The Way I Used to Be

ByAmber Smith

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Readers` Reviews

★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
braden fraser
This is not a story that needed to be told. This is the most mundane chain of events masquerading as a novel. You could learn all of the effects of rape on a young woman that this book illustrates by watching one season of Law & Order SVU. There is nothing special about it. Nothing gripping, or heart-wrenching, really.

This is a book that will either work for you or it won't. I, for one, prefer my books to have some sort of, you know, story. I understand that the point of this book was to portray life after rape, but to do so without even bothering to create a story is self-indulgent. Sorry.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
shawn edrei
(Trigger warning for rape/sexual assault.)

As mentioned above, this book is about rape and more specifically coping with the trauma that follows it. I’ve read other novels in the YA world about girls who were victims of rape and sexual assault, however, none quite like this.

The story starts off during Eden’s freshman year, and follows her through the rest of her high school journey. I think that this technique was a really unique way to show the progression of what keeping a secret so big bottled up can do to you, even though I’ve seen others argue that it made the story lack depth.

Contrary to what I’ve read in some other reviews, if there’s one thing that I whole-heartedly believe that this story is not lacking, it’s depth. After Eden is raped by her brothers best friend, she’s convinced that his threats were serious, and that she can’t tell anyone. So she doesn’t tell a single person about what’s happened to her, and it sends her spiraling into a depression.

Over the course of her four years in high school, that one night changes her completely, and it’s not for the better. She has unpredictable mood swings, pushes those closest to her away, begins to treat sex as if it’s nothing, and delves into drinking and drugs too. I felt as though Eden’s actions were all done with reason, even if they obviously weren’t good decisions. This also isn’t the type of novel where one day the girl is in a deep depression, and the next she’s suddenly completely okay, and I love that Smith kept it that way. It made this book so much more of an accurate take on the real struggles victims of sexual assault and rape face. No, this book does not explain everyone's exact reactions/trauma, but it does showcase what it MIGHT look like in as real of a way as possible.

All around I really enjoyed this book a lot, and I highly reccomend you pick up a copy!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
eli suddarth
I had a hard time rating this book. I decided on three starts which still means I liked the book. I just really had a hard time with this one. I hate what Edy had to go through as a 14-year-old child. It was hard to read, it always is, it's hard to go through, it always is for the innocent one. I just really had a hard time with her not telling her mom right then, when she walked in the door that morning. So many of these kids are afraid to say anything, they don't think anyone will believe them. Especially if it's someone popular, someone in the family, a family friend, etc. But she had all of the evidence right there... right there..... I wanted to scream for her to call the cops and scream at her mom. Her parents were NOT very good to her, at least it seemed that way in the book. They weren't abusive, they just made Edy feel like her older brother was so much more important. It was the same way at school with Edy and bullies. Oh and how I loathe bullies too!



I don't know a lot of things. I don't know why I didn't hear the door click shut. Why I didn't lock the damn door to begin with. Or why it didn't register that something was wrong--so mercilessly wrong--when I felt the mattress shift under his weight. Why didn't I scream when I opened my eyes and saw him crawling between my sheets. Or why didn't I try to fight him when I still stood the chance.
I don't know how long I lay there afterward, telling myself: Squeeze your eyelids shut, try, just try to forget. Try to ignore all the things that didn't feel right, all the things that felt like they would never feel right again. Ignore the taste in your mouth, the sticky dampness of the sheets, the fire radiating through your thighs, the nauseating pain--this bulletlike thing that ripped through you and got lodged in your gut somehow. No, can't cry. Because there's nothing to cry about. Because it was just a dream, a bad dream--a nightmare. Not real. Not real. Not real. That's what I keep thinking: NotRealNotRealNotReal. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Like a mantra. Like a prayer.


Right after that Edy almost told her mom when she came into her room that morning, but her mom wouldn't shut her mouth for two seconds trying to hurry Edy to the breakfast table. To the table where her brother's friend Kevin sat eating and being loved by the family. Her mother ran around the room telling Edy that sometimes this happens with your period. Was she stupid? She had blood all over the sheets and her nightgown and bruises on her body and neck. I'm sorry, but I have never bled that bad all over everything to where it looked like a crime scene, but her mom was clueless. She couldn't see her child was sitting there in shock!

This brings us to the years of Edy's life in high school. The book takes us through each year, through the wonderful people she met and could have been or stayed friends with, nice boyfriends she could have had but she threw it all away. She started doing drugs, drinking and sleeping with a lot of boys with no feeling.

I hate all of this happened to Edy. If she would have only told when it happened, but we are not all the same. Some have to hide it, feel like they have to at any rate. Please don't hide this girls, call the cops, get it out. YOU WILL NEVER BE ALONE IN THIS FIGHT!
This Is Where It Ends :: The List :: Before I Fall (Falling) (Volume 1) :: Before I Go: A Book Club Recommendation! :: The Beginning of Everything
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The most beautifully written piece of work that broke me down and turned me back into the helpless little girl I used to be. It's a must read for anyone, and especially those who have dealt with this kind of trauma. Cried the entire time, had the hardest time finishing, BUT it was something that I needed to read. Trust me, the tears are worth it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
temmy arthapuri
This is by far the best book I have read in a long time. It is a book that everybody needs to have on their bookshelf, as well as in their Kindle. It is written for young adults, but everybody can relate to it, no matter what your background or age is... You owe it to yourself to read this!!!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
marilia francezi
The book definitely kept me interest and was entertaining to read. I just think it dragged on rather than keeping it moving and flowing - the entire time there is seriously no objective to even make a guess on how it will end.

It was a fun read, but also a tad bit disappointing
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
michael gold
This book was written with such rawness and authenticity which just left me in pieces. It unflinchingly real, it was probably one of the most important books I've read. As someone who is a survivor of an incident far too similar to what Eden experienced I was able to connect with her and learn so much about my own self and my own experience. This book was rather cathartic for me personally and I really appreciated how true it felt to how being raped affects a person especially because as she starts to change as the months, and eventually the years ,pass. It authentically showed her mental illness as a result of her assault and how she just became this awful person who could only focus on her own pain and I just related to her so much in those moments especially because it never felt like the author was excusing her behavior only explaining it. I don't think I can say enough how true this book felt to my own life, if I had made a couple of different decisions if a few things were different than I could have easily been Eden. I think this book is so important for people to read because sexual assault doesn't just end and the pain doesn't just stop and even though every survivor has different experiences and different reactions to it there are still things that survivors all experience in one way or another and this book does justice to how a lot of people feel after that trauma myself included and I absolutely love this book for existing and making me feel like my feelings aren't wrong or unusual but I felt validated. This book is fantastic and so much can be learned from reading this and for that I give it 5 stars!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
stella faris
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.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
laurie george
Secrets have a way of trapping us in the past and keeping us from being the best of ourselves. We all have learned this to be true, but for young people growing up today sometimes secrets and events of the past can cause a belief that our lives don't matter.

In Amber Smith's powerful debut THE WAY I USED TO BE we are able to see just how a young girl named Eden holds on to a traumatic event in her life for three years or so, and how it manages to overshadow everything that she does and believes about herself.

From the very beginning the book takes you through the journey of Eden's secret, how an attack on her body was also an attack on her mind. Can she deal with what has happened to her and not allow it to destroy any chance of happiness? Written in first person we are able to slip into the skin of Eden and experience things the way she does, seeing things the way she does. By doing this the author allows us to better understand what is the real life experience for so many who have been abused or taken advantage of and have suffered in silence, not allowing themselves to be free of the burden and the shame.

This is a powerful book that I believe will serve as a great conversation piece when it comes to not just realizing your own power but not allowing others to control you through their actions. We all have a voice, and we can help ourselves and others by using it.

THE WAY I USED TO BE reminds us that we might not be able to go back to the way things were, but we can make the most of now.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
kevin krein
The character was UNLIKEABLE! Let me start there. Her story, tho tragic was plainly poorly written. As a rape survivor myself. I found this character unbelievable!
And honestly couldn't stand her after the first 3 chapters. Her rudeness toward Joshua killed it for me.
So we're not boyfriend/girlfriend, I don't want to meet your friends, parents blah blah blah! Such bs!
Her asking to be somewhere ALONE with Josh after just meeting him was also unrealistic!
Yes there are girls who go through this every day, whether it was a family member, family friend, boy at school.... it happens. However just because a girl gets raped doesn't mean she's suddenly promiscuous and a drug addict!
And her mother being so freaking BLIND to how she was behaving covered in blood? Puhleez! Bruising on her thighs went unnoticed by momma, bruising on her arms, neck and other areas unnoticed? Her behavior toward the boy who raped her went UNNOTICED by her parents and brother. AFTER she was all giggles and smiles the night before.
OMG! I could go on but it's just wasting my time. I'm kicking this one off my kindle it was not worth my money!
I highly recommend "Some Boys" now that book truly covered sexual assault correctly. This book.... ugh!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nicole huetter
The Way I used To Be is one of those books that really gets to you. It’s one that will stick with me for a long time. It’s an important book for any woman in their teens to adult to read. It’s told in four parts from after Eden was raped her Freshman year to her Senior year.

Eden was raped at age 14 by her brother’s best friend, Kevin. He’s a very close friend of the family. She grew up with him. Her parents love him. She trusted him and even loved him. She has never told anyone what happened to her; not her parents, brother or her best friend. It eats at her every day. She’s afraid of Kevin. She never wants to see him again but he comes home from college with her brother. He’s always on her mind. She can’t get away from the memory of what he did to her.

This horrific crime has changed her, altered her personality. She’s angry, broken and empty. She wants to get as far as she can away from the girl she used to be. She uses sex and boys to give herself control over her own body; to try and take back what was taken from her. Her reputation is destroyed. She has hurt everyone she loves. She can’t deal with any relationship. She hides her feelings and puts on an “I don’t give a crap about anyone” mask. She just doesn’t know what to do to fix what’s been broken inside of her. Even when she fell in love with the perfect guy, she didn’t think she could let herself tell him how she felt about him, to tell him the truth and fully give him her heart. She just didn’t know how to love him or be decent. She acted like she didn’t care. She thinks she has no chance of a normal relationship with any guy nor does she want one so she just sleeps around to maintain that control over her own body.

I just kept thinking why won’t she tell someone? Doesn’t she know she will never heal if she doesn’t face what happened to her and get the help she so desperately needs. This monster is walking around free; free to hurt her again or someone else. He has to be punished for what he did to her. He was an adult who raped a child, a little girl. He took away everything from her not just her free will but everything that made her who she was. Now she’s just angry, lost, alone and self-destructive. She has become her own worst enemy. She is full of so much rage and hatred. She is a ticking time bomb ready to detonate.

I hope young women who read this story realize how important it is to tell someone if anyone hurts you like this, go to the police, your parents, your guidance counselor, someone. Report it and get the help you need. Don’t let these scumbags win. Your body is your own. You belong to no one but yourself and don’t ever let anyone make you think otherwise.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
claudia wilcox
I didn't get past the third chapter. This is probably an excellent book for the audience it must have been intended for: young adult. But I'm a grown woman and the tension, suspense, and especially pacing couldn't hold my attention.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
jared eberhardt
I liked this book. I enjoyed reading it and watching Eden go through this journey to figure out how to deal with this horrible act of violence done to her. There were parts where I found myself rooting for her and feeling for her, and other parts where I wasn't sure I liked the character very much. I liked how the author broke it into years and you get to see her progress through them but I also feel like some crucial information was left out as well. Some big moments that weren't explained as well. It is still a good heartfelt novel that is realistic in its portrayal of the aftermath of sexual abuse.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
aishah kz
At first, I hated this book. From the very first paragraph, my mind was telling me “nope, no, choose something else.” I tried so hard to backtrack. I did not want to put myself through another one of these stories. I continued to hate it. I grappled with my own emotions the whole time. My own feelings. My own memories. I could feel my heart being stabbed over and over again. Being angry at Eden for not speaking up. Understanding why she didn’t.

After a while, I realized that I didn’t actually hate this book. I don’t hate it at all. I hate the story, and I hate how many women’s lives this story mirrors. This book ripped me to shreds. I don’t think I’ll be okay for about a week. It’s going to take some time to get over it.

This book was worth the read. It was worth finishing in 26 hours. I love it. I love this book and I love its potential. It needs more attention. Tell your friends.

To the author, thank you. Thank you for telling the story of so many women. It was beautifully written. Thank you.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
j douglas
Title: The Way I Used to Be

Author: Amber Smith

Age Group: Teen/Young Adult

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Series: Standalone

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

The Way I Used to Be was the March pick for one of the book clubs I go to, and man, was this selection a doozy. It burrowed its way into my mind and heart, making me feel sick, enraged, and incredibly hopeful, all at once. A heartbreaking, realistic and all too timely depiction of a young woman dealing with a brutal rape at the hands of her brother’s best friend, The Way I Used to Be was a hard work to get through, but I’m so glad that I read it. Now more than ever do we need stories like Eden’s, and I will never forget it; I couldn’t, even if I’d tried. The book is divided into four parts, one for each of Edy’s years in high school. The rape occurs when she’s a freshman, and she spends the rest of her high school career angry, hurt, and afraid. This book cut me to the quick, especially since there are real life stories just like hers, every heartbreaking, excruciatingly painful moment of it.

