I devoured The Way I Used To Be by Amber Smith in just a little over a day. There is just something about young adult/teen fiction books that suck me right in! A friend of mine recommended I read this and as soon as I read the description I knew it was going to be a good one.
Eden classifies herself as a nerd in every sense of the word: book, band, school. She is a measly freshman who wears glasses and has freckles. She’s innocent and timid until everything changes in an instant. One night her freshman year, Kevin, her brother’s best friend who is like family to her, sneaks into her room and violently rapes her. From that moment on, she is changed.
The book is broken out into four parts, one for every year of high school. We watch Eden transform from a shy and kind young girl to a rebel with a tough exterior. We read page after page how the rape damaged her and deformed her personality into the unknown. It was very heartbreaking to read the utter significance the assault had on this sweet young girl. She was robbed of her innocence and scarred for life. Keeping her secret among herself, she lashes out at everyone nearby: friends, family, school teachers.
It’s difficult to put into words how disturbing it was to read about the negative side effects that stemmed from the assault. So often I just wanted to reach through the pages of the book and give Eden a big hug, urge her to talk to her parents about what happened, and tell her she doesn’t need to put up such a hard exterior in order to simply get through the days. She found herself involved in things that were dangerous and careless like drugs, alcohol, endless random sex; I just wanted to shake her and tell her she doesn’t need to turn to these things to mask the pain.
Eden symbolizes every person that cries out for help in the lowest of places. She stands for all of the teens and adults who don’t have the best support system and feel there is nowhere to turn. Assaults like Eden’s happen more often than any of us realize, and this book was a gentle and important reminder that we never know what another person is dealing with on the inside. Be kind, be understanding, be supportive – always.