All right, now onto the next book I’ve read in the last week and a half (I will get to 50 this year!). In my last review, I said I needed a lighter read after a quite heavy book-well after that I jumped right back into some heavy subject matter.
I want to be careful when I review this book. So let me put some things out there before we get to my review. This book is about rape and the after effects. I did not like this book. My opinion of the book is not a reflection on my thoughts on rape survivors. Rape is a horrible thing that has been ignored and swept under the rug forever, and I am happy that at least today’s culture is shining the light on it more. So much needs to be done to stop this but at least it’s not as taboo as it once was. I have the utmost respect for sexual assault survivors, and would never judge the way someone reacted to this heinous crime. I, myself, am a sexual assault survivor.
My criticism of this book is based on fictional characters and the way they were written by the author. I am not judging this on a real life scenario, because it is fiction. If it were nonfiction my reaction would be different. I am criticizing the choices the author made in writing a story-that is all.
Ok, now that my super long disclaimer is out of the way, now is a good time to say that spoilers will be below so if you have not read the book and plan on it-please do not read any further until have read it for yourself.
The Way I Used To Be is about Eden McCrorey, a middle class teenager who gets raped by her brother’s best friend when she is thirteen. The book follows her through all four years of high school and the after effects that the rape has caused. I liked the layout, I think it was an interesting way to show the lasting effects over 4 years and beyond just the next few days.
Eden does not tell but isn’t due to shame or fear, she just never quite gets the chance in those first few days and it shuts her down. Her freshman year she is picked on and ignored. Her sophomore year she falls in love. Her junior year she begins drinking, doing drugs and sleeping around. Her senior year she pretty much destroys all of her meaningful relationships and finally breaks down and tells the truth.
There are a lot of strange inconsistencies in the book and important plot points that aren’t followed up on. The high school they go to seems like a 90’s movie cliche, she gets food thrown at her and signs put on her back- and that really isn’t how bullying is anymore. Between her freshman and sophomore year she gets a lot more male attention with the only noteable change being that she got contacts. The boy she falls in love with goes from literally running her over because he doesn’t realize she’s alive to immediately being infatuated by her beauty. Also the ages are off. She seems to be a year ahead in school than she should be. She’s 13 in the beginning in the middle of her freshman year and she’s 17 at the end of her senior year. There were touches on Kevin’s (her rapist) family and allusions to an abusive uncle but there is never anymore detail.
The toughest thing is that I grow to really dislike Eden. I feel horrible for what she’s gone through but her nastiness to everyone around her gets tougher and tougher to read. She has a lot of anger which I think is a good angle that isn’t explored but we don’t see enough internal explanation for her lashing out. She is clearly angry at her brother and her parents for not protecting her and what she feels like as choosing Kevin over her. She is angry at her friend Mara for not asking the right questions. She’s angry at every man in the book. But she drifts from angry to malicious and cruel.
I don’t need to like a character to want to read about them. A perfect comparison is the character of Ani FaNelli in The Luckiest Girl Alive. I’m about to drop a spoiler on that novel, you’ve been warned. Ani was gang raped in the book. I felt horrible for her too but she did not have a like able personality and was very manipulative to everyone around her. I was ok with all of that because I felt a sense of who she was and though I wouldn’t be friends with Ani, I found her story interesting. With Eden, I find her mean and I’m not interested in watching her tear everyone around her down.
The book begins with her rape, then 90% is her down slide, then maybe 10 pages of her telling the truth. I think I would have liked it better if the book was more balanced. At the end I’m supposed to feel hope but I just feel empty.