Eden was raped by her brother’s best friend in the middle of the night when she was fourteen years old, by someone she loved, trusted, even idolized. Forced into silence by the boy’s violent, vicious threats, she deals with the trauma the only way she knows how: by taking control of her own body, having meaningless sex with near-strangers, and pushing everyone she loves away. Her friends and family don’t understand why she’s acting so unlike herself, but Eden just wants to forget. But when she discovers that Kevin has hurt another young woman, she must make the choice to stay silent or speak up, even if it means finally facing what happened four years ago.

This book—I’m not going to lie, it was really hard to get through, even though I finished it in two and a half days. It was painful, heartbreaking, and it cut me right down to the soul. It was timely, though, and absolutely unforgettable. I wept, I raged, I screamed. Eden wormed her way into my heart and will never leave; this book, to me, was as groundbreaking and truthful as Laurie Halsie Anderson’s classic, Speak, just in a different sort of vein. The pacing was breakneck, the prose spare but powerful, and my heart broke for Eden and her situation, partly because it was so true to life. I also really liked the supporting characters of the book, especially Mara, Cameron, Josh, and Caelin. But it was Eden who stole the show, for me: I liked the way she took control of her situation the only way she knew how, even as my heart broke for her. I liked the way the book was broken up into Edy’s four years of high school. This book—it hurt so much. It made me feel everything, but by the end of it all, I was ultimately hopeful. A searing, all too timely portrait of a young woman trying to deal with a life-changing trauma, The Way I Used to Be is an unforgettable, terrifying book that should be read by all—the only issue I had was that I had trouble with the fact that none of Edy’s friends and family seemed to know what was wrong with her, or even wanted to try. But nonetheless, this book was amazing, eye-opening, even though it was unbearable at times. The bottom line: A tender, sympathetic book that chronicles a young woman’s journey from victim to a person who accepts herself, The Way I Used to Be was amazing, an emotional journey that was like a punch to the gut. Required reading for all. Next on deck: The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Wow. That's the only word that's spinning around in my head after reading The Way I Used to Be in one sitting. Just "Wow." This book holds absolutely nothing back. It's raw, it's gritty, it's angsty, and it's damn depressing. It's weird, though, because this is the first book I read about rape that had the main character going through a hyper sexuality cycle in order to try to deal as opposed to just retreating within themselves. The former in this book just absolutely blew my mind.

The Way I Used to Be is a rich book. By that I mean is that you are privy to Edy's every waking thought, feeling, and action. This is a (mostly) complete book. You see how Edy's downward spiral starts in her freshman year and continues throughout her senior year. You see Edy at her somewhat best and you see her at her absolute worst. Fact of the matter is that Edy had tons of flaws and was real jerk a lot of the time. That tends to turn me off, but you kind of understand why with Edy. And I liked that the author didn't shy away from her reactions. You also see how her rape affects her family, her friends, and her acquaintances.

Those family and friends were what made reading The Way I Used to Be an even richer experience. Usually in a book like this, you tend to have one main character, that main character's family, followed by a love interest and a foe. In The Way I Used to Be you get all of that and more. And the way Edy interacts with all of them was an eye-opening experience and added so much to the way the reader sees her. I loved the dynamic between Edy and Caelin and loved Edy's friendship with Mara. I also really loved the dynamics between Edy and Amanda.

The reason The Way I Used to Be isn't getting 5 stars is because I wanted more for the ending. After having Edy be horrible to her friends/acquaintances, I wanted to see their reactions when they found out about her rape. And I didn't get that. Overall, however, I think that The Way I Used to Be is a fantastic book. One that definitely belongs in every middle school and high school library.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
morgan sharp
The Way I Used to Be is a powerful and emotional novel. I listened to it in two days, finishing as an eBook because I couldn't stop and had to find out how it ended.

The story starts with Eden's rape. It's not grotesque, but not pleasant either. She wakes the next morning thinking it was a dream but quickly finds out it was real. She knows she should tell her Mom, but has trouble finding the words to do so. Instead, she showers and heads downstairs to have breakfast with her family and Kevin.

What follows is Eden's experience through high school while dealing with this traumatic event she has not told anyone. She experiences many common firsts in high school (making friends, losing friends, romantic relationships, etc.) while at the same time trying to "move on" from what happened without actually moving on.

Her relationships with her parents and brother suffer, she sleeps in a sleeping bag on the floor, and finds a comfort in continually updating her number with a string of random guys.

This story is raw and powerful. While a work of fiction, it's heartbreaking to know that some semblance of Eden's story and character is true to life. Individuals who have gone through traumatic experiences and are trying to cope with what happened to them. Trying to live.

It's at times uncomfortable and unsettling, but Amber handles this with grace, class, and honestly. Eden goes through a hard and lonely journey, but at the same time her journey is a meaningful one that ends with something we could all use a little more of: hope.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
letitia ness
This book made me weep and weep (and I'm a guy who rarely sheds tears)... Not for the main character (because I know she's fictitious), but for the millions of girls whose true story she tells. This book puts unforgettable words to otherwise unspeakable grief, pain, confusion, deception, devastation, and absolutely horrific evil in countless forms.

The following is the heartbreaking confession of the main character near the end of the book (no specific information included which should spoil anything):

"Only now I can't remember, damn it, where the lies ended and I began. It's all blurred. Everything suddenly seems to have become so messy, so gray, so undefined and terrifying. All I know is that things went terribly awry, this wasn't the plan. The plan was to get better, to feel better, by any means. But I don't feel better, I feel empty, empty and broken, still. And alone. More alone than ever before."

I only reluctantly recommend this book to others. I see others stating that this book is appropriate for young high school students... That shocks me. At least, I hate the reality that some young high school students may actually need to encounter the message of this book. Even then, I hope they will find it somewhere else. This story is dark, heartbreaking, and I wish more than anything that such terrible evil wasn't true of the real world. But the book does end with shining a few faint glimmers of hope, and that seemingly-fragile yet unbreakable hope is also true in the real world.

Some adults will find this book eye-opening and personally refining (such was my experience), but many adults (and, in my opinion, most adolescents) will do well to avoid this story.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
chandra illick
This book is a hard one to digest... While the storyline is addicting, it's also quite twisted. Think epic gut punch meets tragically flawed main character. It's an ugly story with a beautiful lesson.

Eden is raped and from that point on she becomes someone that not even she herself envies. She begins lying, using people, and seeking sex to escape her thoughts. She is a complete mess and it is all due to that one secret that eats her from the inside out. While she has a great group of friends and a loveable boyfriend, that all ends quite abruptly. She speaks mean words and behaves with vulgar actions to push them all away. Her best friend grasps on by her fingertips, but even she has to let go near the end.

It's a story about chain of events and how one situation can alter your whole life. It shows the importance of facing fear and standing up for yourself. It shows the impact of words and how holding in burdens can only wreck havoc on the keeper. It's a deep read with adult themes, but it's one I recommend to all older teens. I think it's a story that should be felt by all those going through similar situations or even just be used as a guide to know how to spot when something isn't right. It's a story that will stick with me for a long time and Eden is a character that I will continue to loathe even though her story is tragic.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Written with such intensity, realism and rawness I was completely and utterly lost in the story of Eden.

All it takes is one moment, a blink of an eye, the exhale of a breath and life as you know it is over. Your heart shatters and your soul floats from your body like dust particles dancing in sunshine. In that one moment you lose yourself and surrender to the darkness.

The Way I Used To Be deals with topics that are a hard truth. Amber Smith writes them in such a way you feel the rawness of her words. The ugly truths. The devastation. The heartbreak. The complete and utter loss of yourself, your hopes and dreams for the future.

The story centers around Eden, her family and school. There hasn’t been a character that I fought for, like I did for Eden. Internally I was shouting, hoping, breaking and trying to desperately hold on for the ending I prayed would happen.

This story embeds itself into your mind. It challenges you. It makes you want to have the ability to steer the characters in the right direction. It bleeds into your veins leaving you feeling … everything.

Amber Smith takes on many taboo subjects in this book. She writes them with intense realism and truth.

When the people you trust to love you unconditionally fail. When they should protect and defend you when it’s needed most and they don’t When you feel as though there is nothing left but a shell of your former self. When you find yourself unworthy. When you challenge yourself to face your fear in ways that are self harming. When you push away the one person who would allow you to expose your darkness. When you feel as though there is nothing left to give, no fight worth fighting, no reason to move forward from the hell that’s been created, what do you do?

A tragically, tender story of survival, love and moving forward. The Way I Used to Be takes a realistic look at what happens in that one second, that one breath that changes the course of your life forever.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
tasneem hiasat
The Way I Used to Be is a very well told story about a young girl who grew up trusting her family and her brother's best friend Kevin.....only to learn Kevin is not what he seems. After being raped by Kevin Eden's life spirals out of control and she turns into someone nobody knows.

After years of Eden living a life she knows is wrong she learns Kevin has hurt another girl and everything comes crashing back and she needs to be able to trust someone with her secrets. Her first thought is Josh, the one person she loved and would not allow herself to have.

Josh helps Eden understand the rape was not her fault and she needs to tell. She goes to her brother and tells him everything. They drive to the police station where Eden tells her story to the officer handling the rape case of Kevin's recent victim.

Ms. Smith does a great job letting her readers know you are only a victim if you allow the perp control of your mind. So many young women go through the same trauma as Eden and feel they can't tell, that they are to blame.............Kudos to you Amber Smith for writing this story and bringing the "monster" out of the closet.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
As a note, an e-galley of this novel was sent to me via Edelweiss by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way. This review was also posted to Goodreads and Booked J.

There is a substantial amount of hype over The Way I Used to Be and the comparisons the reading community is making between it and Speak. But I feel as though that isn’t fair to compare either story to one another because while it tackles similar plots, they are both two entirely different stories with two entirely different girls and many different coping mechanisms between the two.

The Way I Used to Be is incredibly nerve wracking and painful and beautiful all at once. It is, by far, one of the most moving novels headed our way as 2016 approaches and I hope it gets the recognition it deserves in time. I can’t wait to get my hands on a physical, finished copy–it is still lingering in the back of my mind, nearly twenty-four hours after reading it.

That being said, I need only remind you guys that this book is quite triggering due to its subject matter and you should not put yourself in the position of reading it if you have doubts on whether or not it will trigger something in you.

Let’s talk about our leading lady–our narrator–shall we?

Eden is sincerely one of the most available characters I’ve ever read in many ways. I mean on that personal level; she is so real--the way Amber Smith paints this girl's story is all too real and a voice that was desperately needed in young adult fiction.

In many ways, there’s “before” and “after” to her personality and every year that passes, every year she struggles with what happened and doesn’t talk about it, the more you see her fade a bit. I found this to be very real and raw and it broke my heart seeing how she coped with everything. There’s something intimate about witnessing these changes she makes to herself through the course of four years; wanting control of her own life and body after having been raped by her brother’s best friend.

A lot of people are going to criticize her decision to stay silent. But I need to remind them of the boys actions and how severely they damaged her.

Eden was so young when it happened and with his violation of her, someone she trusted, it is easy to see why she reacts to it the way she does. Many times, you’re going to want to shake the people around her for how they acted as she began to act out and sleep around.

Or even before she started to have consensual sex with other boys–especially with all those rumors of her being a slut, spread about by the hand of a minor character named Amanda–Kevin’s, the boy who raped her, younger sister. Because of Kevin’s abuse and because of Amanda’s unexpected hatred towards her, Eden begins to spiral in some ways.

While it is a realistic approach to it, given that she doesn’t tell them anything and they simply wouldn’t guess, it still hurts to see it all unfold.

Sometimes I felt as though her best friend and family didn’t truly *try* to understand her.

Mara, Eden’s best friend, clearly noticed a change in her friend and expressed concern over her sexual habits but I felt very annoyed with the way it was approached. I was very annoyed that she, instead of trying to get to the bottom of her friends actions, chose to criticize and not find out what caused her to act out.

Again, it’s realistic. They are only teenagers. But I hated seeing the sparks fly towards the end of the novel when Mara, Cameron (Mara’s boyfriend) and Steve all but abandon her and can’t see that something is running deeper inside her. Eden doesn’t do the things she does without reason, she doesn’t act the way she does because she wants to: Eden has such a rough time coping with her past that it causes these issues to explode.

I hated that we didn’t get any closure on the topic of that rift between these characters. They have a fight, some words are exchanged in school (and during this, Amanda realizes now that Eden is more like her than she realized) and that’s that. We focus on tying up other loose ends and that’s okay, I just wish we could have seen them setting things right.

Even if it was just a flash forwards–after Eden gets the help she needs–of her telling Mara in particular what had happened. Although I’m still not sure Mara would have listened–truly listened.

Sometimes it felt as though the only person who would have understood her–if she had told them sooner–was a boy named Josh she “dated” briefly. He was very, very concerned about her even as they were hooking up and sensed something had happened to her to make her act the way she did, I think he was the only one who truly saw through her act, and I only wish she had told him sooner.

(Not that I blame her for not. Again, I understand why she couldn’t. I understand completely.)

Years down the road, after their relationship ended quite poorly, years of silence between the two, she confides in him. It’s amazing to see their connection wasn’t completely severed in the long run and I don’t mean that romantically. There’s just something there between the two and maybe it’s Josh’s caring nature but it’s definitely there.

