3 Sentence Summary
“The Way I Used to Be” by Amber Smith is a poignant exploration of the aftermath of sexual assault. The story follows Eden, a young girl who is sexually assaulted by her brother’s best friend. The novel explores Eden’s high school years, showing her struggle with trauma and her journey towards healing.
Summary Read Time: Less than 5 minutes
Actual Book Length: 385
First Published in: 2016
Below is the detailed yet quick The Way I Used To Be summary:
The story is told from the perspective of Eden, the main character, and is divided into four parts: Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior. Each part represents a year in high school and how Eden copes with her trauma.
The book begins with Eden as a 14-year-old freshman, living a normal life with her family. She’s a band geek, good at school, and has a close relationship with her older brother, Caelin. Eden is portrayed as a typical teenager, navigating the ups and downs of high school life. She has a best friend, Mara, with whom she shares her dreams and fears. Eden’s life, at this point, is filled with the innocence and simplicity of adolescence.
However, her life takes a tragic turn when Caelin’s best friend, Kevin, rapes her. This event is a shocking violation of Eden’s trust and innocence. Kevin was someone Eden knew and trusted, making the betrayal even more painful. The assault leaves Eden traumatized and scared, and she’s too frightened to tell anyone about it. This silence marks the beginning of Eden’s long and painful journey of dealing with her trauma alone.
In the aftermath of the assault, Eden’s life begins to change. She starts to withdraw from her friends and family, and her grades begin to drop. Eden’s behavior and personality start to change, but her family and friends attribute it to typical teenage angst. This lack of understanding and support from her loved ones adds another layer of pain to Eden’s trauma.
In the “Sophomore Year”, Eden’s life begins to change drastically as she grapples with the trauma of her assault. She starts to distance herself from her best friend, Mara, and her parents, who are too caught up in their own issues to notice her struggle. Eden’s transformation is marked by her rebellion against her previous self and the world around her. She’s no longer the innocent, band-loving girl she used to be, and instead becomes a version of herself that she believes is strong enough to cope with her trauma.
Eden begins to engage in risky behaviors as a way to regain control over her body and life. She starts smoking and skipping school, and her grades begin to drop. She also starts to engage in casual sex, using it as a way to numb her pain and regain a sense of control that was taken away from her. This behavior is a stark contrast to the Eden we met in her freshman year, and it’s a heartbreaking testament to the profound impact of her assault.
During this time, Eden also starts to push away those who care about her. She distances herself from Mara, who is confused and hurt by Eden’s sudden change. Eden’s relationship with her family also deteriorates. Her parents are largely absent, both physically and emotionally, and her brother, Caelin, becomes distant after he goes to college. Eden feels isolated and alone, struggling with her trauma in silence.
In the Junior Year, Eden’s life continues to spiral out of control. Her behavior becomes even more self-destructive as she continues to grapple with her trauma. She continues to push away the people who care about her, including a new friend, Stephen, who genuinely wants to help her. Eden’s grades drop further, and she gets involved with a boy named Josh, who is emotionally abusive.
Josh represents a toxic escape for Eden. Despite his abusive behavior, Eden clings to him, seeing their relationship as a form of distraction from her trauma. This relationship is a reflection of Eden’s low self-esteem and her struggle with her self-worth following the assault. It’s a painful reminder of how trauma can lead to harmful decisions and toxic relationships.
During this year, Eden also continues to distance herself from her family and friends. She pushes Stephen away, despite his attempts to understand her and offer support. Eden’s relationship with her family continues to deteriorate, with her parents remaining oblivious to her struggles and her brother, Caelin, being physically distant due to college.
In the Senior Year, Eden’s life reaches a turning point. She begins this year at rock bottom, feeling isolated and alone. She believes that no one can understand her pain, and she continues her pattern of self-destruction. However, this year also brings about significant changes and the beginning of Eden’s journey towards healing.
Eden breaks up with Josh after a violent incident, marking the end of a toxic relationship. Despite this, she continues her self-destructive behavior. She feels lost and alone, struggling with her trauma in silence. However, a glimmer of hope appears when she reconnects with Mara, her old best friend. This reconnection signifies a step towards healing and a return to a part of her old self.
During this year, Eden also meets a new boy, Cameron, who treats her with kindness and respect. Unlike her previous relationships, her relationship with Cameron is healthy and supportive. Cameron represents a beacon of hope in Eden’s life, showing her that not all relationships are toxic and that it’s possible to trust and love again.
The climax of the story comes when Eden finally reveals her secret to her family. The revelation is met with a mix of disbelief, anger, and sadness. Eden’s parents struggle to accept the truth, and Caelin is filled with guilt for not being there to protect his sister. This moment is a turning point for Eden, marking the end of her silence and the beginning of her journey towards healing.
In the end, Eden begins to take steps towards healing. She starts therapy and slowly learns to trust people again. She also finds solace in music, which becomes a form of therapy for her. Eden’s story ends on a hopeful note, suggesting that while the trauma has changed her, it does not define her.