Author: Amber Smith
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: 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—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.
*Trigger Warning: This book does contain discussions about rape as well as a scene in which the main character is raped (The part of the review that discusses it are highlighted)*
I don't know where to begin with this book. I think any book about something as tough as rape, makes you sit back and think about how to approach it in a review or discussion. Do I ignore it and continue on with my review of characterization, what I liked and disliked or do I acknowledge it? It is a silent battle that I been having for the twenty minutes that I've stared at my computer screen trying to write this review.
When Eden was fourteen years old, her brother's best friend, who was like a brother to her. Entered her bedroom and raped her. Eden, who was scared out of her mind kept this secret hidden for the three/four years this book took place over. Told from freshman, sophomore, junior and senior year we see Eden grow and change, this life altering event shaping who she becomes over those three/four years.
At the opening of The Way I used to Be my heart shattered for Eden. She is fourteen, alone and terrified. She had no one. Though she had friends and family she was scared to tell them what had happened. Freshmen year turns into sophomore and Eden is a different person, new clothes, makeup, hair that is no longer frizzy. She attracts the attention of a senior basketball player Josh. When Eden lies to him and tells him that she is sixteen rather then fourteen, the two peruse a sexual relationship.
Quite quickly the reader watches Eden fall into a dark hole. The once innocent, caring, sweet girl that she was is gone being replaced by someone who is nasty, bitter, and mean. She learned relatively quickly that she had control over her own sexuality, and uses it as a way to cope with her assault. Something she learned from being with Josh. But by her Junior and senior year Josh was no longer part of the picture, having left Eden behind (Or Eden leaving him behind)
Eden is stuck in one part of her life, as the people around her continued to live and move forward. Her relationship with her best friend is failing, she refers to her parents by their first names rather then mom or dad and she chain smokes, drinks and has sex with random boys she meets at parties. Her life is unraveling from something she feel likes she can't share with anyone.
I enjoyed Smith's writing style, and the characters she gave to us. Each person you met was essential to the story in some way, shape or form. The book opens with a brief explanation of Eden's rape. But it isn't until later on that it is elaborated more. Smith's style of writing made her words jump off the page, filling the readers with emotion. During the later talk of rape and Eden's experience I couldn't help but cry for her.
My only complaint is about how the book ended and at some points it felt repetitive. I wish It was more set in stone about what would happen next with her family, friends, and Josh moving forward from what happen. But I like the openness. In my head it all works out for the best.
Nothing I say will give this book as much praise as it deserves. I wasn't something easy to read. The subject will never be easy. But it was raw, heartbreaking and something scary to even think about. If you to read one book in 2016, it should be this one!