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Author: Amber Smith
Release date: March 22, 2016
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Pages: 384
Formats: Hardcover, audio, eBook



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.


Note: This review is based on an ARC received from a publicity agency in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book.

The Review

It’s not often that a book will affect you so strongly that you will dissolve into tears again and again, shake with rage at all the wrongs done to the character, ache with sadness for all they have lost, become so invested in the outcome that you’re tense with the anticipation of what will happen for the entire read, and be completely wrung out emotionally by the story’s end. Yet Amber Smith has managed to do all that with her debut and so much more.

THE WAY I USED TO BE is a brave, gripping, affecting, intense, breathless, if at times uncomfortable read. It challenges readers to bear witness to Eden’s attack and her transformation in the years following – her loss of innocence, her fear, her anger, her disassociation, her emptiness, her self-loathing. It takes readers to dark places, it makes them feel what Eden is going through, it helps them understand her reactions, her decisions, her pain.

Amber Smith did a phenomenal job of sharing Eden’s story, of creating a strong bond between readers and her character, of putting all that raw emotion on the page. From beginning to end this is an absolutely heartbreaking story. It isn’t easy. It’s upsetting. It’s unsettling. It’s ugly. But to have presented it any other way wouldn’t have felt honest.

This is not a story for all readers. It is difficult and sobering and distressing and demanding. The author did not tiptoe around Edy’s rape or its aftermath. But for those readers who are willing to take this journey with Edy, THE WAY I USED TO BE promises to be meaningful, significant, and truly unforgettable.

The Rating


Like In-N-Out Burger‘s infamous secret menu this one deserves my off-the-menu 6 star rating.

About Amber Smith

Amber Smith

Amber Smith is a writer and artist who grew up in Buffalo, NY and now lives in Charlotte, NC with her two dogs. After graduating from art school with a BFA in Painting, she earned her MA in Art History. When she’s not writing, she is working as a curator and freelance art consultant. She has also written on the topics of art history and modern and contemporary art. The Way I Used to Be  is her first novel.


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