Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: March 22, 2016
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "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."
Eden is your average high school freshman. She's sort of shy, is in band, and has one really good best friend. Her older brother is home from college and his best friend, Kevin, is as well. Kevin is pretty much an honorary family member. They grew up with him and he often stays at their house for holidays. One night Kevin shockingly rapes Eden and threatens her if she tells anyone. Obviously, this sends Eden into a state of despair and unfortunately, self-destruction. Her rape not only changed her body and her relationships, but also the relationship with herself. She doesn't tell anyone what happened and it festers like an infected wound. The story is told over her four years of high school and even though she tries to move on, what happened to her always comes back to haunt her that is until she confronts it. Amber Smith's debut, The Way I Used to Be, is a tough read. It examines situations that will make readers feel uncomfortable, but it's an important novel as this is a reality for many young people today.
Oh, Eden. She broke my heart big time in The Way I Used to Be. At first she was this innocent young girl and because of what happened to her, she was transformed into someone almost unrecognizable. I wanted so, so badly for her to tell her best friend, a counselor at school, or even her mother, but things weren't easy. Parts of high school were hard for her to bear, thanks to mean girls. Plus, there was slut-shaming, rumors, and her self-destructive behavior. It was tough to read about. I wanted to reach through the pages and help her or even shake some common sense into her mother.
The Way I Used to Be was a tough read but I am glad I read it, because novels like this are challenging and take me out of my comfort zone. Not every novel should make me comfortable and I like that this book made me think. It made me think about how we raise girls verses how we raise boys, how women should be more supportive of other women instead of constantly trying to tear each other down, and it made me think about sexual assault in today's society. It's upsetting, but that is part of what kept me glued to the pages. I just had to know how things were going to end up for Eden.
If you are looking for a powerful novel this year, you need to pick up The Way I Used to Be. Parts of the novel will enrage you, but it's worth the read. I think this book will find a nice spot on bookshelves right next to Anderson's Speak.