I wouldn’t be surprised if they became lifelong friends and each others support system or if they tried their hands at a real relationship after life settled down.

As for the rest…

I got very frustrated with Caelin, Eden’s brother, and how he reacted towards a lot of things. In particular, her sex life and how he got so snippy about it. Big brother things and all that, but he rubbed me the wrong way for a good chunk of the novel until the last 10% of it.

Caelin and Kevin have been best friends for so long that I don’t think Caelin would have ever realized his friends real intentions towards people. And when Kevin is accused of raping an ex-girlfriend, Caelin stands firmly on his friends innocence.

Until Amanda comes forward. And she points the cops in Eden’s direction and suddenly, Eden isn’t able to stay silent anymore on her story. Caelin has a hard time accepting this revelation but unlike the ex-girlfriend, he believes his sister and I think even blames himself for not seeing the sign.

If anything, I’m glad we got to see Eden patch things up with her brother and Josh and it makes up for the lack of a finish in Mara, Cameron and Steve. Because these scenes at the end, they are the most important of the novel.

Uplifting, even.

The truth is never simple and The Way I Used to Be is the perfect look into that. Eden’s story needed to be told and this is one of the most important young adult releases to tackle sexual abuse in recent times. Hands down.

I see a lot of people in Eden, a lot of survivors and I feel privileged to have been given the chance to get to know her. Her story means a great deal and although it’s fictional, it is all too easy to see the reality in it.

Amber Smith writes beautifully and doesn’t sugarcoat the struggles of a life after innocence is shattered. And I applaud her for approaching this subject in the way she did. My eyes were not dry when I finished, my heart was equal parts heavy and light, and I felt very, very attached by the final pages. I will say I highlighted plenty in my galley and chances are you will too. Quotes will be posted later once I have a finished copy to go off of.

If you know anyone, or if you yourself have suffered sexual abuse, please do not hesitate to talk to somebody about it. There are people who will hear you when others don’t. Resources are important to have on standby, should support be needed. Please visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest Nation Network at or give them a ring at their hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
TW: domestic abuse, alcoholism, homophobia, biphobia, racism, audltery, death/grief.

Wow. I went into this book completely blind. I picked it up because of all the rave reviews online and I realized I needed to read it as soon as possible so I could join the discussion. It being adult fiction I wasn't sure how much I'd like it or even what to expect but I was blown away.

The characters were amazing overall. They felt real, like I was reading the biography of an actual woman named Evelyn Hugo because of the way they are written. Evelyn, Cecilia, and Harry were all so great. I didn't really care too much about our main character, Monique's, love life but I understand why it was needed, even if it was just a short blip compared to the rest of the story. I honestly
hadn't realized how much I fell in love with Evelyn and Harry until the last act of the book when everything got really intense. It kind of snuck up on me and then all of a sudden I was sobbing. Evelyn and Harry were my favorite two characters. Evelyn is one of the strongest literary characters I've had the honor of reading and I couldn't help but fall in love with her. Despite everything she's been been through she pushes through and figures out what to do. She's incredibly adaptable and self efficient because she was basically raising herself since her mother's passing. Like most of the characters in this book, there are moments where you are so frustrated with Evelyn. The characters made stupid decisions at times, and they were incredibly flawed, but that was what it made reading about them so much better.

The plot was so interesting because I have no doubts that these kinds of things happened in Hollywood (and probably still do). Evelyn is a stubborn, ambitious, no-nonsense woman in a man's world. She pushes through and gets what she wants. The way her Cuban heritage is buried deep by the filmmakers of Hollywood was very depressing but something I have no doubt happened to women of color actresses (and maybe even actors?) in the 50's and earlier. They make her change her image to fit a mold they wanted to sell to the public and it stripped that part of her identity. I couldn't help but feel heartbroken for her, even if at the time she'd do whatever to become successful.

The romance is absolutely heartbreaking and beautiful. Typically the romance is my least favorite part of any story but this romance is written so well that it leaves you in pieces. Both Evelyn and Cecelia make mistakes in their marriage, sometimes communication isn't their specialty, and they have bumps in the road but the way their relationship starts out and where it is by the end of the story had me bawling my eyes out. By the time I was at the end of the story there was a moment where it all hit me. All the hardships Evelyn had to go through. I had to stop reading because it made me really admire how resilient she was all throughout her life.

The writing is gorgeous. Beautiful setting and imagery. I had no problem imagining the time periods the story takes place in. The atmosphere really helped set the scenes and it felt almost like I was watching a black and white movie. What else was a really great touch were the newspaper clippings we get so the reader can see what the public were thinking while we were up close to the celebrities like Evelyn and Cecelia.

Overall I highly recommend this book. It is so easy to get sucked into the story. Once I got into the story I could not put it down at all. I needed to know what was going to happen in Evelyn's life, but I also was really intrigued why she was so adamant that Monique would hate her by the end of the story. When that part of the story is revealed I audibly said "No way" and I felt like a ton of bricks hit me. I was completely caught by surprise and I think it just made the story all the more heartbreaking.

I cannot recommend this enough, please pick it up.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
titti persson
The Way I Used To Be is an emotionally powerful book, told from the point of view of a teenager who was raped by her brother's best friend at 14. Nothing was the same for Eden after she was sexually assaulted. She kept it a secret for many years but it weighed heavily and affected her life deeply. Since Eden tells us the story herself in this book, I experienced the roller coaster of emotion and nerves of the life of a teenager who has been the victim of sexual assault and is trying to find the courage to move on.

This book exposes one of the major problems faced by high school and college age girls. Sexual assault is far too common for teenagers, and it's hard for them to speak up. But life is never the same afterwards and teenagers are faced with depression, suicidal thoughts, or even engage in hypersexual activity just like Eden. So the aftermath does not only affect the teenager but their family and friends as Amber Smith shows us through Eden's story. All through the book I was hoping Eden would share her story sooner but the author helps us understand why it can be so hard to tell.

I hope this book helps teenagers who have experienced sexual assault understand that help is out there. The book also offers up a hotline to call for help.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
christine dundas
Eden “Edy” McCrorey is a typical fourteen-year old girl. She does well in school, adores her older brother Caelin, and plays the clarinet in her school’s band. “The Way I Used to Be” details her downward spiral after Kevin Armstrong, Caelin’s best friend, sneaks into her bedroom at 2:48 AM and rapes her. Threatening to kill her if she says anything, Kevin exerts the ultimate control over Edy. “…The previous fourteen years had merely been dress rehersal, preparation for knowing how to properly shut up now …” Amber Smith has written a powerful novel that highlights the dangers – both to the victim and to others – of remaining silent and the need for others to notice the personality and behavioral changes in those around them.

“The Way I Used to Be” is divided into four major parts – one for each year of high school. The separate parts tell of one specific year in Edy’s life and the way she deals with the trauma of rape. The effects of both the rape and silence on her mental health and on her behavior impact Edy’s relatiionships. During her freshman year and at both home and school, Edy becomes defensive and confrontational. “…It burns everything inside of me …Rage …” Her parents are focused on Caelin and his future. “…What do I have going on …that could ever compare to the larger-than life excitement that is Caelin McCrorey …” They attribute her attitude changes to her age and teen social concerns. “…It’s hormones …She’s a teenager …They’re all the same …”

During her sophomore year, Edy attempts to live life as if nothing happened and to take control - outwardly. “…All you have to do is act …normal …and people start treating you that way …” She begins dating a Josh Miller, a jock and an upperclassman. Hungry for love and compassion, Edy has sex with Josh, but feels nothing. Spurred by ugly rumors and bathroom graffiti, during her junior year Eden begins a series of random hook-ups. “…I enjoy losing myself …Finding that someone …who just wants what I want …To disconnect …” Finally during her senior year and after Kevin is accused of raping another girl, Edy confronts and relives the past. “…I see now what the girl couldn’t …this was the moment he knew not only that he would do it, but that she would let him get away with it…” “…He was holding her in the palm of his hand …molding and twisting her brain …” She seeks to make amends for the wrongs and hurtful things she did to her friends, but must face the reality they have moved on from that friendship. Only when Edy tells the truth of what happened to her is she able to reclaim her life.

In “The Way I Used to Be”, Amber Smith brings the characters to life through their actions, language, and emotions. The “f-word” is used liberally throughout the characters’ conversations and thoughts – realistic, although regrettable in both fiction and life. The need for young women – and young men – to speak out about abuse and to seek help is the paramount lesson conveyed through this novel. It is an important one and this book may help those who have not spoken up to do so.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
emily mcgrew

Wow. I just held my breath for 367 pages and finally let out the biggest exhale. This was incredible. So shocking, captivating, frustrating, and downright gut-wrenching that I just couldn't stop reading it.

I was very hesitant about this at first and almost considered DNFing it bc I wasn't sure if I was ready for something with such heavy and dark subject matter, but I'm really glad I didn't. The description of this book doesn't do it justice and you won't be sad or disgusted for the entire thing. If anything, you'll come out the other side quite like Eden - a little lighter, a little better, and a whole lot more hopeful.

Do yourself a favor and make this a TBR. I feel very changed after this book and I know it'll stick with me for years to come.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Thank you to the author for choosing this topic for her first book. It's very brave and quite emotional.

Also know that this book could be a trigger for some readers.

I am a little disappointed with this book. The title doesn't match the story at all. We never really know how the main character "used to be." We get young, flat-chested, ponytail, glasses, but that is really it. The incident happens immediately, and the main character is instantly changed forever.

Each section is divided into different years of high school. However, they are not complete years. There are a lot of time gaps. There are also a few dropped relationships that seemed like they might be important (library teacher). Overall, the storytelling felt rushed to me which contrasted to some scenes that seemed to take forever. This tugging of pacing didn't feel organic.

The main character certainly experienced many symptoms and repercussions. But not all the tell-tales were explored: neglecting personal hygiene, grades dropping significantly, regular suicidal thoughts. The evolution of symptoms was interesting, but it made me question how much research was done on this topic. I recognize that each individual person goes through their own personal journey after a traumatic event, and no two journeys are alike. I felt like there were pieces missing here that could have been explored.

Overall, this is a decent first novel. I will definitely seek out the next one. However, I don't like all of the book. The weaknesses really stood out to me. The three stars is probably more for the bravery of the author to tackle this issue than for the actual story.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
sarah bergeron
The Way I Used To Be by Amber Smith is a completely raw story of how one moment can warp and change your entire life. Let me tell you now: it is not for the faint of heart. I had to take breaks from reading because I would get incredibly upset and frustrated at just how disastrous the effects of rape and its associated trauma can be.

That said, if you can brave your way through it, The Way I Used To Be is one of the most affecting, painful and brutal stories you’ll ever read. This story is all emotion, that dares you not to understand and empathize and FEEL something for Eden, the protagonist. It’s a story of not just sexual assault, but how trauma plays into our lives and won’t let go.

The story plays out in four sections, each representing a year in Eden’s high school life. It starts with Edy (as she’s called as a freshman), a fourteen year old who wakes up in the morning after being raped by her brother’s best friend during the Christmas holidays. She doesn’t really know what is happening, why she didn’t yell or scream or do anything. And she doesn’t know why she can’t say anything to her mom when her mom comes in and sees blood on the sheets. Edy’s mom assumes it’s an accident from her period. Edy is frozen and she can’t say why she’s not feeling right. Her brother, her best friend through her life, doesn’t seem to get it. Her mother doesn’t ask. Her father has no idea.

So Edy buries it, deep down, even though every action that she makes from then on is protective, scared, off-balance. Her best friend Mara has a crush on a guy, and Edy is mean to him. Her good friend Stephen comes over to work on a project and she’s terrified. And no one can see, so Edy keeps it hidden.

I can’t explain how far this book goes in order to show Eden’s trauma. Reading each year of her life, as she starts to discover her own body, starts dressing differently, discovers her own power over boys – each part of it was painful and terrifying. Everything Eden does is based on her need to protect herself and forget herself – at one point, a boyfriend tells her, “it’s like you’re both really young and really mature.” Exactly.

It’s torturous to watch Eden find someone she likes and not be able to express care or trust. It’s miserable when she pushes her friends and family away and descends into casual sex, drugs, alcohol just so that she can forget. Every time I thought Eden had hit rock bottom, there was another level of darkness. Every time I thought she would say something, she couldn’t. But here’s the thing: you get it. You get why she can’t say the words that will save her. Because how can you save yourself if you don’t feel worthy of being saved?

As a reader, I questioned myself over and over: would I be doing the things that Eden did if I was sexually assaulted at 14? Would I have buried it? And every time I thought that I would be able to speak up, Smith would show me another reason why I wouldn’t be able to, why Eden had every right to be confused, scared and skittish.

If I have qualms about this book, they are both the best and worst things about the book. The main issue, for me, is that it was so painful to read that I don’t know if I could ever do it again. The middle sections of the book are long and drawn-out, with Eden often making the same mistakes over and over. While this worked for her character, I feel like it could have actually been edited down a little. I wouldn’t take away from that pain, but I did start to feel like I was just waiting to find out what would happen at the end.


