The Way I Used To Be by Amber Smith

Please note that this book has a trigger warning for anyone sensitive to rape, incest, abuse, substance abuse, and violence.

In the tradition of Speak, this extraordinary debut novel shares the unforgettable story of a young woman as she struggles to find strength in the aftermath of an assault. We follow Eden through 4 years of high school as she spirals downwards and then rises from the ashes after being sexually assaulted by someone she used to trust.

We see Eden fighting internally to say something and speak up moments after she awakens from a devastating sexual assault from her brother’s best friend, but she faces the same fear nearly every sexual assault victim faces. Will anyone believe me? Impossible.

While this book is questionably targeted at young adults, I encourage adults, especially parents, to read this book. It really takes you through the experiences that teenagers have to go through now. The peer pressure and the bullying is just as present today, if not more so than when our parents were in school. Kids are coming up with more creative ways to tear down their classmates than ever before; much of which is due to the accessibility of social media.

“This thing… It touches everyone.”

I say this book is questionably targeted at young adults because of its graphic nature. There are several descriptive rape scenes and encounters with drugs and alcohol. The vocabulary and other subject matter, such as drama between friends and lovers, is highly traditional of YA novels. But the true subject of the book is something I would want to steer younger ones away from. We aren’t just talking about a Twilight Saga love scene. There are actual depictions of rape, abuse, substance abuse, and violence; self-inflicted and otherwise.

“The bed frame creaks like a rusty swing swaying back and forth; moans like a haunted house. Something like glass shatters inside of you and the tiny slivers of this horrible thing splinter off and travel through your veins straight to your heart. Next stop brain. I tried to think of anything, anything except ‘it hurts, it hurts, it hurts so bad.’ Quickly though, the pain became secondary to the fact that I might actually die… At some point, I guess I just stopped struggling. The thing, it was happening. It didn’t matter anymore. Just play dead.”

In The Way I Used To Be we get inside the mind of a teen, tormented not only by her classmates but by a hidden past threatening to tear her life apart. As we follow Eden through four years of high school we feel all the pain and experience each torturous memory as she tries to build a life free from the specter that latched on to her that one fateful night and the ghost of that first true love.

This book broke my heart over and over again. The voices screaming inside Eden’s head echo within the reader’s. “Say. It. Say. It.” Speak. I will recommend this book to anyone and everyone I come across who is looking for an emotional eye-opener. This book is one that can start a conversation about the long-term effects of rape and abuse on young adults; a topic which is frowned upon in society for whatever reason.

“I wish it was difficult to remember… Five minutes. 300 seconds. That’s all it is. It can seem like a short amount of time or a long amount of time depending on what’s happening. You press the snooze button and wake up five minutes later; that’s no time at all. But if you’re giving a speech at the front of the classroom or you’re getting a cavity filled then five minutes can feel like a long time. Or say you’re being humiliated and tortured by someone you trusted. Someone you grew up with. Someone you loved, even. Five minutes is forever. Five minutes is the rest of your entire life.”

If you or someone you know is a victim of rape or abuse please use the information listed below. You are not alone and there are so many people willing to hear your story and help you through it. I have also listed my email for anyone who wishes to reach out and comment on this topic. I offer a safe space free of judgment and hate. I have a safe haven for you.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Call 1-800-273-8255
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of 161 crisis centers that provides a 24/7, toll-free hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

National Sexual Assault Hotline Call 1-800-656-4673
The Rape Crisis Center Online
Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network 

National Child Abuse Hotline Call 1-800-422-4453
National Domestic Violence Hotline Call 1-800-799-7233

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