For What It's Worth

Monday, May 23, 2016

Review: The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith



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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. ~
Goodreads

Source:
Copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review


Review:
This book was like a punch to the gut. It cut so close to home and the experiences of several friends
of mine who were sexually assaulted that I had to stop reading several times because it felt so real.

Of course, no two assaults are the same and there isn’t only one way to react or recover. This was Eden’s journey, told in four parts from the time of the rape – when she was a “good girl”, a quiet girl, a geek girl – starting out at high school, through the three years after the rape.

Eden is raped by her brother’s best friend, a good friend of the family, in her own home, and doesn’t tell anyone out of fear.

Who would believe mousy Eden over him? He's a popular, well loved guy. It would destroy her parents and brother who love him like a brother and son. This causes a lot of complex emotions within Eden. She idolizes her brother yet resents him for not knowing what happened to her and for not protecting her.

She goes through all the complex emotions of wanting…needing to tell, yet fearful of the outcome until she pushes it way deep inside but of course she can’t truly forget.

As Eden’s behavior becomes more erratic – she’s angry, drinking, sleeping around – her friends and family try to find out what’s wrong but because they don’t understand what is really going on underneath the surface, it’s often with a judgmental, accusatory tone. They write it off as her being one of those moody, selfish teenagers and that just sends Eden further into herself.

There is a boy and a romance but it’s not written in the typical way that I usually see in these types of books. It’s her first relationship and love *after* but Eden has no way to navigate all the feelings and memories it brings to the surface. Josh is a really nice, patient guy but he can’t figure out what sets her off or why she runs so hot and cold.

Josh sees Eden as beautiful but Eden sees herself as a crime scene.

“Because whatever he thinks I am, I’m not. And whatever he thinks my body is, it isn’t. My body is a torture chamber. it’s a fucking crime scene. Hideous things have happened here,…”
There is no boy to ride in to save the girl. Eden keeps spiraling out of control until she finally hits rock bottom and reaches out to an unlikely person.

I’ve read several books about sexual assault and as I mentioned earlier there is no one or correct way to deal with the aftermath but The Way I Used to Be was so accurate to what my friends went through that it made my heart hurt.

I just want to touch on a few things here.

When people, especially teens, act out or act completely out of character – they’re telling you something. Listen. Quietly, without interruption or judgement…LISTEN. Eden’s family is shocked by her bizarre change in behavior. They try to ask what’s wrong multiple times and mean well but they don’t really want to hear. They want her to just go back to being quiet. That’s not the same and isn’t helpful.

We’ve seen how girls have been treated after speaking up about assault. Even if it was recorded and witnessed by dozens of people we STILL don’t believe the victim. And we judge their behavior afterwards. Until you are in a person’s shoes you have NO idea what it’s like. It’s easy to say “I would have just gone to the police – told someone – fought back…whatever... but the truth is you do what you have to to survive. So STFU.

Eden is frequently slut-shamed. By strangers, friends and even family. Some of it rather aggressive and threatening. I suppose it’s difficult to understand that a person who was violently assaulted would become promiscuous but every person experiences trauma differently. Promiscuity, changes in personality (from outgoing to quiet or from quiet to aggressive or angry for example), drinking, drug use, isolation are all signs that something is wrong.

So yeah…this book felt personal so my review got lecture-y – sorry but I do want to say that even though this book is dark and emotional without a giant happy bow at the end it is hopeful and empowering and a must read.

The author included information to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) so I’ll also add it here:

RAINN website | Hotline 1-800-656 HOPE (4673) available 24/7 – Free. Secure. Confidential

22 comments:

  1. Quote:
    "They try to ask what’s wrong multiple times and mean well but they don’t really want to hear. They want her to just go back to being quiet."
    Oh wow. Are you sure you aren't a writer yourself?
    I read for escapism, and more often than not need to get personally invested in the characters, so I'm not the right type of reader for this one (lucky me, uh?), but I think it's important that teens and parents are made aware of books like this - AND your review wasn't preachy at all, just honest and helpful, so I'm going to push it around...