Reading To Learn: Sometimes you read for pleasure, and sometimes you read to learn and find out about new experiences. I dare anyone to read this book and not learn something – about sexual assault, or about themselves, or about what to say to a survivor of sexual assault. You will be moved enough to get angry and want to make things right. Reading and sharing this book might be a first step.


For me, this book was a visceral experience, from start to finish. It’s a book written purely from emotion. If you’re an all-the-feels person, this might be overwhelming. But if you think you can handle it, it’s an eye-opening read, and one that, I hope, will make it into a lot of teens’ hands.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kara volkmann
4.5 Stars - Original review @

The Way I Used to Be is an emotional powerhouse. Eden is a typical orchestra geek. She looks up to her big brother and has a crush on his best friend. Starting high school after her popular jock brother was hard enough but then the unthinkable happens. The boy she admired from afar rapes her. In one brutal instance Eden’s life changes in ways she cannot imagine. Set in four acts, Freshman, Sophomore, Junior and Senior year; each shows how one moment creates a ripple that will effect someone’s entire future.

If you want to truly feel a book The Way I Used to Be is the one for you. In her powerful debut Amber Smith, creates a true world. The world built was richly nuanced and detailed. The pacing flowed very well, sometimes a book that spans multiple years will jump too fast or lag in parts and this just cruised. The plot was perfection. A story that could have been clichéd or depressing was elevated by a story line that matched the tone and the emotion. The characters shone. Eden was a fully fleshed out person and you truly felt what she did. All of the supporting cast was equally as real and that made a huge impact. The writing though, was what shone. Smith was able to take a real issue and make you feel it. Her writing was fluid and packed a punch.

I will admit I ugly cried more than once reading The Way I Used to Be. The emotions bled off of the page and I am glad I was able to read this. Amber Smith is a writer to watch and I eagerly await her next book.

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
"The Way I Used to Be" by Amber Smith is a harrowing novel about a young girl, Eden, who becomes a victim of rape, at the hands of her brother's best friend, Kevin. The rape scene is in the first chapter, and then there's another longer, more graphic flashback scene to the rape later in the novel (which had me in tears, I must admit). Smith writes about Eden's trauma with such tenderness and yet so much raw, seething anger. This novel is separated in 4 sections: Freshman year, Sophomore year, Junior year, and Senior year. Eden's rape occurs during Christmas break during her Freshman year, and we get to read about Eden's aftermath after the rape. Eden used to have a crush on Kevin, so after the rape, she feels guilty, even though she didn't do anything wrong. Before the rape, Eden is a stereotypical good girl. She's in band, she gets good grades, and she tends to her hide behind her glasses and shy personality. After the rape, Eden's self-esteem disintegrates. Eden starts to lose herself and begins to unravel spiritually, emotionally, and psychically. Without saying specially, Eden self-destructs in more ways that one. This novel is brutal. No sugar coating here, folks. There were some things that irked me here and there, and I felt the ending was a bit rushed, but overall, I applaud Smith for tackling such a sensitive topic with such frankness and intensity. One of the most honest YA novels I've ever read. Enjoy.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I have a love-hate relationship with books that have characters (especially female ones) who don't or can't speak up for themselves. I don't mean to sound insensitive, and I do remember what it was like to be a teenager (or even as an adult) trying to figure out who and what I am in this world and in all the roles I play. However, it's just tough for me to understand not SAYING SOMETHING in your own defense. Having said all that, and putting my frustrations aside, I enjoyed this book thoroughly and read it in a very short amount of time. I thought it was well-written and really used words to express how it felt to BE Eden.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
How would you respond to something so unexpected, so horrifying, that it throws your whole world off-kilter? This powerful debut explores this question as its protagonist Eden moves from freshman year, in which she is raped by her older brother's best friend, through to her senior year. Written in four parts (one for each year of high school), we watch as Eden tries to reclaim some semblance of herself, forging a new identity, knowing that she can't go back to the person she was before.

It's almost viscerally painful, at times, to see Eden struggle with the new identity she's created for herself, after having been robbed of her old identity. And yet, it's a gift -- truly a gift -- to watch as Eden finds a way out -- a most unexpected way out, really.

As I read this book, I was reminded of a song from the musical Waitress: "She Used to Be Mine." It asks some of those some questions, too, of how we can get back to the people we used to be? (This is my shorthand for saying, this song makes me cry, and yes, this book did too.)
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: Being in Eden’s head, feeling her hopelessness, is raw, searing, horrifying.

Opening Sentence: I don’t know a lot of things.

The Review:

It was freshman year when Eden was raped. She went to bed not expecting that, later in the night, her bed would creak with the weight of her brother’s best friend. She didn’t expect to be gagged and threatened and assaulted. She thought it was a bad dream until she woke up in horrible pain and saw the state of her bed, her room, her psyche. The book follows how the event affected her throughout high school.

I haven’t read a large amount of books about the aftermath of rape, but I have read a couple. It’s a delicate subject to read about. I find, each time, that I am unprepared for the trauma and raw emotion that is transmitted through the words. I cannot speak from experience, so I have never really understood the horror of abuse or assault, but these novels certainly remind me. Books like these can play a part in raising awareness, which I respect.

Eden is a freshman when she is assaulted, and the story follows four years of her high-school experience after she undergoes the traumatic night. It was hard, watching her downward spiral, watching her feel so powerless and hopeless. She was destructive in all of her relationships – friends, family, romances – and became someone as far from the girl she was that night. She went from innocent, sweet, to a smoker, drinker, partier. She became “that girl”, the one who slept around and was plagued by destructive habits. I cringed every time she got in a massive screaming match, accused of being these horrible things that ok, she really was, but the other person really had no idea what had happened. Given, it wasn’t really an excuse, but I hated that she kept quiet for so long.

One thing I liked about this novel, that made it different from novels that I’ve read in the past, was that Eden didn’t save herself through a boy. Yes, of course there were boys around the whole story, and she wasn’t able to pull herself out of that horrible place alone; all the same, in the end, it was her own doing that saved her. I would have appreciated the ending to be more concrete – there were some things left open ended, certain things left unsaid. I didn’t like how she was victimized and damaged the whole story and then in the last fifty pages began to change, but I do understand the significance of the time it took.

Altogether, I think this book was a very good one. The writing was unique, fractured at points, run on at others, but always helping to emphasize the raw seriousness of Eden’s emotions. An author (Laurie Flynn) used the word “searing”, and I don’t think there was any word that could have pinpointed the novel so perfectly. It’s hard realizing that teenagers, girls, women, actually undergo these horrors, and that they all have different stories. I was shaking at points, enraptured the whole book through, and emotional the day after I finished. All in all, the book destroyed me, utterly and completely – which I guess means that Smith is doing something right.

Notable Scene:

I watch a car roll through the stop sign at the corner, the driver barely glancing up to see if anyone’s there. I think about how they say most people will get into car accidents less than one mile from their home. Everything’s so familiar, you stop paying attention. You don’t notice the one thing that’s different or wrong or off or dangerous. And I think about how maybe that’s what just happened to me.

FTC Advisory: Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster provided me with a copy of The Way I Used to Be. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
danielle ballard
The Way I Used To Be is beautiful and horrible book. Beautiful because of the way it is written, the characters and the messages of resilience and strength, horrible because it is completely agonising to see Eden go through what she does. And the way these two aspects are combined, balanced perfectly is what makes this such a great book.

Told in four sections, the four years of high school, we experience the initial impact of Eden's sexual assault and the way it slowly changes her life. In this way we see how long-lasting the effect of the attack is, and how it affects all aspects of her life, including her trust in her family, her friendship with Mana, the way she dresses, and how she interacts with others.

Eden's major changes in her life are prompted by others, especially when rumours are spread about her promiscuity. While the opposite is true, it seems easier for Eden to fall into this role, wrap it around her as it offers some form of protection even as it pushes everyone away.

While the focus of this book is Eden and how she reacts and changes after being raped, there is an element of romance. Josh is perfect in this role. I love his mix of confidence and insecurity. He likes Eden but has no idea how to react to her hot and cold swings as she tries to balance her feelings with those of panic and loss of control.

The story opens with Eden's attack. While the details are sparse, it is a hard-hitting scene in the way the reader connects immediately with Eden, experiencing her confusion, horror and numbness. As the following minutes, days and months pass, Eden's life spirals even further out of her control, even while she takes action on being stronger, more willing to stand apart.

When her family don't notice, brush the signs off, Eden reacts by becoming increasingly argumentative and destructive. I kept waiting for the big fall out, the impending chaotic disaster, but despite Eden becoming increasingly destructive through sex, alcohol and even drugs, she never really loses control. It's the little changes the say the most, such as Eden calling her parents by their first names instead of mom and dad. Throughout all this Eden remains a really likeable character and I was surprised by how strong, how tough she is. I was kind of impressed by the way she stands up for herself, even if she can't bring herself to share her ultimate secret. So there is no Big Bang-like disaster, just a gradual change in how she approaches things.

The four chapters offer readers a continuous view of Eden. Even though a lot of time is skipped, it never felt like we were missing sections or that Eden had changed dramatically from one section to another. Instead it flows beautifully. But there comes a point in any novel that the character must choose to either let things continue progressing as they are or stop and speak out, and I thought this was well crafted, allowing Eden to be the true star of this book.

The treatment of girls according to their sexual habits (or rumoured sexual habits, you know that awful phrase to which I'm referring) is a large part of this story. The rumours are started about Eden long before she begins sleeping around. Despite how the main populous treat Eden, her friend Mara remains a true friend, concerned but never judging. The same can be said of Josh, even if he struggles to understand.

The ending is just absolutely perfect, everything you could want, and it only reinforces that this book is about Eden and ability to stand up for herself, believe in herself. My favourite line is "and I'm just a girl, a girl who needs to pick up her own pieces and put them back together herself." That says it all.

A confronting, beautiful book that just has to be shared.

The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
I don't often read the very emotional stories like this, especially ones surrounding sexual assault. It's such an emotional and sensitive topic, and is often done in a way that I'm not really a fan of. After seeing many high ratings for this book, I decided to give it a try. It was definitely worth the read, despite it being so difficult at times.

The Way I Used to Be is the story of Eden and her downward spiral after being raped by her brother's best friend at the age of fourteen. As you can imagine, this event completely changed Eden's life. This story centers around Eden's feelings regarding the assault, as well as the aftermath. Eden finds all kinds of way to deal with her silence, including drug use and sexual activities. Watching her spiral downward over these years in high school was so hard to accept, and as a mother, it tear me apart. I can't remember a time a book with such a topic touched me so deeply.

An eye-opening and extremely emotional look into how a horribly-tragic event can affect the way a young girl sees love and relationships in her life. How a teenager who, instead of telling someone, decided to try to live with her silence and dealt with it in other destructive ways. Sure to bring about the tears, this book is a must-read and a very important addition to the YA genre.

Audiobook Impressions:
I've come to the conclusion that Rebekkah Ross is actually my very favorite narrator, Elizabeth Louise. The voices are identical. I've listened to a few different books by Ross, and I swear it's the same person. I could be wrong... I'm not really sure why a narrator would use two different names... but I digress. My point in all of this is that I believe this to be my favorite narrator. In other words, it was pretty darn fantastic!! Ross is consistently fantastic, narrating like the pro she is. I never turn away a book narrated by Ross (or Elizabeth Louise). I'd definitely recommend the audio route!

(Thanks to Margaret K. McElderry Books & Simon and Schuster Audio for the review copy!)
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The Way I Used to Be was like a punch in the gut. It left me breathless. I mean that in the best possible way. I absolutely loved every single second of this book. This review is probably going to be a bit gushy. I’m not going to apologize for it.

I don’t usually read books so early, but The Way I Used to Be caught my attention right away and I knew I had to read it as soon as possible. It’s not an easy book to take in. The story starts the morning after Eden is raped. In her home. By someone she trusts. It’s a horrifying situation. We as the reader get caught up in the aftermath. The book spans years, because the horror doesn’t just end for Eden. It takes her so long to even try to start the healing process. All of that seemed very realistic to me.

Eden is so wounded throughout the entire book. She does very self destructive things and even hurts people she loves. It was hard to read at times. But her struggles rang so true. She had the normal everyday troubles of a teen on top of her trauma. She was easily likeable despite some of her behaviors. I felt so much for her. She was an incredible main character.

It’s been years since I read a book that spoke to me the way The Way I Used to Be has. It’s being compared to Speak and for once, I think that’s an accurate comparison. Speak was just an important part of my teen years. I read it over and over. I think this book will find the same love among teens today.

The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith is not a lighthearted story. It’s hard to take in a times. It’s sad, but it’s also a beautiful journey. It’s filled with amazingly realistic teen characters and gorgeous writing. It’s one of my favorite reads of 2015. I’m still thinking about it more than a week later. So, needless to say I will be recommending it to anyone and everyone. Read it!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This happens all too often in real life and it is never really talked about as the victims are really scared.

The worst possible thing imaginable happens to Eden McCrorey in her own bedroom when she is only 14 years old. She is raped by her brothers best friend which then sends her into a downward spiral. She tries to gain control of her life back by doing what she thinks is going to help. What is this thing you ask? She becomes what everyone in her high school refers to as a “slut” and sleeps around with numerous guys because she feels like that is something SHE can control.

