The Way I Used to Be
by Amber Smith
Summary: 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.
Source: I purchased a hardcover.
Wow. The Way I Used to Be was very good and well executed. Speak is sort of the book that I compare all other that deal with the same topic, so they typically have big shoes to fill. My initial reaction upon finishing this one is that I thought it compared to it quite well. Now, I’m not saying that it is better, but I felt wowed when I closed the book. I felt like it dealt with not speaking up as well as finding your identity ON TOP OF swinging to the other end of the spectrum with the mentality that if my body isn’t mine, why should I keep it to myself? And that is such a tough thing to accomplish, but the book nailed it.
The story jumped immediately in. By page 8, it was happening. I had to blink a few times.. not ready. The book just sort of took you right into it. It wasn’t graphic or anything, but it was clearly happening. And then we got to watch Edy transform and deal (or not deal) with the emotions that the event caused.
Edy was the geeky band girl, the girl no one noticed. And that’s how she knew her rapist knew she wouldn’t tell. So she made it her goal to be visible, be different, and step out of the role that she was somehow stuck in. At the same time, her friend was also changing, her brother went to college, so things were in a transition type of phase. And suddenly, Edy’s name started showing up on bathroom stalls. Slut. Whore. But Edy had blocked herself off from emotion long before. She then started actually sleeping around, not caring who she gave her body to.
The Way I Used to Be was such a hard hitting novel. It was messy. Edy wasn’t always a great person. She hated with a hate that she couldn’t even really deal with. She cut herself off from everyone, even part of herself. I ached for her to heal, but I knew she was dealing with her own identity. In some ways, the book is just another story about rape. Surely, there are many books that deal with the subject well and Edy as a character does NOT deal with it well. But I enjoyed the journey because it was so messy and it because it also dealt a bit with the slut shaming that happens, too. Also, not everything was a cautionary tale.. not every action was analyzed later. Her best friend was also being a crappy friend, drinking, changing identities and hair colors and I felt like it was a good “control” for the book.. it made me look at it like, while Edy was being destructive as a result of being raped, not EVERYTHING she was doing was necessarily related. It was also part of being a teenager, realizing you’ve been trapped in a household and school that has determined your identity. You don’t speak up, that’s not just what you do, it’s who you are and it’s expected of you, now. I just loved that the book dealt with the aftermath of that realization.
I definitely recommend The Way I Used to Be.