Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Review: The Way I Used To Be by Amber Smith

The Way I Used To Be by Amber Smith

Publishing Date: March 22, 2016
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Pages: 384 pages
Young Adult Contemporary

The Premise from the Publisher: "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. 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, and while learning to embrace a power of survival she never knew she had hidden within her heart" (MKMB). 

My overall thoughts and review: When I first read the premise for this book, I knew I had to read it. The premise sounded similar to All The Rage by Courtney Summers, which I reviewed in the past and really enjoyed how it tackled the narrative of a rape victim (You can read my review here!) It is such a dark topic, but I definitely think that there needs to be more books about it and more discussion about it. That being said, it is a dark topic, and needs to be written in a way that doesn't devalue the victim's experience at all. It is a tricky topic to navigate but these narratives matter. What Amber Smith does is create a narrative told in four parts which track the change in Eden following the incident of her rape. It begins in freshman year and her brother's best friend rapes her. I was quite distraught reading this in the beginning parts because the language that Smith uses is so powerful. It broke my heart that Eden felt that she was silenced by this, and the morning after when she couldn't speak about it. You can see how her character changes and her trust in others changes drastically. Through the years, you do see Eden trying to keep relationships and friendships, but it eats away at her having this secret and never speaking about it. You see the shift in how she regards her parents and her brother. Similar to the Summers book, it tackles the issue that a lot of these victims have to face this alone, because they feel shame/guilt associated to it. I'm really glad that Smith chose to tackle this topic. I will say, however, that the four parts works and doesn't work. I felt that some instances, I was getting a completely different version of Eden, when the previous page, she was something else and that got a bit confusing. I think if certain sections were expanded a bit more, I would've really liked that. I will say though, the end does not wrap up nicely, and I really liked that. It bothers me a bit when books wrap up nicely in a bow, and Smith challenges that by offering a realistic ending. There isn't a solution to this, but there is living after what Eden experiences. What Smith demonstrates that victims of rape can do just that.

My rating of the book:  (4/5 stars) 

Disclaimer: An advanced reader's copy of this book was sent to me by Simon and Schuster Canada for consideration/review. All opinions are my own. 

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