This book is told in 4 sections which are broken down by her high school years, freshman-senior year. The last section had me tearing up and almost crying as this is when everything comes to a head. It has a happy ending I promise, so it is worth the read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kristen jones
This was a really good book that focused on a very emotional topic i.e. rape. There were parts that my heart felt like it was breaking while I was reading. Based on other’s reactions, I expected to cry a bit more. Nevertheless, I highly recommend this book to everyone. Thank you Edelweiss for providing me a copy in exchange for a honest review. I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

This book was my choice for last week’s Waiting on Wednesday. It’s been on my radar for a while, so I’m glad I finally got around to reading it. The book was close to being 5 stars, but there were a few things that I questioned/didn’t particularly love. One thing I kept wondering about was why Eden was only 14 in her sophomore year of high school, and only 17 when she was in her senior year. Did she skip a year? Another thing I didn’t particularly love was how far Eden had “fallen” in a sense. But I could still understand why she did to a certain extent.

The summary and amazing cover is what made me first want to read the book. I thought it was interesting to cram all four years of high school into one book. Some years felt a little light compared to others, but overall it seemed like Amber did a great job spreading Eden’s life out through the years. Throughout reading, I felt bad for Eden and what she went through.

Another thing that disappointed me a little was that I wanted to see the a-hole responsible for the bad things sentenced and punished; just a mention of it would have given me satisfaction. I’m just glad that Amber wasn’t afraid to go to some dark places with the book, since rape is such a terrible issue our society faces. Eden made a lot of bad choices because of what happened to her, because she buried the horrible truth inside.

There wasn't really romance in the book, because of what Eden endured. But I did like Josh's character; he was one of the high points in the book for me. I mean besides Eden finally getting a bit of closure, and when she stood up for herself. Overall, the ending was good. I mostly made observations on Goodreads, but I did write down this line: "All these maybes swimming around my head make me think that “maybe” could just be another word for hope."

Final note: A great book, that I highly recommend, if you’re not afraid of a slightly darker theme. I’m so glad I had a chance to read this one.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
barbara kuhn
How do you sit down and write a review for a book that deals with such a horrific reality? I've been on one of the longest book hiatuses ever, and yet from the very first moment I opened this book, I was trapped. Fair warning: The Way I Used to Be deals with rape, and even though not every page is filled with a rape scene, the act is everywhere in the novel. There's no escaping it, and honestly, I wouldn't want us to.

One night, one seemingly-innocent night, Eden is raped by her brother's best friend, and it changes everything. Her relationships, her character, the trajectory of the rest of her life is changed in five never-ending minutes. In just five minutes she goes from being an innocent child to an angry, silent one. And it hurt. It hurt tremendously.

The Way I Used to Be is told in four phases: freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year—a decision that is intricate in order for Eden's story to be told. Throughout those four years we see as Eden grows up with such a terrible secret, as she becomes increasingly self-destructive. She gets into potentially dangerous situations, she pushes away the people closest to her, and she sabotages relationship after relationship. There is so much self-hatred and self-disgust in Eden, so much it threatens to drown her, and so she uses sex and her body to be in control. Despite the terrible reality of that, I understood Eden's desperate grasp at any ounce of control.

I'm glad this book ended in such an open-ended way. Not every single one of Eden's relationships is repaired, but the possibility of reconciliation is there, and really, what more could I ask for? There is also no doubt in my mind that Smith's debut will be an unforgettable one. Eden's story may be fictional, but it's, unfortunately, the reality of so many others. Do I want to go back and reread this novel? Not a chance. The first time almost killed me. Does it need to be read? Absolutely. Read and discussed. In depth.

The Way I Used to Be mirrors Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak in terms of structure and subject topic. However, this book stands completely on its own. You will feel anger and hatred and pain, but rest assured, it will be worth it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
roque roquisimo
Eden is a happy fourteen-year-old girl. She's a bit nerdy and wears big glasses. She doesn't have many friends at school, but the ones she has are wonderful. She loves to read books and play music. She's comfortable with herself the way she is. That changes when her brother's best friend rapes her. Nobody knows Eden's secret. She can't talk about it and slowly she starts to fall apart. Everything she used to be and used to know is different now. There's a new Eden, a person who tries to live with the past, but who can't get over what happened to her.

The Way I Used to Be is an intense story about the effects of rape on a young girl's life. The story made me cry repeatedly. Amber Smith tells it in such a moving way. There's a lot of chaos in Eden's life. Everything she knows has changed and when she tries to cope things spiral out of control. I kept wishing I could step into the story to help her. She's confused, she's hurting and she has nowhere to go and nobody to talk to. I could feel her loneliness so well that it kept overwhelming me. I'm impressed by how much this book made me feel.

The Way I Used to Be is a story I won't easily forget. It's one of those stories you have to read even though you wish the topic wouldn't even exist. I think Amber Smith tells the story in a raw and honest way, but she remains sensitive and compassionate. I loved that balance. There's a strong message in the story and I think it's great that there are books like this. The way Eden tries to keep herself together is brave, but also absolutely awful. It's a story that tells people how horrible it is and how serious the consequences are when someone's being raped.

Eden is so young when her brother's best friend enters her room. The story focuses on all of her high school years. Amber Smith describes several years of Eden's life. I think that's a daring decision, which fortunately works very well. The reader witnesses Eden's struggle with what happened and the fact that her childhood is over in just a few minutes. The Way I Used to Be is a difficult story, but one nobody should stay away from. Amber Smith is a talented author and this book is both terrible and brilliant at the same time. It's a definite must-read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Sometimes, minutes change a whole life. For Eden, her innocence is blown apart when Kevin, her brother's best friend, comes into her room in the middle of the night and violently molests her. The rape shifts her entire world and sense of self upside-down and inside-out. The book follows Eden through the time of her rape during her freshman year of high school into her senior year, showing how the good, clarinet-playing, book-reading girl she once was is transformed into the mess of a girl with a terrible secret she's afraid to tell. Amber Smith's book is hard-hitting and emotionally wrenching. It's an extremely important book for young women and men, as well, as it expertly builds the narrative of how violence forced upon one affects so many.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
THE WAY I USED TO BE is the powerful debut novel written by Amber Smith. This novel approaches the tough topic of sexual assault and wa;ls us through the time after something like this happens. The main character, Eden, is raped by her brother’s best friend during her freshman year of high school. Although she was always a good, "perfect" girl, her trauma changes her entirely, putting her at odds with the people around her. The story follows her journey through her high school years dealing with the aftermath of the assault.

This book is really hard for me to review. I sat down to read this book expecting to read one chapter at a time and ended up reading the whole thing all at once. It wasn’t really what I expected, but it ended up leaving a lasting impression on me. I do think it respectfully approached rape culture in a way that felt really authentic. The cast of secondary characters was diverse and they were really frustrating in the way that you just wanted to scream at them to make them realize what happened to Eden. I think Amber Smith told this story realistically and that is its strongest feature. My only complaint was the lack of resolution --- I really wanted more of Eden in the end; it was almost like the story was just missing a few pages.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel very much, and it is going to stick with me for a long time. I think this book would be eye-opening for anyone in high school or even an older reader. It really shines a spotlight on issues in our society that people are afraid to talk about --- which, of course, only exacerbates these sorts of issues. I think this book could open up the conversation in a smart, appropriate way. THE WAY I USED TO BE will make you angry, tense and frustrated, but you will be glad you read it.

Reviewed by Grace P., Teen Board Member
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
anu narayan
This book was by far one of the most emotional I have ever read. It makes you empathize and feel like you’re living these experiences along with the character.
We meet Eden, a young fourteen year old, so smart, so dedicated, and filled with hope for the future to come. The story quickly dives in to the horrific experience she goes through on what seemed to be a normal night, in her own home. Where she awakes in the middle of the night to find her brothers best friend in her room. After the even, what you quickly realize as a reader is that she doesn’t tell anyone.. it is so heartbreaking.
We read four parts, each of which are her high school years. Her freshmen year, she is mostly to herself, very studious, and reserved. She is afraid of getting in trouble, and bullied at school for being a ‘geek’. Her sophomore and junior years she rebels, and becomes someone she would not otherwise recognize. She meets Josh, who is more then willing to be in a relationship, and care for her.. but Eden, can’t be in a relationship, she doesn’t know how to love anyone, she won’t let anyone know her, and the event that changed her life.
I often became frustrated with her, seeing how she had all good around her, a good guy who wanted to be with her, a best friend who cared so much for her, and a family who loved her so, but she refused help, and avoided love. There was something far beyond her control that prevented her to live a normal life.
It was such a heartbreaking, and hopeful read. It really makes someone understand what it could be for someone who has gone through something like this. It reminds us to always look for signs, listen, and always be there for those we love, because we never know who could be keeping something so important that NEEDS TO BE TOLD
*Spoiler Alert* In the end, Eden confides in someone, and it was the best decision she could have made. BE FREE
If you have gone through something like this or you know someone who has.. TELL SOMEONE. Don’t be like Eden, don’t feel like no one will believe you, DON’T live in FEAR. You are WORTH it. .. ♥EG
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
melanie carpenter
Powerful. Tragic. Devastating. Haunting.

Those are all words I would use to describe Amber Smith's debut novel, The Way I Used to Be.

The Way I Used to Be is the story of Eden, a shy and quiet fourteen-year-old who is raped by her older brother's best friend. Eden, always the good girl, can't find a way to tell anyone. The secret she keeps drastically changes and shapes her life over the next four years.

This book was heartbreaking and painful to read right from the start. I felt horrible for Eden and I just wanted her to tell someone -- anyone! The secret she carried ate at her and started to destroy a part of her. It was so frustrating to watch her self-destruct.

But, even though it was painful to read, I couldn't put it down. I was blown away by the writing. There was a reality and an honest feel to Eden's story. I could imagine a real live girl out in the world somewhere reacting the same way. It made this story all the more tragic and necessary.

If this is how amazing Amber Smith's debut novel was, I can't wait to see what she has in store for us in the future.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
deb maine
What happens to your life when the people you are supposed to be able to rely on , the ones who love you , the ones who are supposed to always believe everything you say and stand by your side aren't doing their jobs anymore ? Eden was a good girl, the one who got good grades, never did anything bad and followed all the rules and loved her family and believed they would always be there for her. That was until one night , when she was 14 years old and her brother Cal's best friend Kevin raped her. Kevin , the guy that her family loved and considered one of their own, the guy she thought of as a brother and thought he cared about her too but someone who would do this wouldn't care about her as he took away not only her virginity, but her innocence and so begins a spiralling effect down the rabbit hole for the next 3 years as we watch Eden with every passing moment change into a completely different person as all her behaviours change. I can understand her feeling a little anxious and scared to tell her parents, but it did annoy me that she felt like she couldn't tell anyone and her family - I wanted to shake them for being so freaking oblivious to the fact that their daughter was suffering. Couldn't they see that it wasn't puberty and hormones to blame but the fact that she was hurting so badly inside. The story goes through Eden's high school years and eventually ends with three years later, where she has kept this secret brewing inside of her and she has not in that whole time aired it to anyone - not until Kevin's little sister now around the same age as Eden was when it started accuses her brother of rape. Then the story unfolds and every wall she has built up over the past three years comes crumbling down and again I wanted to shake her family as it's like - now they care about her , where have they been when she's been suffering the past few years.
With this book as I have over the years read a few rape novels, one in particular Speak is a favourite book of mine as it is quite powerful. They all follow a pattern of it being a close friend and the victim keeping quiet. Please I beg of you, if you have been or suffering or know someone in this situation - then please let someone know as you are not alone and more importantly - IT IS NOT AND NEVER WILL BE YOUR FAULT.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I picked this book up with the intention to read half of the book or get close to half. I ended up reading this book in one night. A total of 6 hours. I could not put this book down. #iameden

It took me no time at all to get into this book. I will say that this book is about rape if you didn't already know that and serve as a trigger. But this is a book people should pick up.

I have read a number of books about rape and they each shed a different light on how it affects the victim of the trauma. I feel that The Way I Used to Be is the gritty and ugly side affects that affect some. Eden is not a perfect character, she is completely broken down and spiraling down a hole of self-destruction. The book starts off with the trauma and follows her through each year of school(freshman to senior). She only gets worse as the years go by. Eden finds comfort in alcohol, drugs, and anonymous sex. She treats her friends like crap and says some real s***ty things to her parents and those she cares about. Its all a cry for help, but no one answers.

This story brought me to tears. The Way I Used to Be is not meant to be a happy ending. It is not a road of self-discovery or eve recovery, but the beginning. Its about the aftermath. Something terrible happened to Eden and its eating her up inside, she has no one to tell, no one to share her burden with, and she feels dead inside. Numb. That's what this book is about. You will not see her growth, only her deterioration. Its the ugliness that I loved. I felt its truth and it hit me so hard I cried for Eden's pain. It felt like looking in a mirror.

The truth is some people never get better or get the help they need after being raped. Some people keep all that hate inside them for so long they completely lose themselves. When this book ended, the reader doesn't know what happens to Eden. No idea what her future holds and whether she is ok or not. That's the point. The last page of this book is end of the story, but the beginning for Eden, a step in the right direction towards healing.

