The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith
Version: ARC PB
Rating: 3 stars
Published: March 22nd 2016
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 won this book from a Goodreads giveaway, and will be reviewing it. My review is not impacted in any way.
Trigger warnings ahead: Rape, violence, abuse, sex, etc.
The Way I Used to Be is not a light YA novel. The book begins with our main character, Eden, trying to process what had just happened minutes prior - she was raped by her brother's best friend, Kevin. As she was threatened with her life, she refuses to tell anyone, and as a result, this changes the "way she used to be", and it affects her for the rest of her high school years. The story is told in parts, starting with Freshman year all the way to Senior year, and in each year, Eden struggles with her identity and her relationships with everyone, going through a downward spiral of depression.
While I loved the maturity of the novel and praise Smith for tackling such a sensitive topic, I didn't really connect with the book as much as I wanted to. Without being sensitive to the subject of rape (which is something one must take very seriously), I did not really like Eden as a character. I sympathized and understood her emotions and her outbursts, but she pushed away all the people who could have helped her, and it was a repeated cycle of forgiveness and anger. Many times I was frustrated at her for her treatment of people who wanted to help her - although, this may have been a result of an inability to trust people after her traumatic experience.
Regardless, I felt that everything got worse for Eden as she bottled in her anger and hate, with only the small section of the ending dedicated to Eden discovering that things get better (and I myself liked the book better in the end, too). The angst was at times difficult to read and sympathizing with Eden when she lashed out at nice characters like her mom or Josh or Steve or Mara was hard to do. However, it was particularly interesting to see her relationship with her parents develop. What was once a loving relationship eventually devolved into mere formality, to the point where Eden referred to her parents using their first names.
I don't mean to sound like a jerk or insensitive to an extremely sensitive topic. The drugs, drinking, lying, and sleeping around as a means to nullify the pain Eden felt only served to worsen her pain, and it's a shame that the events did not affect me as deeply. While this story is redemptive, there is not much depth to its characters, and the one main character only annoyed me with her behavior.
I really wished I liked this book more, and unfortunately I'm in the minority on this one.