Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publish Date: March 22 2016
Page Amount: 367 pages
Price: $17.99 Hardback
ISBN: 1481449354 (ISBN13: 9781481449359)
ISBN: 1481449354 (ISBN13: 9781481449359)
ABOUT THE WAY I USED TO BE:
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.
ABOUT AMBER SMITH:
Amber Smith grew up in Buffalo, NY and now lives in Charlotte, NC with her two dogs. After graduating from art school with a BFA in Painting, she earned her MA in Art History. When she’s not writing, she is working as a curator and art consultant. She has also written on the topics of art history and modern and contemporary art. The Way I Used to Be is her first novel.
Note: This book tackles very, very serious topics and has very, very in depth discussions about them. This book involves flashbacks, sexual content/abuse, and drug use. This should not be read by younger readers due to the nature of the discussions in this book and the content within it.
You will need a box of tissues for this one....or, maybe more than just a box. The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith was a whirlwind of emotions, a non-stop roller-coaster ride from start to finish. Smith tackles sensitive subjects with dignity and offers insightful discussions about the aftermath of sexual abuse, especially as pertains to teenage readers.
This being said, I really loved to read this story. Eden had my heart from the second I opened up the book. Eden is a freshman in high school when she is raped by her brother's best friend. After being verbally threatened with her life, Eden keeps this a secret, worried about both retaliation and reactions that she might get from her family members and friends.
The Way I Used to Be discusses the aftermath of sexual assault and the effects that it has way into the future. The book is told from Eden's point of view and as a reader, I liked being able to see her thought process and justifications for her actions. Even if they were not actions that I agreed with some of the time, seeing her justifications made it easier for me to support her and understand her not only as a character, but as if she was a person in real life.
I don't want to discuss too much of the plot within my review because it is such a sensitive topic and I also don't want to trigger anyone out there who might be reading this. If you are at all sensitive to sexual assaults/abuse, drug use or even bullying, this is likely not the book for you. But if you feel you are in a safe space now and would like to read it, by all means, go ahead. I think that The Way I Used to Be does a great job in communicating and addressing the stigma that we hold against victims of sexual assault and rape.
I also loved how this book showed the aftermath while still having additional plot points. Eden was still a high school student, and still going through other dilemmas aside from the sexual assault. She is still a teenager and had other things to grapple with; which made it that much harder to continue to make the best decisions for her well-being.
I also like how this didn't shame anyone that doesn't speak up about an incident like this right away. People who don't report sexual assaults/harassment, rape or even violence are not cowards if they don't report it right away. Also, not reporting it doesn't mean it didn't happen. Whether an incident happened minutes ago or years ago, a person still has a right to report it and to be seen as telling the truth.
I liked how this book dealt with someone that didn't know when or how to report this, and was even scared to do so. Again, I liked seeing her thought process for this reason - this is not something that I have seen in a typical young adult book - and these kinds of sensitive topics need to be addressed more often. Amber Smith addresses these topics very well.
To wrap up, I just want to say that this book was an experience for me. My heart ached throughout the entire book and I wanted to do anything I could to help Eden out. I also want to say that I am very sorry in case any of my review comes across in a negative light in terms of sexual assault and otherwise. Especially because this is a sensitive topic, I tried my best to phrase my statements carefully as to not cause harm or offend anyone.
The Way I Used to Be can be seen as a taboo book by some, and sadly, will likely get banned in school districts and libraries because of the content within it. I will fight against this. We need more books like The Way I Used to Be, to help us speak out in support of sexual assault victims and to erase the stigma against them as well.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
3/30: Such A Novel Idea - Q&A
3 Finished Copies of The Way I Used to Be (US Only)