The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I received this ARC from Simon and Schuster in exchange for an honest review.
I want to say up front that I hated Speak when I read it. Maybe because high school was too soon for me to encounter it, but I remember feeling disgusted by Melinda and not understanding why it was a book that won so many awards. It was about an important topic, yes. But I detested it.
This book is not like that one in all of the right ways.
Smith jerks you right into the reality of the story, the morning after Eden has been raped, and breaks your heart in a million pieces as Eden flounders in her pain, but that is not to say that Eden is likable throughout the entire story. Eden makes a host of poor decisions and treats people badly in her attempt to cope with and understand her feelings. Her journey is not one that shows her being Strong and making All The Right Decisions but is instead one filled with self-loathing and hate and destruction, but one that eventually leads her to a place of finding her "maybe"s again.
The way Smith crafted her story, taking you through each year of Eden's high school experience and therefore through Eden's healing process, allows you to see how she progresses through the grief of what she's lost. At the beginning of the story, I was incredibly frustrated with Eden and the terrible things she was doing to herself because I couldn't figure out how she thought it was helping, but by the end of the story Smith's artistry shines through as Eden begins to understand herself and her decisions more. The reader only knows what Eden knows and there is a power in the narrative being written that way that helps the reader understand her experiences and thoughts and feelings.
Although this story is one about rape and dealing with the terrible, ugly, unfathomable thing that it is, it's also the story of a person working through something terrible that happened to her in the only way that she knows how.
I didn't always like Eden, but I always loved her.
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