"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

13 May 2016

The Way I Used to Be

Smith, Amber. The Way I Used to Be. Margaret K McElderry Books, 2016.

Eden wakes up after a nightmare, but the blood on her sheets and the bruises on her thighs belie the truth: her brother's best friend, the "adopted son" of her family, raped her last night. She is too frightened, to confused, to tell anyone about it in the days and years following the rape. She struggles with redefining herself as a survivor. Will she find the courage to tell the truth and save another person from the same fate?

I really, truly wanted to love this book. I loved Speak, LOVED it, but the sympathy I felt for Miranda isn't there for Eden. Yes, it is true that some rape survivors respond by becoming hyper-sexual and sleeping around, as Eden did, but this book was frustrating in its sameness to a thousand other stories, in its way of glorifying the horrors in Eden's life, not only over a brief period, but for four long years as we watch things continuously spiral downward in her life. Her family doesn't know what's wrong with her; she loses interest in her hobbies; she starts to sleep around; she loses her friends. All these things are believable reactions to a rape, but this story doesn't go anywhere. Eden is a stable flat line throughout the entire book. She doesn't change. She doesn't grow. She doesn't develop. If Exit, Pursued by a Bear tells the fairy-tale version of a rape where everything is wonderful afterward and happens the best way possible, this is the twisted version, where everything happens in the worst way possible and stays that way for the entire book.

I agree with other reviewers who posit that we've read this story before, because we have in countless other books. As an abuse survivor myself, I gravitate toward these stories, hoping that I can add them to my stack to pass along to other survivors to help them find healing and strength. This story is the same as a hundred others, and is not in my "to recommend to survivors" pile. It's much too long for a story where nothing happens and then nothing happens and then later, still nothing happens.

Recommended for: teens, fans of Ellen Hopkins or books "where the main character has LOTS of problems" as my tween patrons say
Red Flags: rape, drug use, alcohol use, language
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

Read-Alikes: All the Rage, Girls Like Us, Speak, Exit, Pursued by a Bear

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