the way that Eden did. It was a truly painful experience to see her gradually go into a downward spiral. She became angry and started blaming her entire family for what happened to her. This led to the result of all her other relationships being destructive. This included with both boys and in her friendships.

One example of Eden’s behavior is that she becomes more consumed with partying and attempts to forget everything by getting involved with many boys. Her first high school relationship is with a popular athlete named Josh. He’s easily one of my favorite characters in the book. Though he is unaware what Eden went through when they first get together, he knows that something is clearly not right. Instead of pushing her to tell him what’s going on, he’s patient and does his best to simply be what Eden needs. Don’t get me wrong though, this book isn’t about Josh saving Eden in anyway. Eden is the only person who can heal herself and come clean about what happened to her, no one else saves her. That’s another reason why I believe this book is so important. Most of the time, guys aren’t going to save you when something terrible happens to you, so I like that this book sends a different message entirely.

I am so glad that Amber Smith told this beautiful and tragic story about a young girl starting off her freshman year and going through all four years of high school, attempting to forget about her sexual assault. This is by no means a light and fluffy read, it’s at times pretty explicit, the imagery painted by the author just punches you right in the gut. While there’s no possible way that I will ever understand the pain that rape victims have to deal with on a daily basis, I do believe that this book helped strengthen my understanding of how they find a way to just make it through the day. This is a book that I strongly recommend to any and all readers out there. Despite it being months since I read it, it’s one that it still burned into my brain and I don’t see me forgetting it anytime soon.


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