So I loved this book. It resonates with me. I cried unashamedly. This book was not about a happy ending even though I desperately wanted it to. I wanted her to be happy and find love and not be scared anymore. I wanted her to heal. I'm so glad books like this are written. Its not pretty. There's slut-shaming, unsafe sex practices, and one bitchy teen who seems to be on the war path. But rape is real, it sadly happens, and usually by the people you least expect. This book is an example of how destructive it can be. Trust me I know. If that is something you can handle then I highly recommend you pick this book up.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
anshuman ansu
I definitely think this is an amazing book to read. I actually finished the book within three days, it was that good I couldn’t put it down. I felt like I was reading speak all over again, adressing the issues of rape and sexual assult. I really loved how intense it was, and thats what made me love it the most, because thats what made me not want to put it down. There were things I liked and didnt like. I didnt like how it got really depressing at times, and I didnt like how she had so many opportunities to tell people what happened to her but didnt. It also bothered me how she felt the need to change so much after what happened to her, which I understand when something bad happens, sometimes making your appearance different might help you feel like your somewhat gonna be okay. Besides those parts, I thought this book sent a big message, more like your not alone. I think it’s inspiring and can encourage girls like Eden to tell somebody, rather then bottle there feelings in. I also fell in love with the way the book was set up. It starts out with you hearing about her heartbreaking experience, and than rewinds to what happened. Throughout the whole book it’s like this whole weight is on your shoulders, because you don’t know what’s going to happen or how its going to end, but the minute the book is over the weight is lifted off your shoulders and your so relieved. I highly recommend reading this book, its beautifully written, and has such an impact on your perspective of things.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
It is really hard to write a review around this story, without taking anything away from how great this really is. This is a story around rape, and the internal struggles a teenager faces over the years while holding in this secret. I feel this was done really well, and was a look into the reality of sexual abuse. It is not something that most people come out and tell their story about right away. I was happy that Eden was able to finally open up about what happened to her. You get to see her break free from this burden. I will say, I wanted more of the story at the end. Overall, an amazing and powerful story that will break your heart.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jackielou de leon
THE WAY I USED TO BE is a powerhouse of a story - raw, tragic, and disturbing in the main character's complete free fall in the aftermath of rape. Unable to tell anyone and surrounded by family members who are grossly oblivious, we witness the following three and a half years of high school. Smith is a fabulous writer and captures perfectly the doubt, self-denial and self hatred of Eden. Despite Eden's frightening and horrific downward spiral, this is a story of hope, of taking back control and most importantly of self-reliance. Fast paced and gripping, this is an excellent book! Highly recommended!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book! All the feels! There were moments reading it when I felt Eden's pain/terror/regret/anger so strongly, it was like being right by her side. Her teenage experiences felt real and honest. In a way, this book was a window that allowed me to understand why teenagers act out about seemingly silly things--chores, for instance.

This book shares such an important message. That's it's never too late to change your mind. That you have the right to change your mind. That not saying anything doesn't mean you've decided.

And the writing! The writing was powerful and gorgeous. An exceptional debut by a very talented author.

Add The Way I Used to Be to your to-read list right away!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
allie marie
When Eden is assaulted by her older brother's best friend, Kevin, (several hours after playing a game of Monopoly), she's understandably conflicted and unsure of whether to report it, particularly since he has threatened her to keep silent. And although she is angry at her parents for not protecting her and her brother for continuing to (unknowingly) socialize with a rapist, Eden cannot explain the reason for her personality changes in the aftermath to them. Formerly, a good student and member of the school band, Eden, along with her best friend Mara, begins to experiment with boys, alcohol, partying and drugs, which continues up through their senior year (the novel spans Eden's whole high school career). Her reputation at school becomes compromised, thanks in part to Kevin's younger sister, who is inexplicably hostile toward Eden. Feeling she has nothing left to lose, Eden begins a pattern of attracting/confusing/repelling the boys with whom she becomes involved. But when another girl makes accusations against Kevin, will Eden find the courage to speak out and expose the truth?

At first, I was drawn into Eden's story, finding the style of the narrative appropriate to her fragile emotional state in the aftermath of the rape. I also found her reactions to be realistic, even when she couldn't bring herself to tell anyone close to her. But I found the story arc to be disjointed - situations were set up, promising further development, then dropped. Also, an entire book where the main character does nothing but party and have sex (this is a judgment from the viewpoint of a reader, not a moral one), becomes dull, especially since Eden repeats the same pattern over and over. Characters (of any age) without any kinds of meaningful interests that they care enough about to pursue seriously are boring to me, even if the author provides a reason for why this is so. Overall, I do think the topic of sexual violence against young women deserves public attention, but this was not an engaging way to go about it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
erin lee
Absolutely loved this book! Heartbreaking, relatable, original, hopeful—I had literally so many emotions as I read Eden's gripping story. Rape survivor books are always tough reads, but this one hit me particularly hard. So many times I wanted to reach through the pages and just save Eden, save her from not only her rapist, but from herself. I loved the originality of tracking Eden over the course of four years following her attack. Five star read all the way. My only complaint was I wished for an epilogue (maybe four years later). I felt such a strong connection to Eden, I almost wanted to make sure that she was able to get her life back and be okay down the road.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
robin boatright
This is a beautiful, powerful book about the long-term affects of rape on a girl's life. Eden is a fantastic, realistic character, and watching her story unfold over four years is both painful and enthralling. That's four years of trauma and secrets, self-destruction and growth, fear and courage, lost trust and strained families, through friendships and relationships broken and reformed, all of it told as though we are right there with Eden, who is so much stronger than she thinks she is, going through everything she goes through and feeling all of it.

It's a heartbreaking story, but ultimately hopeful, and so incredibly important. I definitely recommended it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
amanda parsons
Powerful—that’s the one word summary of The Way I Used to Be. This debut from Amber Smith begins with one night of Eden’s freshman year of high school. Her brother’s best friend, who she has a bit of a crush on, comes into her room and rapes her. From the horrifying scene of the opening page, Smith eloquently describes Eden’s life as she progresses through high school. Eden tries a few different ways to deal with the trauma forced upon her, but few of those expressions are good. Smith lays it all out with grit and sensitivity. The characters are excellently drawn so that all are immediately familiar with those who should evoke sympathy doing just that.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I was absolutely blown away by this story.

MC Eden suffers a violent rape in the opening scene, and it's a book about that trauma and how she handles it in the aftermath. But on a macro level - and this is what really wowed me - it's an incredibly empathetic and true introspection about the coping strategies of teenage girls.

(Maybe boys too. I'm not trying to do a sexist thing, I've just never been a teenage boy so I don't know :p)

So much of Eden's journey was so familiar to me, because it reflected the ways I dealt with the completely different dramas in my own life at that age. I think MILLIONS of girls will see themselves in this story. A powerful and highly insightful debut by Smith.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jon tavernier
Eden has been struggling ever since the night her older brother’s friend changed her life forever. She struggles to regain control of her voice and her body. She struggles with her relationships with friends and family. In a poignant and powerful examination of the long-term effects of sexual assault, THE WAY I USED TO BE brilliantly unfolds over the course of four years of high school. It is a story so raw and so honest that I found myself emotionally drained in every good way after closing the final page. A beautiful and powerful story of redemption, hope, and healing that brought me to tears. A must read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I read THE WAY I USED TO BE in 2-3 sittings. It was one of those books where when I wasn't reading it I was thinking about wanting to read it to find out what was happening. I felt such sympathy for Eden and can see why she changed so dramatically after she was raped by her brother's best friend, and why she was afraid to tell anyone, for fear that he would kill her. Amber Smith wrote such realistic scenes of what it was like to be a teenager, I felt for what Eden was going through. Although there were times I wanted to scream at her to do something different, but then THE WAY I USED TO BE wouldn't be the book it is. I loved, loved, loved her friendship with Mara -- it was so true to life in the way that best friends are. I absolutely hated her parents so much and could see the relationship as it was, and I can totally understand everything about the way Eden behaved the way she did -- acting out, and turning into the person she became. She put up a wall, became a different person.

While this is definitely a five-star book for me, because I did love it and I loved the format of Freshman, Sophomore, Junior and Senior year, I do wish that there was something more to the ending. Of course I'm not going to give it away, and I completely, COMPLETELY understand why Amber Smith took the route she did, because it was the right ending on so many levels, but selfishly I wanted something different, I would have liked … well, I can't give THAT away. LOL. But also, I do wish there might have been a big confrontation as well. I wanted someone beat up! Someone deserved to be beaten up! Really badly, by more than one other person in the novel. I can imagine that's what happened, right!?

Aside from that tiny wish of mine, THE WAY I USED TO BE tackles a really sensitive and tough issue that I sadly believe happens more often than is discussed -- I think rape with someone a person knows happens way too often, and young girls and women blame themselves, or are too scared to tell anyone, and they live with the fear and the guilt and the shame of this huge secret. It needs to be told. The only one who needs to be blamed is the rapist. Amber Smith does an amazing job at shedding light on an issue that needs to be discussed more openly in our society.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
david eakes
It’s not often that I’m at a loss for words, because, well, I’m a writer, and usually I have too many words for any given situation. But after finishing this book, my heart was pounding and I couldn’t find words big enough to describe how brilliant, beautiful, and powerful it is. Those words just don’t seem to do it justice. None do.

Amber Smith’s talent is immense. Her writing is searing, raw, courageous, deep. Her words cut, pound, take away your air supply, make you realize you’re not breathing. Eden’s story is not an easy one to read. After her brother’s best friend—someone she thought she trusted, someone she once thought she loved—rapes her, Eden buries the truth, along with the person she used to be. The whole time I was reading, it wasn’t like I was reading a character—it was like Eden was a real person. And in many ways, she is. She is a girl carrying around the weight of something horrible, something unimaginable, and trying desperately to show to the outside world that it never happened, that she simply doesn’t want to go back to the way that she used to be, not that she can’t go back. Eden’s hurt is palpable. It radiated off the pages and so many times, I wanted to hug her and tell her she’s worthy of love, she’s worthy of good things, that people will believe her if she tells them the truth. I thought, on so many occasions, how many girls we know in real life are carrying around truths they want to forget? How can we help them?

This book also deals with slut-shaming, which was handled in such a heartbreakingly true-to-life way. Nobody knew what Eden was going through, so they slapped labels on her, because it was easier that way. But in doing so, they made those labels something Eden could slip into, a way she could distance herself from the girl she used to be. People don’t realize that words not only cause permanent damage, but they can alter the course of a person’s life.

The fact that Eden’s story was told in four parts—one for each year of high school—allowed the reader to see that nothing goes away. Trauma and pain and anger and regret and sadness don’t just retreat to be buried by other feelings. They simmer right under the surface like a second pulse. What happened to Eden doesn’t fade as she gets older. It takes on new shapes, ones with sharp edges, ones that cut and flay and destroy any sense of confidence she might have had.

Stories like Eden’s need to be told. They need to be told more than once. Books like this need to exist. And stories like this, stories this sensitive and courageous and breathtaking, need to be told by authors as tremendously talented as Amber Smith, authors who aren’t afraid to channel all of the emotions, all of the devastation, authors who can be both fragile and bold.

By far one of the best books I’ve read this year. By far, one of the books I won’t stop thinking about.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
mauricio hermosillo
To write this review, I needed to take a couple of days to ease my anger. If you're a parent with daughters, don't let them read this book! In fact, no young adult should read this book.
I am a survivor. I know about the affects of this type of violence. It's terrible and long lasting. There are many true , non fiction stories out there to read about the horrific aspects of this kind of very personal crime. I have read many and have been beyond sympathetic. How does this won differ? It's fiction.
WTF and you have got to be kidding me, were most of my reactions to this story. I listened to it on CD. 8 CD's 7 out of 8 were the most ridiculous downward spiral of the main character. She had good friends, decent relationships with her family, a very helpful teacher at school and yet doesn't say anything to anyone about her rape. Instead she makes the worse choices possible and turns into a evil girl who alienates everyone and treats everyone like trash.A violent rape and no one notices bruises on her neck and body?
Call me crazy but if you are going to write a fictional account about such a terrible crime, why not empower your main character? Why not show young adults that it's possible to survive ? At the very least be realistic. I just couldn't swallow this story. Not enough background information to portray this kind of story. Privileged white girl, very good relationships, middle to upper class neighborhood just did not ring true at all.
I know rape, sexual assault happens with all classes of people. Let the real memoirs speak for themselves. They are loud and clear plus believable. I was disgusted with this book and almost threw it out the car window.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
devon ricketts
"The Way I Used to Be" by Amber Smith is an extremely emotional book to read. If you or someone close to you has any personal experience with rape either you should be aware or avoid reading it. It might be emotional and hard to read. It was hard for me to read at times and I haven't had any personal experience.

The book begins right after Kevin, her brother's best friend, rapes Eden. She is fourteen years old and a freshmen in high school. Eden tells no one begins Kevin threatens her and tells her no one will believe her. Her parents, who dote on her brother, Caelin, don't notice anything wrong with her the next morning or any days after that. When the book begins, Eden is a shy, quiet, slightly nerdy band girl. But the incident changes her and she becomes more rebellious.

