Content warning: discussions of rape
When I decided to pick up the book, The Way I Used To Be by Amber Smith, I didn't expect it to be such a rough read as the book, and this review, discusses sensitive topics such as rape and its devastating consequences. The book follows teen Eden McCrorey, who is raped by her older brother’s best friend, Kevin. Constantly reminded of Kevin’s greatness, Eden buries the truth because she feels like no one will believe her. Eden’s continuous struggles of hiding the rape throughout high school led to many hardships. She begins to distract herself with smoking, partying, drinking, sex, anything to avoid reality. Eden finds a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel when she meets a senior basketball player, Josh. He was a breath of fresh air, but when he found out Eden lied about her age, he ended it. She continues her bad habits, eventually leading to Eden lash out at her best friend Mara, causing her to lose someone who had her best interests at heart. As if her situation couldn’t get worse, she begins to disconnect from her family as Eden continues to act out. The light at the end of the tunnel fades away as she falls deeper into isolation, feeling emotionally and physically damaged beyond repair. It’s not until Kevin is accused of raping his ex-girlfriend that Eden slowly starts to digging up the truth she had buried all of high school. Eden accepts what happened to her, determined to not stay silent.
Amber Smith writes young adult novels, with many spreading awareness about issues related to themes of sexual and domestic abuse. The Way I Used To Be discusses topics such as rape, so for those who may be sensitive to these themes should proceed with caution as the book may be triggering. However, I highly recommend this book to those interested in broadening their undertanding of these topics as it provides an insight on rape victims on issues such as why many survivors feel like they should be silent. As I read the book, there were many times where I internally exclaimed “Why doesn’t Eden just tell someone already?” but after finishing the book, the main takeaway was that Eden’s journey shows that there is no right or wrong way to handle the trauma of rape.