Smith, Amber. The Way I Used To Be. Simon & Schuster/McElderry Books 2016 384p $17.99 ISBN 978-1-4814-4935-9 hs/adult Realistic fiction VG-BN
Author Amber Smith immediately pulls the reader into the psychological depths of despair as her protagonist, young Edy, tries to cope after being raped. Chapter One draws the reader into Edy’s solitary suffering by describing the rape from her perspective. Imagine Edy’s introduction to adulthood, when her brother’s best friend Kevin comes into her bedroom one night and attacks her, threatening her with death if she tells. So begins Edy’s journey through her high-school years. Dubbed the “school slut”, Edy must try to cope as she forges ahead, in and out of relationships that would have been quite fulfilling had she been emotionally stable. Instead, she keeps her secret to herself and tries to survive. Smith divides her book into four chapters of life, each a year of senior high school. In her freshman year, Edy creates a lunch-time book club with her best friend Mara. Together, the girls try to define their role in high school. This year, she runs into Kevin’s sister Amanda who looks at her disdainfully. Edy can’t quite figure out why. During sophomore year, she meets Josh, a young man who senses that all is not right with her, yet forges ahead with the relationship. Unbeknownst to Josh, Edy is NOT sixteen, so when they have sexual relations, he is unaware that he is breaking the law. Due to Edy’s lack of ability to function in normal relationship-building, and because Edy is underage, Josh breaks up with her. There is so much more to this book, and Smith never divulges until the end whether Kevin will have to pay for his crime or whether Edy will accept what has happened to her and move ahead in life. This novel is worth the time as much for its character development as for its dive into an area of PTSD. Publisher please note: The Tristate Young Adult review committee recommends book of note status for published books; however, in unusual cases, we can recommend an advance reader’s copy as a BON. Please see pages 238-239, where the italics are not correctly done to indicate which words are part of a note and which are regular text.
This book is a very good choice for high-school readers as well as for young adults. The rape scene is quite vivid, there is profanity, and the psychological trauma is palpable.
Summary: After Edy is raped by her brother’s best friend, she struggles to cope alone. Throughout the high-school year, she faces obstacles, new understandings about life post-rape, and new relationships. Normalcy is not part of the equation.
Rape-Fiction, PTSD-Fiction --Martha Squaresky