by Amber Smith
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.
Thank you to Margaret K. McElderry Books for providing me with this book in exchange for an honest review.
Trigger warning: profane language, rape
My heart hurts. This book was the most emotional and raw novel I’ve read this year. THE WAY I USED TO BE follows the four years of high school in the perspective of Eden, a girl who was raped by her brother’s best friend before her freshman year.
Eden’s story is not a new one, per se, but it is incredibly important. The plot is very character-driven, and it was so heartbreaking to read about Eden and her thoughts and actions as she continues through high school. Smith does a fantastic job in making the writing sound so realistic and convincing, so much that I felt Eden’s pain and I understood Eden as a character.
It was really interesting to see how much Eden was changed throughout the four years of high school. Although there seems to be some friendships that Eden could maintain, the fact that she couldn’t really shows how much her rape affected her life. However, I felt as if the secondary characters, such as Josh and her best friend, weren’t developed as much as I would have liked them to be. I really felt as if they were just there and didn’t really show how much Eden had changed.
Another aspect of the novel that I really enjoyed was the writing style. It was so addicting and easy to read, although difficult to take in and emotionally painful. As the novel progresses, especially the end, Eden is able to confide in a few people about what happened to her. I quite enjoyed the last quarter of the novel because I felt it really showed that Eden wasn’t someone who needed saving, but someone who survived.
I really enjoyed this book. It was emotional and heartbreaking, and I flew through the pages. If you’re looking for something that will make you cry and rip your heart out, definitely pick this one up.
Have you read this book? If not, are you planning to? Let me know your thoughts!