Book Review · Contemporary · YA Fiction

The Way I Used To Be by Amber Smith: Book Review

23546634 (1)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.

I’ve had this particular novel in my TBR for quite a while, but I finally was in the mood for a young adult contemporary that would wrench at my heart. And I really did pick the right novel for my mood. In The Way I Used To Be, Amber Smith relates Eden’s story in concise narratives by exploring each year of her high school experience after the rape.

Forewarning though: This book did not follow the traditional path where the character in question begins a journey of healing and self-discovery after the trauma she endured. As much as I believe those stories are a beacon of light and deserve love and audiences, I also think that novels with a little darker perspective are important as well. Instead of the traditional path the reader expects, they witness Eden’s downward spiral into destructive behaviors. We witness this hopeless girl trying to fix herself any way she can as she is firm in the belief that she is unable to ask for help. At times, readers will forget that the main character is so young– and then it hits us how drastically a person can change just by their environment and what happens in them.

Don’t fret too much though, the story does have a (somewhat) satisfying conclusion. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, especially since it touched me in ways that I didn’t know could be touched. I commend Smith’s on an excellent debut. Her work does its job in making us uncomfortable, vulnerable, and maybe, a little hopeful.


Next review: The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti.

Last review: The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

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Until next time!


3 thoughts on “The Way I Used To Be by Amber Smith: Book Review

    1. Not graphic at all! The scenes are more implicated than narrated- it more focuses on the healing and actions of the girls instead! Although the story does drain your energy since we’re talking about heavy subjects. Girl, just message me if you want support while reading it and I’ll be there, okay? ❤️💖

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