    On a side note, I like the new minimal look, but I already miss the tweaks you were able to make to the old one. What can I say, I'm spoiled ;P. Anyway, LOL at the new profile pic!

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    1. I don't often read books like this either.It was a difficult book for me but I couldn't help thinking how wonderful this would have been for my friends to have had - and for their families so they could understand better what they were going through.

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  2. I am one clicking this one!! I do like seeing rape in books, because it happens. I had a friend in high school who was raped at 14 and it changed how she looked at a relationship, and has yet to find a solid working marriage (on her third marriage) and it breaks my heart. Because she kept quiet and never had counseling. I live in an area that rape is pretty high. So I know quite a few people that have been attacked, but not only do they have to deal with the trauma, but they also have to deal with the victim shaming that happens a lot. This definitely sounds like a great book that makes you think about serious issues. It is important to listen to signs that teenagers give because sometimes they are reaching out for help or understanding. Great review.

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    1. Same here. My friends have never really recovered (if that's even the right word). First because of the secrecy and shame then because of friend/family responses when they did tell. They were victimized all over again.

      I know it's hard to understand a friend that's lashing out at you at times but you have to hang in there and be there when they need you without judgement.

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  3. Ugh, this is such a rough topic. I'm so glad that books like this exist though, to remind young women that they aren't alone, and that there are lots of different ways to deal with sexual assault and rape. I have to admit, even I've fallen into the trap of victim blaming from time to time, but it's ESSENTIAL to remind ourselves of this crap culture we live in and the horrible reality of victim shaming and it's consequences.

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    1. This book was interesting because Eden's whole personality changes and instead of her friends and family knowing she needs help they end up dismissing her behavior as bratty/defiant/slutty. And she's just a girl that desperately needs help and support.

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  4. Oh lecture away! You wrote this review and about rape so well! I also love that you provided somewhere to go at the end. Brill!! Ah and so much to say but you really did say it all. I would also add my STFU to those that love to tell people what to do and have no clue. This would be a hard book to get through but I could see this book being an important catalyst especially in a therapeutic setting. I think we need more books like this. It might even shed light to those people who don't understand but want to understand.

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    1. I think the author handled it so well that it didn't end up being depressing but really hopeful even though you watch Eden go through all this stuff.

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  5. I remember seeing this book around! As important and intense as this book is, I know it's not one for me. I don't like YA contemporary novels that much, and especially not tough-issue ones like this. I can't deny the importance though!

    Wonderful review, Karen. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

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    1. It's one of the best I've read on the subject.

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  6. Not the book for me but glad you...enjoyed it? Not sure if that's the right word. That happens to so many woman and so many men as well who are brushed off and not believed.

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    1. I would love if someone would write a book about male sexual assault. There's the added stigma.

      I did enjoy it. It was tough but it had such a hopeful ending but not cheesy or cliche.

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  7. This sounds like a book that would be both painful and important to read. I love what you said about that when teens make a sudden and drastic change in personality or behavior they are trying to tell the people around them that something is up with them, but you make another good point- sometimes when we ask people what is wrong with them we really mean "Can you please just act normal again?".

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    1. I was friends with girls who lashed out like that. You don't know why their doing it and it's easy to write them off - but I've learned that there's usually more going on and you need to stick with them so they have someone when they're ready.

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  8. Holy cow...I've been "gone" for a while and thought I'd stumbled upon the wrong blog! Looks great!!

    This book on the other hand...not for me...I'm a chicken!

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    1. I just changed it over the weekend.

      TBH I probably wouldn't have picked this one up on my own but I'm SO glad I read it.

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  9. You had me at "this book is dark and emotional without a giant happy bow at the end it is hopeful and empowering and a must read."

    I don't read these books often, but will make sure to mark this one as it sounds wonderfully done for such an emotionally wrenching subject!

    PS: I love you new look on the blog - it is new?!! : )

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    1. It was such a good book, even though it was a tough topic, it was so well done.

      Yes, a new look. Thank you!

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  10. I've been hesitant to read this. The topic is very serious, but several blogs I follow stated how it was executed all wrong. I'm willing to form my own opinion, so I'll probably grab it from the library one day.

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