Over the past few years, rape culture has been highlighted and called out more and more in the media. It’s something that should demand awareness, and I’m glad to see it getting the attention it deserves. While books that deal with tough stuff have (thankfully) been around for a while, there has always been so much push back on them that they became few and far between. Now, we are fortunate enough to have more books coming out that deal with the difficult topic of rape, but none have so accurately and powerfully approached not only the act itself, but its aftermath and repercussions as The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith. The Way I Used to Be is not a happy book, but it is a crucial one. Be prepared to cry, scream, punch a wall, and, finally, cheer.
Still not sure if you want to check it out? Here are three reasons you should read it. There’s even an extended excerpt available until March 20, so you can get started ASAP.
1. It Fosters Understanding
From the very beginning, you become Eden’s cheerleader, rooting for her to tell someone. And you watch, horrified, as her defensive, angry choices slowly dig her deeper into a dark, lonely hole. You want to shake her and make her say something, but at the same time, Smith’s honest, visceral writing helps you understand why Eden just can’t. Smith creates compassion and understanding in a situation where it’s difficult for outsiders to get it.
2. It Explores the Long-Term Effects
This book deals with all the complicated emotional responses that come out of such a traumatic experience. Smith doesn’t focus on the graphic details of the event for very long; instead, she explores how Eden deals—or tries to deal—with the rape over the course of 4 years. She explores Eden’s anger and violent emotions and self-destructive behavior. I’ve never experienced anything this traumatic, but I did recognize and connect with some of Eden’s reactive behavior.
3. It’s True to Life
I read this book in two sittings. I couldn’t put it down. It never slows. It just keeps building, and you just keep reading, convinced that she’ll tell someone any minute now. Smith doesn’t capitalize on Eden’s pain. She gives you a painful, eye-level look into the horrific repercussions of rape, and she does so with compassion. I cried for Eden, and I cried because this is a reality for so many people—including people I care about. This is something we have to keep talking about, and Smith’s voice is a heartbreaking, important contribution.