“The Way I Used to Be,” the first novel written by author Amber Smith, was published in 2016, and it’s almost impossible to put it down. If you were a fan of Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Speak,” this might just be your next read.
This book tells the story of a teenage girl named Eden, and it wastes no time in getting right to the point, even on the back cover—it explores the aftermath of the night her older brother’s best friend rapes her at the beginning of her freshman year of high school.
The book follows Eden and the transformation she goes through in order to cope and bury the past through four parts: her freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year of high school.
Eden is a complex character, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t find it hard to take in some of the story. She makes reckless decisions for the sake of dealing with the trauma she is forced to endure, and something about the realistic changes in her character struck a nerve with me. As hard as it was to put down, I had to take a break in the middle of reading the book because I felt too sucked in to the story.
The other characters, like Eden’s family members, friends, and even the older boy who raped her, are also complex and written in a way that makes them realistic. It was easy to see my own family and friends embodied in Smith’s characters.
“I want to get as far away from the past as possible, be as different from that girl as I can,” says the quote on the back cover of the book. This is a theme for Eden throughout the novel.
The book itself is well-written and shows a lot of hidden truths about the way people respond to hard situations.
Many reviewers, such as Amy Reed, the author of “Beautiful and Clean,” have said that Eden is heroine going through her own hero’s journey, just in a distorted way.
Overall, the book is an excellent read and drew me in right away. Everything from the cover photo to the summary to the first few pages is powerful and sucks the reader in.