Before I say anything else, I have to tell you…The Way I Used to Be is one of the most powerful, gripping books that I have ever read – it is full of raw, painful emotion that will make you smile, cry, love, and hate – often at the same time.
The Way I Used to Be tells the harrowing story of one girl’s life while dealing with the aftermath of being raped by her brother’s best friend – someone she thought she could look up to and trust. Told in four parts – Freshman year, Sophomore year, Junior year, and Senior year, this novel explores Eden’s downward spiral as she is forced to continue her day to day life while dealing with the horrible events that occurred when she least expected it – and from someone she never even considered might hurt her.
The book opens right after the incident happens – and we instantly are drawn in – feeling every emotion that Eden herself feels. She is scared, no – terrified, and she doesn’t know what to do. She knows she should tell someone – but who? Her family idolizes Kevin – her brother’s best friend, and she doesn’t believe that they would even hear her, let alone believe her accusations. She doesn’t want to tell her brother – he seems like he can’t be without Kevin these days, so that would be a mistake. So she does the only thing she thinks of – tries to pretend it didn’t happen. Only, it did, and those actions have forever rips Eden from being a smart, quirky, loving girl, and thrusts her into a lonely existence of keeping a secret that is slowly destroying her. As her life continues through high school – from the moment it happens in her freshman year until her senior year, everything about Eden changes. She starts drinking, smoking, partying, and sleeping with as many guys as she can just to try and numb her pain. When she finally meets someone who she genuinely cares about, she cannot bring herself to tell him the truth or even be the type of girlfriend he deserves.
As Eden continues her descent into a painful, lonely life, she begins pushing away everyone, including her very best friend, Mara. As Mara begins dating a boy they met in their freshman year, Eden feels even more lonely, and begins making even worse decisions on her own, losing the only friend that she ever really had.
The Way I Used to Be was such a hard book to read. The emotions in this book, along with the ones you will inevitably feel, are all over the place. One minute you’ll feel like everything might work out for Eden, and the next minute, you’ll find that you’re watching her fall apart and exhibit even worse self-destructive behavior than she did the year before. It’s depressing, it’s horrifying, and it’s so well written that you won’t put this book down until you finish reading Eden’s story. And after you’ve finished, you’ll think about all the young women that have had similar experiences and felt those same emotions, and it will make your heart hurt even worse.
Amber Smith did such a wonderful job bringing Eden’s character to life, and you can see how she changes from year to year. In her freshman year she is a bubbling young girl who is eager to start a lunchtime book club with her friends, but by her junior and senior years, she is out all night, partying, sleeping with a lot of guys, and completely losing herself. Her character is one that you can’t help but feel a connection with instantly, and this amazing writing lasts throughout the entire book as we watch Eden develop from a girl into a young woman. With the amount of character development and changes that happen in this book, you’re going to be blown away by the fact that this is, indeed, Amber Smith’s debut novel. Can we please take some time and give this amazing new author a big round of applause for approaching such a sensitive subject and tackling it in a way that is meaningful, important, and so incredibly well written?
I’m not going to lie – you’re going to be feeling A LOT when you read this book. Arm yourself with tissues, because it will make you cry, there’s no way around it. It’s going to make you angry, as well, so be prepared. I don’t read a lot of books that deal with really deep emotions like this one, but it’s worth it. You’re going to want to block out a good period of time to read this, because there’s no way you’ll be able to just set it aside after a few chapters – hours will pass, and you’ll find yourself lost in Eden’s world.
Also an interesting part about this book, and something that makes it completely different than other books dealing with this subject, is the fact that it details Eden’s life after it occurred, instead of the events that led up to it happening. It didn’t go into detail (at least not right off the bat, but some flashbacks provide insight into the night it happened) about the event as it happened, but we got to see how it changed Eden – and just how badly it damaged her self esteem, her happiness, and her life.
If you read one book this spring, let this one be it. If you don’t mind emotional stories that deal with important, meaningful issues (that should really be talked about more), than please don’t let this be one that you miss.
Note: I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.