TITLE: The Way I Used To Be
AUTHOR: Amber Smith
PAGES: 367 pages
PUBLISHED: March 22nd 2016
PUBLISHER: Margaret K. McElderry Books
GENRE: Young Adult, Contemporary, Sad Topic(s)
MY RATING: 5/5 birds
This is the debut novel by Amber Smith that explores one young woman’s struggles as one act affected her entire life. Eden’s world is forever changed when her brother’s best friend rapes her. We get to see Eden’s life from freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year and see the profound effects of her trauma.
An immensely complex and thought-provoking novel that demonstrates unbelievable pain, heartbreak, friendship, and the importance of survival.
Well, this book really hit me hard. Eden reminded me a little too much of myself…the self-destructive behaviour and I don’t want to put too much of myself out there but some of it reminded me of stuff I did when I was younger. I have never been raped but I still related to Eden in so many ways.
The books that really hit you are always the hardest to review! But besides my own personal connection to Eden, one of the things I really liked about the novel was how the author showed how not only the main character Eden was affected, but how that one single action changed the lives of so many other people around her. It makes you step back and think. Everyone is always so quick to judge. Let’s be honest, if you were or are still in high school and heard about all the things about this girl Eden did you probably won’t have a good impression of her right? The author does a great job of exposing slut shaming, not only by her peers but also by her own self-labelling as she struggled to figure herself out. It was wonderful to get to hear Eden’s side of the story, all of her shame, fear, guilt and suddenly we are less judgemental. As a reader, I mostly just wanted to hug Eden and tell her everything was going to be okay. It’s a good reminder to step back and realise that everyone around us is fighting some sort of battle.
I wish the novel had focused a bit more on Eden’s relationship with her parents though. That felt really lacking. I was really curious when Eden started calling her parents by their first name and not Mom and Dad and why/how that all happened. I was also a bit disappointed with the ending, as it felt really abrupt. Eden finally spoke about her rape and we don’t even get to see her go through telling her parents. I think that was critical because her mom was the first person she could have told and didn’t. I was really curious to read her parents reaction and see Eden go through her emotions of coming to terms with the sexual abuse.
This was also by no means a romance in any form but I just wanted to add that I really liked Josh. I thought he was very well written and in the end I was glad that the author didn’t have Eden rely on him too much and she realised that she needed to come to terms with herself on her own. I still hope that in the future, someday they get back together because I love the way Josh treats Eden. He was a complete sweetheart and I could see them being very good together.
Even though there was something a bit lacking in the story it still gets 5 stars from me because it made me cry in the end and it’s fairly rare for me to cry while reading a book. To invoke that strong of an emotion just makes it that much better.