Review: The Way I Used to Be (and Why it’s Triggering)

February 4, 2017     erinthebooknut     Book review, DNF

Review: The Way I Used to Be (and Why it’s Triggering)The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith, Kevin Twomey
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on March 22nd 2016
Pages: 367

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.

Trigger warning: sexual assault


I couldn’t finish this book.

I could barely get to page ten before I had to put it down. And I haven’t looked back.

I’m sure for some people this book is a raw, brutal but well thought out and well written contemporary  about a girl who was raped. Tons of reviews and goodreads ratings back this up. However I found it unreadable. This doesn’t make it a bad book, but I personally could not read it because it is all too real.

The book opens in the middle of an assault in progress from the POV of the victim. Nope, can’t do it. All I can see is my friends who have gone through this exact scenario. All I can see is me.

1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted in college. Many are assaulted before they enter or after they leave. Now imagine they pick up this book and are immediately thrown into a situation similar to their own. No warning, no way to prepare.

Maybe not the best way to open a book?

Not for them anyway. To feel those emotions again as this character is, in the moment not after the fact, it’s not a great feeling. It’s not a feeling they or I want to feel again.

I’ve read plenty of books where a character is raped, it’s never bothered me until now. Because they’ve never thrown me without warning into that situation right from the get go. I was able to prepare instead of getting smashed in the face by a brutalization of a character like this book does.

Raw? Gritty? Brutal? Yes, absolutely. But I’m not sure that’s a good thing in this case.

I’ve heard from other readers who have actually finished the book that it’s not a “dealing with rape” book. They say it’s more a “learning to live with it” book. She doesn’t deal, she just lives with it. Even skipping over the triggering scene I don’t think I could read it.

I would have liked a bit more of a trigger warning at the beginning of the book. Or perhaps a little time to ease in. Otherwise it’s just a little too much and I know several people who would agree with that. With so many survivors in your potential audience, be a little more careful is all I ask.


From my shelf to yours,


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