Child Abuse Prevention Month: The Way I Used To Be

Child Abuse Touches Too Many Families

Eden suffers child abuse at the hands of her older brother's best friend. "The Way I Used To Be" is a raw look into a young girl's survival.
A Raw Look at the Aftermath of Child Abuse: “The Way I Used To Be”

Every 9 Minutes child protective services substantiate or find evidence for, a claim of child abuse.  Sixty-six percent of these children are between the ages of twelve and seventeen. Eden was only fourteen when her brother’s friend attacked her. What you will find so heartbreaking about this book is the fact that Eden is too terrified to tell her secret or find help.

The book is raw, like the emotions of any child who is a victim.

It also contains teenage sex. Wake up; it’s happening in your neighborhood.

You may object to teenage drinking, smoking, and drugs. That’s what these kids turn to when they feel there is no one left in the world they can trust.

Having experienced rape at half Eden’s age, the doubts and belligerence Eden exhibited are shared evidence of how completely damaged a young soul becomes when everything good gets ripped away from them. Kids like Eden have a right to grow up unafraid to go to sleep at night. Eden felt ugly and stained, much the same as I did.

If You’re A Mother, Read This Book

I urge every mother of a daughter to read this book. Understand your discomfort with the rough language and behavior will be minor to what your daughter will experience if someone attacks her. Only seven percent of the attackers are unknown to these girls. Sadly, ninety-three percent of these monsters are either family or family friends.

This book will terrify any mother and identify with the kids who have already suffered the unimaginable. We need to acknowledge this book and others like it. It’s time to bring the discussions into our homes, and perhaps, just perhaps, another girl won’t keep her secret like Eden, and I did at the expense of another innocent young girl or boy. Like Eden, I truly believed he would kill me if I told “our secret.”

If your daughter suddenly becomes defiant and exhibits new behaviors you’ve never seen before, I guarantee you, this book will share some painful truths you may not want to accept.

I gave it four stars because I felt the language was a bit much. Family and friends would not tolerate such a dramatic change in verbalization in a child like Eden exhibited in the book.

About The Book And the Link to Child Abuse Prevention Month

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. (She was only fourteen-years-old when it happened, that’s child abuse.)

What was once simple is now complex. Sadly, 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 act in a world not as cruel.

Told in four parts – freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior years – 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, while learning to embrace a power of survival she never knew she had hidden within her heart.

More by The Author

Amber Smith's Books
More Books by the Author

Our Stories, Our Voices:

From Amy Reed, Ellen Hopkins, Amber Smith, Sandhya Menon, and more of your favorite YA authors comes an anthology of essays that explore the diverse experiences of injustice, empowerment, and growing up female in America.

This collection of twenty-one essays from major YA authors—including award-winning and bestselling writers—touches on a powerful range of topics related to growing up female in today’s America. It’s the intersection with race, religion, and ethnicity. Sure to inspire hope and solidarity to anyone who reads it, Our Stories, Our Voices belongs on every young woman’s shelf.

This anthology features essays from Martha Brockenbrough, Jaye Robin Brown, Sona Charaipotra, Brandy Colbert, Somaiya Daud, Christine Day, Alexandra Duncan, Ilene Wong (I.W.) Gregorio, Maurene Goo. Ellen Hopkins, Stephanie Kuehnert, Nina LaCour, Anna-Marie LcLemore, Sandhya Menon, Hannah Moskowitz, Julie Murphy, Aisha Saeed, Jenny Torres Sanchez, Amber Smith, and Tracy Walker.

The Last to Let Go:

How do you let go of something you’ve never had?

Junior year for Brooke Winters is supposed to be about change. She’s transferring schools, starting fresh, and making plans for college so she can finally leave her hometown, her family, and her past behind.

But all of her dreams are shattered one hot summer afternoon when her mother is arrested for killing Brooke’s abusive father. No one really knows what happened that day, if it was premeditated or self-defense, whether it was right or wrong. And now Brooke and her siblings are on their own.

In a year of firsts—the first year without parents, first love, first heartbreak, and her first taste of freedom—Brooke must confront the shadow of her family’s violence and dysfunction, as she struggles to embrace her identity, finds her true place in the world, and learns how to let go.

Something Like Gravity:

Chris and Maia aren’t off to a great start.

A near-fatal car accident first brings them together, and their next encounters don’t fare much better. Chris’s good intentions backfire. Maia’s temper gets the best of her.

But they’re neighbors, at least for the summer. Despite their best efforts, they just can’t seem to stay away from each other.

The path forward isn’t easy. Chris has come out as transgender, but he’s still processing a frightening assault he survived the year before. Maia is grieving the loss of her older sister and trying to find her place in the world without her. Falling in love was the last thing on either of their minds.

But would it be so bad if it happened anyway?

Amber Smith is the New York Times bestselling author of the young adult novels, The Way I Used to BeThe Last to Let Go, and Something Like Gravity

Her debut, The Way I Used to Be (2016), was selected for the American Library Association’s Amelia Bloomer List of Feminist Literature and Texas Library Association’s TAYSHAS List. It was named a Bank Street Best Book of the Year. In addition, it was nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award in YA Fiction, Connecticut’s Nutmeg Book Award, and Indiana’s Eliot Rosewater Award. Amber Smith’s second novel, The Last to Let Go (2018), received starred reviews from Booklist and VOYA, and was named a most-anticipated book by B&N Teen BlogElite Daily, and Bookish. Her next novel, Something Like Gravity, will be released June 18th, 2019 from Simon & Schuster.

Amber grew up in Buffalo, New York and now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. She lives with her partner and their ever-growing family of rescued dogs and cats. Fueled by a lifelong passion for the arts, story, and creative expression, Amber graduated from art school with a BFA in Painting. She went on to earn her master’s degree in Art History. When she’s not writing she’s usually reading. But she can also be found in her studio making art or freelancing as an art consultant. She has also written on the topics of art history and modern and contemporary art.

An advocate for increased awareness of gendered violence, including sexual assault and domestic or intimate partner and child abuse, as well as LGBTQ equality, she writes in the hope that her books can help to foster change and spark dialogue surrounding these issues.

Connect With Amber Smith




The Long-Term Effects of Child Abuse

In the Shadow of Child Abuse – Threats & Lies

The Lasting Impact of Childhood Abuse


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