On My Bookshelf: The Way I Used To Be by Amber Smith

May 21, 2018

The Way I Used To Be by Amber Smith is the devastating story of how keeping a secret you shouldn't can destroy your life. After Eden is raped in her own bed her brother's best friend, she is convinced that no one will believe her. Instead of seeking help, she tries to pretend it never happened, but the trauma of the event and refusing to deal with it just leads to a spiral of destructive behavior and ruined relationships. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: Eden was always good at being good. Starting high school didn’t change who she was. But the night her brother’s best friend rapes her, Eden’s world capsizes.

What was once simple, is now complex. What Eden once loved—who she once loved—she now hates. What she thought she knew to be true, is now lies. Nothing makes sense anymore, and she knows she’s supposed to tell someone what happened but she can’t. So she buries it instead. And she buries the way she used to be.

Told in four parts—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year—this provocative debut reveals the deep cuts of trauma. But it also demonstrates one young woman’s strength as she navigates the disappointment and unbearable pains of adolescence, of first love and first heartbreak, of friendships broken and rebuilt, all while learning to embrace the power of survival she never knew she had hidden within her heart.
The Way I Used To Be by Amber Smith is the devastating story of how keeping a secret you shouldn't can destroy your life. After Eden is raped in her own bed her brother's best friend, she is convinced that no one will believe her. Instead of seeking help, she tries to pretend it never happened, but the trauma of the event and refusing to deal with it just leads to a spiral of destructive behavior and ruined relationships. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.


Why I liked it: The Way I Used To Be is the devastating story of how keeping a secret you shouldn't can destroy your life. After Eden is raped in her own bed her brother's best friend, she is convinced that no one will believe her. Instead of seeking help, she tries to pretend it never happened, but the trauma of the event and refusing to deal with it just leads to a spiral of destructive behavior and ruined relationships. She and her best friend, Mara, get tired of being picked on at school and make themselves over. They begin drinking, using drugs, and partying with older guys. After being unable to be honest with Josh, her almost boyfriend, and ending her relationship with him, she begins using sex with near strangers as another form of escape. She is angry and hostile to her parents and once beloved older brother. Almost four years later, when her perpetrator is accused of attacking someone else, Eden is finally pushed to share what happened to her in hopes that it will never happen again.

Classroom application: While Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, a popular novel on a similar topic, is often used at the middle school level, I'd save this one for high school and up. Besides the sexual violence of the rape, which is eventually described in fairly graphic detail, the other mature content: sex, drugs, drinking make it more appropriate for older students. 

The novel is a perfect illustration of the "victim mentality" and why so many sexual assaults go unreported. If used in class, I would have single gender groups discuss the book before bringing the class back together. I think students might feel more comfortable talking about sex and the ways people express their sexuality (i.e. the judgement around promiscuity for females, but not for males), which would lead to more honest conversations. 


If you are interested in purchasing a copy of The Way I Used To Be for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

Note: The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

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