Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The way I used to be by Amber Smith

Eden McCrorey is just fourteen when her older brother's best friend rapes her, destroying the safe illusion of her childhood.  It felt like a bad dream, but the evidence is there in the morning, a reminder of the shattered trust and a childhood left in tatters.  It was a single moment that will influence the next few years of her life as she moves year by year from freshman to sophomore, sophomore to junior, and then junior toe senior.  On the outside she appears to be the same girl, but she is making decisions and taking risks.  With each year it seems as though she creates more barriers and makes more mistakes, pushing away the people closest to her without realising why.  Then one day she is confronted with a bitter truth and must decide what to do - tell her story or remain silent.

One of the hazards of reading lots of books is that I tend to end up with high standards and I tend to discard a lot of books because it just feels like I have read them before - and it takes a very special book to stand out from the crowd.  The way I used to be is one of those rare books that I not only read cover to cover, but where the characters have stuck around in my head because I felt such a strong connection to the them.  Eden is the clearest voice, but her friends are also there, asking to be heard, while her family mumbles in the background.  What happened to Eden was shocking not just because it happened to her, but also because statistics in New Zealand at least show that about 35% of all girls under the age of 16 experience rape - that is roughly one in three girls under the age of 16 experiencing a life changing and traumatic event.

The thing about Eden's story that makes it so extraordinary is that she is so ordinary - Eden could be any one of thousands of teenage girls around the world who is finding her way while carrying a crushing secret.  This is not a rapid leap into a life of reckless behaviour, it is a slow and graceless slide as Eden's life and choices are made through the lens of a traumatic event that clearly stays with her through the four years of high school.  I became rather attached to Eden through reading her story, and while I have not shied away from reading books about rape for teenagers this was the first book that took such a long term story arc, and it is only through such a long story arc that you can truly see the damage Kevin did, and the danger of keeping rape a secret.  

I would highly recommend that teenage girls read this novel because there is a high chance that they or one of their friends will expreience rape at high school or in their first years of college - for girls who have been raped Eden's story may give them the courage to come forward and lay charges against their rapist, and for girls who have not been raped it may help them understand changes in their friends and encourage them to offer support for friends who have been raped.  A powerful and emotional read because Eden could be any teenage girl, and it was a story that needed to be told without fanfare or excess.  An amazing debut novel that every teenage girl and her parents need to read.

If you read this book and would like to read similar books then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

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