The story is told in four parts: freshmen, sophomore, junior, and senior years. In her sophomore year, she meets Josh. Josh is a senior and a popular basketball player. Kevin's sister, Amanda, starts a rumor that Eden is a slut and Eden decides that if she is going to be labeled the school slut, why not actually become it. From there, Eden's life falls apart. She cannot feel anything like love for anyone or for herself. It's not until the end of the book where maybe there is a ray of light for Eden.

It's hard to say I loved this book because of the subject but I think it was really well done. It was hard at times to like Eden because she said and did so many hurtful things to those around her but because of her situation, it was understandable. Reading the book made me think, if I was ever in Eden's shoes, what would I do? Obviously most people would say they would tell right away if this happened to them but for survivors, I'm sure it's not as easy as that. Amber Smith did a great job writing what the aftermath of a rape could be like and how it must be and feel for those who have been in this situation.

I think this is a book that teens, college-aged people, and parents should read. At the end of the book the author includes a note that has a website and phone number the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (1-800-656-HOPE).
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
james cao
So many reviewers stating how amazing this book was and how it made them cry. What's sad is the realness of the actions portrayed. But it didn't bring me close to crying. And I desperately wanted it to. I could not feel anything for the characters. In fact at 40% of the book, I was complaining to my friend about how much I did not like the characters. By that point I should have felt something for Edy, right? It seemed like it moved too fast for me as well. I will admit, her meeting that special someone in study yall totally made me feel like the author had spied on me and my fiance back in 9th grade study hall. So I mean, that kind of saved it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mandy benanav
Amber Smith’s story about the lasting, haunting effects of sexual assault is both brilliantly written and brilliantly executed. This book explores the issues of trust and sexuality and sexual violation. Throughout the pages, Smith’s main character struggles with ownership of her own body. Her sexuality. Her female voice. Her need to speak up in a culture of silence. This story held me in its clutches and did not let go. The power of Smith’s debut will respectfully add to the conversations of sexual violence that need to happen, and surely help spark dialogue that can’t be silenced.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
d mccallister
Maybe is the word spoken before we make a wish. Like, "I wish..." I wish this never happened. I wish I had stopped it somehow. I wish it had gone differently. I wish I could go back to before. I wish. I wish. I wish.

Eden was probably the kind of girl who might lay in the grass the summer before starting her four years of high school, pulling dandelion puffballs and blowing their seeds into all the wishes she could make for her life, back when it was much simpler to wish, simpler to breathe, simpler to just be.

Back when she was Edy, and before her life went spiraling out of control. A stairwell to a dark cellar where awful things happen, and claw their way back up the stairs from beneath her skin, trying to find a way out.

THE WAY I USED TO BE is raw, unflinchingly truthful, and astonishing in its portrayal of what millions of women, girls, boys, and men, and those who do not align as either, or who remain fluid, suffer through daily.

Sadly, they carry the guilt, the shame, and the fear which belongs to their abuser, as if it belongs to them, as if it is their own. And yet, it's not. It's a horrific lie told to them to keep them a prisoner, stuck on the stairs leading down into the cellar of their minds.

As Eden struggles through all four years of high school, drifting farther and farther away from the girl who used to say maybe, take a breath, and blow her wishes across the lawn or field she laid in, she wonders if she will ever find a way back to that place where she could still choose what her life might be, instead of having it already decided for her, already a nightmare she has to endure as a consequence of his actions. But I could just as easily say her actions, or their actions, depending upon whose story is being told.

As a male, I believe this book should be required reading in every sex ed class that separates out the boys and the girls, telling them how they will become adults. This book makes it crystal clear the devastation, the aftermath, the horror of what it is like for a survivor of rape to struggle through until she finds her voice and a way to speak the truth that has been shoved down so far, she doesn't even recognize herself in the mirror anymore.

Many thanks to Amber Smith, for writing what must have been such a terrible thing to have to write and live inside of for so long, until it was perfect and ready for its readers. No one wants to read about this. But we must. No one wants to talk about this, either. But WE MUST.

There were so many exquisite moments of profound truth and honesty, words of poetry so powerfully concentrated and blasting off the page as I read the lines. This is a book that needs to be processed, pondered, discussed, and shared. I intend to do all of those things, and more.

Thank you so much for writing this book, Amber. It is an honor to know you. Please, write more books chock full of truth and boiled down to the words within these pages. Amazing. Breathtaking. Heartbreaking. Powerhouse of a book. An absolute MUST READ. A book you won't regret, despite the topic.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jill baker
There are quite a few good YA novels about teens dealing with having been raped, but two things really stood out about “The Way I Used To Be.” One, Eden is raped by a family friend, so the novel explores betrayal and Eden's having to see this person interacting with her family. Two, whereas other YA books I've read have depicted rape victims as becoming very quiet and withdrawn, “The Way I Used To Be” takes on another reaction: rebellion. Because Eden tries to become more independent and ends up making some very bad choices, her friends and family (who don't know she was raped) make life even more difficult for her. They perceive Eden's behaviors as teen angst, bitchiness, and even cruelty, rather than realizing that something terrible happened to her. Her family and friends' disgust and anger pushes Eden further away from them, and a vicious cycle ensues. By showing this cycle, “The Way I Used To Be” will be of great help to teens, rape survivors, families and teachers. For one thing, it may help teens, whether they are rape survivors or not, see that sometimes when family and friends seem indifferent it's because they simply don't understand a situation and need to be told. For another, people who read this book will think twice before judging someone and instead start asking if something's wrong. Finally, I think it's hard to people to understand why a rape survivor might behave the way Eden does – having sex with random guys, taking up smoking, etc. - and this book makes that a lot clearer.
“The Way I Used To Be” is highly readable despite being rather long. There were a few things I didn't like, such a rather shaky romance, but overall the book did a great job with a difficult subject and increased my understanding of it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This powerful, moving debut literally gutted me. It is such an important read that is sure to help so many teens, and I feel honored to have had the opportunity to read it as part of Amber's ARC tour. The writing is haunting and lyrical, the pacing is flawless, and you can't help but feel this one to the core of your soul. It's a tough read emotionally, but a worthwhile one, and I can't recommend it highly enough.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sarah cooke
Book #122 Read in 2015
The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith

At the start of this book, Eden is raped by her brother's best friend. He tells her no one will believe her if she tells them what she doesn't. This decision sends Eden down a path that no one would have ever predicted for her. Told in four sections (each section is a grade level in high school) readers will read about Eden spiraling out of control and desperately in need of help. This book is powerfully raw and heavily emotional...and oh so good....Smith writes well and has her characters complex enough to keep readers engaged for over 350 pages. I received a copy of this book from the store Vine in exchange for a honest review.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
dominic neiman
I have a young daughter and my two greatest fears for her are that she will experiment with drugs or be sexually assaulted. It was hard reading this because I kept thinking about my own daughter and what I could do to protect her, empower her and give her a voice. Unfortunately, situations like the rape in this book happen more than we want to admit. There are so many social pressures and so much internal dialogue that it is hard for someone who has never gone through it to understand that the logical thing is not often what our minds tell us to do. And I can say that I have never had to experience this first hand so I only speak from suppositions.

The story is tough to read at times and although a little disjointed in places, will hit a nerve with many. Hopefully there are lessons that can be learned.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
tim buckner
From the opening line of Amber Smith's stellar debut, I knew this was going to be an important and brave story. After the main character, Eden, is raped by her brother's best friend, the novel tracks the wide swath of trauma that remains. Smith uses tense and structure to expose trauma for what it really is: rather than an urgent one-time event, it's a struggle that unfolds over years. This is a compelling and heartbreaking story, and I can't wait to see what Amber Smith writes next. I will be the first in line to get a copy! Bravo.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lesa engelthaler
Full Disclosure: I have some experience with the subject matter. That being said I read A LOT! which usually means once I am done with a book, I am on to the next, and I don't really retain the last one. Even if I enjoyed it.
I will think about this book long after today. There were times it actually brought me to tears. Alternately I had very strong feelings of dislike for the main character as well. Amber Smith does an amazing job of portraying the conflicting feelings of someone who has been attacked. And the way it effects those around the victim as well. I would highly recommend this book!!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This story is so well done. Realistic and heartbreaking. A true tale about a real human problem and the need to empower young people to speak up against their abusers and it encourages friends and loved ones to be there for the victim so that they can cross over into survivor status. I wish this book much love and reach.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
colleen quigley
Eden is fourteen years old when she is sexually assaulted in her own bedroom, in her own house, by her older brother's best friend who is practically family. This isn't giving anything away: it's how the novel The Way I Used to Be opens. How you react to the rest of the novel is largely going to depend on how you feel about Eden not telling a soul about the assault. Personally, I had a *very* difficult time that part and almost stopped reading early on because I simply couldn't fathom her believing the rather thin threats the rapist delivered and I had a hard time believing that she believed them.

Why I kept reading: because every sexual assault victim reacts differently and there is no "right" reaction. Ever. With this in mind, I kept reading as Eden's assault destroys her life over the ensuing four years. It's devastating. More so when you realize all of the outward signs that we, as the reader and privy to knowledge of the assault can so clearly see but everyone else in Eden's life blithely shrugs off as a teen phase. It's infuriating. And for this reason the book needs to be read by both adults and young adults.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mike murray
This book brought me back to my high schooldays and the struggles of growing up. Friends, boyfriends, parents, not the best things happening in life, all at the same time. One of the down to earth books I've read this year.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
dympna byrne
Smith has written a powerful and moving novel about a girl, Eden, and the changes in her life after an attack in her own home, her own bed, late at night by a friend of her brother's. His best friend, in fact, a boy she trusted who was basically thought of as a member of the family. Most readers are fortunate in that they can only begin to image the horror and complete change something like this will bring to bear on every single area of your life, your mind, your thought process, your body, the very things inside that make you the person you are. She speaks of how you are never you again, which is true, and shows us this brave young girl's arduous journey back into some semblance of a normal life. This can be the basis of very serious discussions with a daughter or son. In fact, perhaps it should be read by more young men, who don't always seem to understand what damage they can do with one thoughtless act. Very well written and realistic, sad and heartbreaking yet inspiring at the same time. Truly a wonderfully done debut from a voice that may prove to be a major one in YA literature.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I’m not normally lost for words, but this book is so powerful. It’s a story about a teenager that was raped by her brothers best friend and how that 5 minuets completely derails her life. It will have you in tears but it’s a boom that definitely has a message in it and story’s like this are needed.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
I loved the idea of this book but just did not connect to Eden. I think things moved too quickly for me to connect (like why did she all of a sudden start calling her parents by their first names?), but I liked the concept. I would read another book by the author because I think she writes well but again, this book and I just did not connect in the way I hoped. I skimmed a lot of it :(
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
laura bandstra
This read was super... heavy.

Following the aftermath of a traumatic experience Eden if forced to live with what happened. This doesn't just follow a few months or a year after the event, it follows her through the rest of her high school years. We see the struggles she's forced to face and the journey she goes on.

I'm glad books like these are being written to the audience they target. Who knows who might benefit from reading something like this? With things and situations like this becoming more and more common, it's important to expose younger people to their options and to let them know they are not alone and that this is not their fault.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Wow i loved this book! Reading it made me go back in time when i was in high school and how i dealt with some of the same issues that Edy did. And i love how the book Chronicles from 9th to 12th grade. I cant wait to read the next book amber smith writes!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Sometimes when something horrible happens to a person, it changes them completely. Eden takes on a rollercoaster of a journey that shows us just that. I really liked this book, I also think it would make an interesting tv series! I'm looking forward to reading more by this author!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
This was a really beautiful book. I didn't know what to expect when I started reading this one. It was quiet but powerful throughout and watching Eden's journey through high school after what happened to her was really difficult to read, yet very powerful and important. The subject matter was handled very delicately, carefully, and thoroughly and Eden's character arc, as well as the events she went through, felt very, very realistic. Highly recommend.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
khette cox
3.5 stars

Eden McCrorey has been hiding a secret from everyone she knows. Her brother's friend, Kevin, raped her during her freshman year but she doesn't think anyone will believe her because Kevin is treated as part of the family. Eden feels alone. She can't tell her family or her friends what happened. She is unpopular at school and she ends up forming the Lunch-Break Book Club to avoid the cafeteria at lunchtime.

Amber Smith's debut novel is powerful! Rape is a subject that can be touchy to talk about in general. Smith writes about an important and heavy topic in a way the reader will understand what Eden is going through. When I heard how The Way I Used to Be is similar to Speak, I had to pick this novel up. She does not sugarcoat anything from sex to drugs to alcohol. She tells it how it is.

Smith writes about Eden's journey over a span of four years of high school. The emotions and pain doesn't go away. It lingers with her forever. As each year progresses, she seems more irritable. She transforms from goody two shoe to a young lady who lives a life that down spirals; Her life is dangerous and destructive. She fills this void of being violated with things she can control such as having sex with random guys, doing drugs and drinking alcohol.

Eden became annoying after awhile and would always not listen to others. She would tell people to shut up when everyone is trying to check up on her. I had mix feelings about how she treated people. I mean I understand that no one knows what she went through but she became overly bitchy as the book progresses. Eden shuts out everyone that cares for her from a love interest to her best friend. There are a few times I seriously wanted to slap her.

Rape happens even though people don't know about. The reason why people don't know about, is because rape victims often don't tell anyone about what happens. They feel conflicted, confined and confused. When you think you are safe, you are not. Home is deemed the safest place but in reality a lot of instances of sexual assault and domestic violence occur with people you know.

