An explosive and powerful debut novel, The Way I Used Be by Amber Smith is an intense and moving portrayal of trauma, and the uncertain path towards recovery.
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’ll admit, I’m always a little wary of books that touch on such hot button issues, such as rape, because they can so often veer into “after school special” territory.
But this is not one of those books.
The Way I Used to Be is a thoughtful, honest look at a horrific experience that is — unfortunately — all too common. Smith’s raw portrayal of Eden’s experience — both the actual rape, and the fallout that occurs over the next four years of her life — is beautiful and moving.
As a reader, you ache for Eden. You can see what she should do — what she needs to do — and yet, you understand why she doesn’t. You understand every choice she makes — even, especially the wrong ones. Because of this trauma that has happened to her, and the way it has shaken her to her very core — made her question her self and her identity, long for who she used to be and wish that this one thing had never happened, and seek out whatever form of “love” she thinks she deserves.
And while Eden’s story is a tragic one — to be so brutally attacked, and to suffer silently alone for so long — The Way I Used to Be is an ultimately triumphant story. It sheds light and hope on a very dark subject.
With an achingly beautiful narrative and carefully crafted plot, The Way I Used to Be is more than just an excellent book; it’s an important one. Look for it in stores tomorrow.