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The Way I Used to Be Hardcover – March 22, 2016
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"The Way I Used to Be explores the aftermath of sexual assault with a precision and searing honesty that is often terrifying, sometimes eerily beautiful, and always completely true. It is The Hero's Journey through a distorted circus mirror--one girl's quest to turn desperation into courage, to become a survivor instead of a victim. Amber Smith gets it exactly right." (Amy Reed, author of BEAUTIFUL and CLEAN)
STARRED REVIEW “This is a poignant book that realistically looks at the lasting effects of trauma on love, relationships, and life….Teens will be reminded of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. VERDICT An important addition for every collection.” (School Library Journal)
“A difficult, painful journey, but teens who have experienced rape and abuse will be grateful for this unvarnished and ultimately hopeful portrait. Eden’s shell-shocked narrative is an excellent narrative conduit for what Smith has to say.” (Booklist February 1, 2016)
"This is far from a feel-good read, but I can’t implore how necessary it is to read a book like this one . . . As unforgettable and stirring as Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, Smith’s provocative debut is best described as a survival story with hope and anger serving as prominent themes so fully explored they simmer off the page." (The Young Folks)
"Readers will root for her as she gathers the courage, at last, to speak up." (B&N Teen blog)
"The Way I Used To Be is an intensely gripping and raw look at secrets, silence, speaking out, and survival in the aftermath of a sexual assault. A must-have for every collection that serves teens." (SLJ / Teen Librarian Toolbox)
"Easily one of the hardest books to read on this list. Brutal, raw and emotional… Eden’s story gets told on her terms, in her voice. An honest look at one teen’s struggle to find her way back to herself, to mold herself into the survivor she is." (FANGIRLISH)
"THE WAY I USED TO BE promises to be meaningful, significant, and truly unforgettable." (FIKTSHUN)
"Don't let a book of this magnitude pass you by. Pick it up and read it because Eden's story demands to be read." (Once Upon a Twilight)
"With an achingly beautiful narrative and carefully crafted plot, The Way I Used to Be is more than just an excellent book; it’s an important one." (NOVEL NOVICE)
“Bottom Line: powerful, emotional and raw.” (BRANDI BREATHES BOOKS)
“Edy’s exploration of the meaning of sexuality and intimacy will be thought provoking for teen readers of various experience levels, and this title is likely to find space alongside [Laurie Halse] Anderson’s Speak." (BCCB)
“The Way I Used to Be is a beautifully told debut novel spanning four years of a rape survivor’s life” (The Bucks County Courier Times)
“A heart-twisting, but ultimately hopeful, exploration of how pain can lead to strength.” (The Boston Globe)
About the Author
Amber Smith grew up in Buffalo, New York, and now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her two dogs. After graduating from art school with a BFA in painting, she earned her MA in art history. When she’s not writing, she is working as a curator and art consultant. She has also written on the topics of art history and modern and contemporary art. She is the author of The Way I Used to Be and The Last to Let Go. Visit her online at AmberSmithAuthor.com.
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Top Customer Reviews
This book is heartbreaking on so many levels. Aesthetically, the writing is absolutely gorgeous – I can’t believe this a debut, and I will preorder every one of Amber Smith’s following books without even bothering to read the synopsis. From page one you are captivated by this story, and it was near impossible to put down. It’s been a long time since I’ve finished a nearly 400 page book in 24 hours.
It hurt to read sometimes, because reading Eden’s words felt so much like reading my own thoughts, both as a teenager and now. We don’t have the same story, but books like this are necessary because they remind you that you don’t need to have the same experiences as someone to understand their journey. Emotions are universal. The struggle to overcome any trauma is nearly indescribable, and yet Smith did this in a way that made it seem almost effortless. I rarely read the same book twice, but this is a book I will revisit time and time again.
I don’t know what else to say. Oddly, words don’t seem like enough. This book was so much at once. If I had to choose one word, I’d choose beautiful – but even that doesn’t encompass everything that it is. If you’re reading this review on Amazon or Goodreads, please, please, please go and buy it. I’m a stranger to you, but I promise you won’t regret it.
I know a lot of people read books to escape, but I’ve always read to connect. Never before have I connected so completely with a story. I dreamt about it last night after reading nearly half of it in one sitting, and I think I’ll dream about it again tonight. The scenes were so vivid, the characters so completely real. I think it might be another lifetime before I feel this way about a book again. I almost hope it is.
One Word: Difficult
Freshman year, after nerdy good-girl Eden is raped by her older brother's best friend, her not-so-secret crush, she becomes angry, mean and promiscuous turning on anyone who tries to love or help her.
Like narrator, Eden, I am a teen rape survivor. Unlike Eden, my response was one of fear and avoidance. I always knew that some survivors responded to their abuse with heightened interest in sex as a defense mechanism to master feelings of helplessness, I never really understood who anyone would actively search out that which hurt her so deeply. It made no sense to seek, rather than run from the memories. THE WAY I USED TO BE showed me how Eden's reaction to being victimized made perfect sense, hurt before you can be hurt; maintain a stoic façade, so they can't see the pain.
Told in four parts, freshman, sophomore, junior and senior year Amber Smith takes us from Eden's fearful reaction to being raped, through her changes how how those changes affect her relationship with her friends, parents, the boys who try to love her and to how she systematically pushes them away through hurtful behavior. At first I cringed, then I cried, then I wanted to jump into the pages and hug some sense into her. "Tell someone, Eden." But, she is to scared and traumatized by her rapist's threats, too certain they would never believe her, to tell. I can relate to that fear, even though my responses were nearly polar opposite of hers.
Before THE WAY I USED TO BE, I never thought I'd be able to relate to an Eden in anything other than an intellectual manner. Smith made me feel Eden's pain in my soul. She was a flawed, flawed character, at times difficult to like or respect. In reality, I'm not sure whether the people Eden pushed away **her best friend, her first love, the boy who crushed on her** I'm not sure they would have stuck around for as long as they did. I'm not sure they would have kept trying time after time after she behaved so hurtfully. Somehow, these teens cared enough about the Eden they knew she was underneath the meanness. Even if their perseverance was a bit unrealistic, THE WAY I USED TO BE is nearly flawless.
I didn't want the story to end. I wanted more and I would love to see Smith write a sequel about Eden's recovery and the fallout from the events at the end of the story. Although the conclusion was satisfying, there is more story that can be told.
THEMES: rape, sexual assault, friendship, family, dating, siblings, promiscuity
THE WAY I USED TO BE is an important story about the aftermath and effects of rape on a young girl, and how her trauma touches all of her relationships afterward.