If you're looking for a book in the vein of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, definitely check out The Way I Used to Be. This is a good read for April's Sexual Assault Awareness month.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
The Way I Used to Be is realistic look at what a victim of a violent attack would experience as they go through life pretending nothing happened. The way I used to be isn’t a story of rape; it is a narrative of Eden’s life before and after the incident. Through Eden’s experience, the reader is painfully aware of the clear emotional boundaries that victims of violence put up to keep others out. Eden never tells anyone about what happened, instead she keeps it bottled up and the pain and frustration slowly poisons her. Maintaining normal relationships is a struggle for her until she finally confronts her attacker.

The Way I Used to Be is not for everyone. The subject matter is very heavy and the book is depressing. It is frustrating for the reader to watch Eden’s self-destruction.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
celina willis
A slow-moving novel about teenage angst and trauma. Some parts made me easily relive that forgotten feeling I had as a teenager that I was a different person every day. That just days before was SO LONG AGO, not to mention a whole year. This novel captures that incredibly. I chuckled remembering.
On the other hand, I was so frustrated with Eden that it was just super hard to understand her. She shut out everyone without really needing to. She found something real when she still had done nothing wrong and she let it die. I also got frustrated with the plot that kept bouncing from one moment to the other leaving so much unsaid. It was confusing and enthralling all at once, that it was hard to make up my mind on how much I enjoyed this story.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
paige anderson
At first I fell for this book quite quickly. After the first few chapters, though, I put the book down for a few days because I wasn’t sure if it was for me. After I picked it back up, I finished it without hesitation. Once Josh’s character was introduced, I was hooked. Unfortunately (spoiler alert) he doesn’t stay around all that long (which actually surprises and hurts me). When Edy is mad, I felt myself get mad. When she got tense and upset, I felt the same way. This book is well written and I’m glad I picked it back up.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
raunak roy
Absolutely loved it. This was one of the best books I've read all year. I loved the main character and found her very relatable. the story was compelling and kept me interested. I would definitely recommend this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ferina m
Wow. This was so much more powerful than I expected and I loved the format of the book: the devastating event -- Eden's brother's friend rapes her -- and its aftermath over the next three-and-a-half years of high school. Eden's trust in others and faith in herself is completely shattered by this rape, an event that she doesn't share with anyone yet it changes her in such a fundamental way that I hoped that friends or family would at least notice and wonder. But, no, they remain completely oblivious. I desperately hoped she would tell someone so the bastard who raped her could be punished to the full extent of the law for what he did. (No, I'm not going to tell you what happened.) Read it. Recommend it. Share it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jen michalski
After a horrific assault when she was a freshman in high school, Eden self destructs. Terrorized into not revealing the attack, Eden becomes angry, sullen, and depressed. Lashing out at everyone who loves her and not allowing anyone to get too close, Eden reaches the breaking point almost three years later.

Author Amber Smith does an excellent job of capturing a young woman after a brutal attack leaves her unable to cope with normal life. This realistic fiction was well written and has great characterization. Eden's daily struggles are strongly felt and, at times, it is hard to remember that this is a work of fiction. I recommend The Way I Used to Be to teenagers and their parents, as it describes an issue that is all too common in today's society.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
katie shaw
The Way I Used to Be is an achingly difficult read that offers hope and redemption even for those who think all is lost because of what has been done to them. It's not easy seeing the ramifications and repercussions of Eden's rape, but it is important, and my heart broke over and over again for the girl she was, while cheering for the girl she would become.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
christina culverhouse
This book has catapulted to one of my all time favorite YA novels. A powerful, emotional, heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful book. The plotting was perfect, the characters authentic, the writing beautiful. This is a book that stays with you.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Hard to read at times but so well written. Sadly this took me back to a dark place from a similar experience. I cried, a lot! But it helped the healing process even after so many years. I can't wait for her next book!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
denise perrenoud
Sophomore in High School. I'm taking a class reading Strategies where you get to pick a book and just read I picked this book and just wow it is amazing. It explains the feelings the hatred and all emotion you would go through. Eden explains her story so well this book is just amazing
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This book gets started right off the bat. It is intense to say the least. The whole book is centered around the mcs rape and you feel EVERYTHING. I had so many feelings and I sometimes felt them all at the same time.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
virginia russell
Ms. Smith weaves a painful journey about this young struggling with a horrible secret and is trying to figure out who she is as she battles her teenage years. It is an excellent read! At times you want to shake her and help her go in the right direction!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
This book will attract women readers including ones who have suffered what the main character suffers. That's fine. However, I hope guys will read it too. I doubt they will, but we guys need to have more understanding of this issue. During the years, I have heard lots of dumb and ignorant comments about rape from other guys. Those with such attitudes need to be awakened. I believe this book would do it if the guys would only read it.

Read it, guys, and weep.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
This book has thrown so many emotions at me I don't even know where to start. Like most books that deal with this type of story it was emotional hard and just heartbreaking but there is a very slim silver lining that I promise will help you get through this tough read. I think this book will definitely stand out amongst others in it's category and I think it is definitely worth reading from front to cover. Don't let the dark storyline drive you away because these characters need to be breathed into life.

Brilliant story that will stay with me for a long time
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Although this is a work of fiction. I'm sure many girls and women deal with the same thing. I couldn't put this book down, because I wanted Eden to finally heal from the horrific event that changed her life. Such a good book.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
carol dumas
The main focus of this novel - sexual assault - is profound, disturbing, and emotionally eviscerating, sometimes with life-long consequences. This novel could have served as a powerful PSA, but unfortunately, due to the main protagonist, Eden, it epically failed.

I did not like Eden - at all. Although her reaction and self-destructive actions to her violation may be real, I was angry and disappointed that the author resorted to the stereotype of a victim continuing to allow herself to be a victim, rather than take proactive (and positive) steps to overcome her trauma. But what truly made it head-shaking for me was that her supposed close-knit family didn't make more effort to get to the bottom of her out of control, totally heretofore uncharacteristic behavior. There were times immediately after her rape (or the next morning when her own mother saw the physical evidence of the crime!) when Eden could have said something, done something more than she did to convey what happened, and if her loving family had two brain cells to rub together, they would have figured out something very wrong was happening. Thus, this novel didn't work for me not only because Eden was so passive in her own victimization* but the people she's close to also don't seem to notice anything out of the ordinary, or even when they did, they didn't make more of an effort to have Eden open up.

Also, sometimes, people are just psychopathic scum. I felt the author took an "out" by having Kevin have his own background trauma. Yes, it was pointed out that's no excuse, no free pass for what Kevin did to others, but I felt that was a completely unnecessary insertion into the story.

* Again, although I realize that Eden's reaction in the immediate and not so immediate aftermath may be true to real life, I wanted her to be more angry at her perpetrator, rather than take out her fear, loathing and hate on herself and those around her.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
barbara weinbaum
This is a gorgeous, heart-wrenching, traumatic book, but I had numerous problems with it, so give me a moment to elaborate.

This book takes place over the span of four years. Year 1 - Eden's freshman year in high school is a decent one. She's a clarinet player. Member of the school band. Glasses and freckles and every nerd trope there is. Until one day, her brother's best friend, Kevin, sneaks into her room in the middle of the night and sexually assaults her, threatening her to keep quiet, and upending her whole life.

Over the next three years, Eden's life takes a turn for the worse. She loses the glasses and hops on guys without rebound, argues with her parents and brother frequently, and drinks and parties every other day.

So here's where I'd like to discuss a few of the problems I had with the book, and I don't wanna sound like that person, but she could've told someone. Honestly. Her best friend was so easygoing and her parents were not even so bad.

I think Eden is spoiled as heck. She argued with her parents over the transition from "glasses to contacts" and burst into tears to get what she wanted. She also tosses the dreadful "I hate you" around so frequently, especially around her phenomenal parents.

Personally, I think it's impossible to lie about your age. Because most of the time, you look it. Eden, who was fourteen/fifteen/sixteen, a majority of the novel she's constantly telling people (i.e. boys) she's eighteen and they believed her without qualm.

And I understand Eden has been through a lot, but this feels like Fault Line. Just because you're miserable, doesn't mean you need to make everyone around you miserable. She made several people cry. What do you gain from that?

This debut is stunning and I cried over it. The ending was sliiiightly unfulfilling, but it's not the type of read to miss.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I picked it up from the store sort of at random. I haven't been able to actually finish a book in over 10years. I am going back to school in the fall and thought I had better get to reading for leisure. I need the practice because reading, anything really, makes me sleepy. This book however passed the sleepy test.
I will definitely be looking forward to any future books from this Author.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Fourteen-year-old Eden McCrorey has known Kevin Armstrong for years. He's her brother's best friend, he's like family. She never thought he'd sneak into her bedroom one night and rape her.

Is Eden going to tell? This is what I needed to know from the beginning. I felt for her, but then she started to irritate me but I didn't want to be irritated because of what had happened to her. Reading about all of her bad choices was bothersome after a while and reading about so much anger became emotionally draining.

I understand changing appearance to feel better about oneself, but being strong doesn't have to mean taking on bad habits like smoking, cussing, drinking and drugs. And meaningless sex doesn't ease pain or make anger go away. There is no power, no strength in self-destructive behavior. Eden needed to speak up for herself, make her voice heard. But when it comes to sexual assault, sometimes that's easier said than done. There can be long-term psychological effects of rape as the author shows.

Amber Smith deals with acquaintance rape, dysfunctional families, self-destructive teens (Eden wasn't the only one harming herself), bullying and other issues. This is a good story that would have been a much better story without pervasive profanity. And the gas station guy should be ashamed of himself.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
THE WAY I USED TO BE is another problem novel for young adults. This time the problem is one of the long term devastating effects of acquaintance rape. Amber Smith is a very readable author who tells her story well. This is an important topic and this novel addresses it in a way that will resonate with many adolescent readers.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
abhishek jain
I shouldn't hate this book nearly as much as I do. As a survivor of sexual abuse, I empathize deeply with Eden's post-rape trauma, especially because both of us suffered at the hands of our older brother's best friend. Beyond that, though? Stuff done so horribly I could cry in anger all over again. Smith takes a premise that should promise a new narrative for rape survivors and does absolutely nothing with it by writing the same narrow, tropey story we're tired of seeing.

The problem is the overarching narrative, NOT Eden and her first-person point of view. By page 16, you'll want to murder everyone around her and hold her in your arms like a crying child because she IS. She's in deep pain from beginning to end and rape survivors who responded with hypersexuality in the aftermath of their trauma will recognize themselves in her. Her story is valid.

So what's the issue? The other characters may be shallow and the pacing off, but that should be the end of it if Eden's story is valid, right?

NOPE. All stories of survival, whether individual or group, are valid. But at the end of the day, Eden is a fictional character. Fictional narratives identical to hers shape how real people think of and treat real rape survivors and make people think, "Oh, she must not actually be a rape victim" because they don't act like Eden or countless other FICTIONAL rape survivors. Books like these reinforce stereotypes instead of bringing attention to the fact survivors react in more than just a handful of ways.

Few SA/A (sexual abuse/assault) novels cover as wide a period of time as The Way I Used To Be does. Four years! Most novels will cover a few months of the aftermath or a year at the most. This extended timeline, however, goes to waste. Four years can span the time from crime to trial or abuse to the beginning of healing (as was the case with me; by the time four years passed, I became very opened about what happened to me), but Eden's four years are one long downward spiral with useless fluff put in and vital scenes to her character development left our. For instance, at some point between her junior and senior years, she starts referring to her parents by their names instead of Mom and Dad. WHY? What happened? That's a pivotal moment and we don't get to experience it. There's no use for Smith's premise of showing the long-term effects of rape like this if the turning-point moments for Eden remain unwritten.

So even with the extended-timeline draw Smith fails to utilize to its fullest potential, this is just another forgettable SA/A novel that acts like responses other than fear or hypersexuality don't happen. Survivors like me who didn't react in either way are yet again ignored and alienated. I can name three novels off the top of my head that hit all the same notes and follow all the same paths. It's an unoriginal novel about an experience so varied writers should never run out of new experiences to introduce the world to so they can understand us better. WE ARE NOT TROPES.

In short, nothing is wrong with Eden. Everything is wrong with this book. Skip The Way I Used To Be.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
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The Way I Used To Be
Amber Smith

What it's all about...

Eden is raped in her own home in her own bed in the middle of the night by her brother's best friend. Her parents are there. Her brother is there. The rapist tells her if she ever says a word about this that he will kill her. He tells her no one would believe her anyway. So...Eden does not say a word. Instead she becomes promiscuous and wild. She has sex with at least 15 more boys and she is totally out of control.

The book is unique in that we see the drastic way Eden changes as she goes from her freshman year until her senior year. It's sad, distressing and heartbreaking. It's sad because if Eden could have been strong enough to tell her parents what much grief and pain could have been prevented.

Readers should gain insight and knowledge about this kind of sexual crime and what it might do to individuals as well as families. Eden's story is truly heartbreaking.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nevena coric
What an incredibly powerful debut novel! Poignant, well-written, and absolutely enthralling. I finished this book in a single sitting. Congratulations, Amber! I can't wait for everyone to read this amazing book!
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