THE WAY I USED TO BE by AMBER SMITH
A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith is one of those TikTok books. You know the ones. Anything by Sarah J. Maas, Heartstopper by Alice Oseman, Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros. These books became inexplicably popular on TikTok and how everyone is reading them! The Way I Used to Be is one of those. And for good reason, because it’s excellent. It’s also brutal, powerful, and moving all at the same time. Here’s why:
TRIGGER WARNING FOR RAPE ; READER DISCRETION ADVISED
The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith follows Eden, a girl who is so good at being good. She gets good grades, always listens to what her parents tell her, and never does anything to make anyone upset. Until one night, Eden is raped by Kevin, her brother’s best friend. The assault turns Eden’s life upside down and the girl she used to be is crushed by the weight of this trauma. Eden becomes angry, withdrawn. She acts out and engages in risky behavior.
Told in four parts–Eden’s freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior years of high school–readers are taken through the ups and downs of Eden’s life. It’s a beautiful and heartbreaking way to watch a character grow–for better or worse. Eden changes–understandably so--after her assault. She is angry and lashes out at people. She skips school and runs off with boys. Amber Smith does an incredible job at making Eden’s pain feel real without crossing the line to melodrama. One thing about this book that I loved so much is how true it felt. How hones. It isn’t afraid to shy away from some very tough topics and that’s what makes Eden’s story so intense to read about.
Smith’s writing is also very good. Raw and without embellishment. There were points in the book where I had to put it down because I felt so much for Eden. Toward the end of the book, she grows away from her rebellion and finds the courage to fight back against her abuser.
The Way I Used to Be is a difficult read, yes. It’s about a very sensitive topic that too many young people have to face all the time. Yet the book is also beautifully and sensitively written. For teens who have been through these kinds of things, perhaps this book could serve as an outlet–or even a comfort. That you’ll be okay. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday. It’s a powerful message for a powerful book.
You can pick up The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith at the Argenta Library today.