The Way I Am Now by Amber Smith
Published on November 7 2023 by Simon & Schuster
Plot Summary of The Way I Am Now
Eden and Josh never had a fair shot at a healthy relationship. When they dated in high school, they each had their own problems getting in the way of the deep connection they felt toward one another.
Unbeknownst to Josh, Eden was carrying the burden of a devastating sexual assault, while Josh was dealing with his own private struggle of having an alcoholic father.
Months after Eden and two other girls publicly accuse their rapist, Eden is starting college while her case goes to trial. Now when she and Josh reconnect, it seems like it might finally be in the right place at the right time for them to make it work.
But is their love strong enough to withstand the challenges and chaos of college and the crushing realities of a trial that will determine whether Eden gets the justice she deserves?
Review of The Way I Am Now by Amber Smith
Read and Reviewed by Jen Ryland in November 2023
I read and reviewed The Way I Used to Be when it came out in 2016 and then shifted my reading away from YA.
I had no idea that The Way I Used to Be had become a Tiktok sensation and that there was a sequel in the works but when I found out, I had to see how Eden's story had progressed.
Balancing everything in The Way I Am Now was difficult, I think. Reader expectations, Eden's psychological and life journey, her relationship with Josh, and her quest for justice.
I rarely say this but if all this needed to be there, it could be that even a third book was needed.
I did really like that this book was half Josh' story. This was a dual POV book and the reader gets to know Josh much better. I think it improved the book to make him not just a perfect book boyfriend, but a full person in his own right with his own difficult family dynamics and his own struggles.
However, I did think including his POV meant less space and time for showing Eden's journey, both psychologically and through the justice system.
I do feel bad that I said in my original review of The Way I Used to Be that I found it unrealistic that Eden could get any legal justice after keeping her assault a secret for over four years.
The book did portray a fairly positive experience for a victim of sexual assault within the legal system. Because Kevin had other victims, he was able to be successfully prosecuted, even though Eden waited years to tell anyone what happened. I guess, as with people like Harvey Weinstein, the fact that multiple women testified helped.
But I also felt that the book did shortchange Eden's psychological journey and treatment a little bit. I always liked the way the author allowed Eden to be unlikeable and hard to understand. She is angry, she pushes people away, and often acts counter to her self-interest in an attempt to protect herself.
I know that trauma changes you. After a traumatic event, you can still be a happy person and have a wonderful and fulfilling life. But I also think you can't get your old self back, and the titles of the two books reinforce that.
We see three Edens: the happy and carefree fourteen year-old prior to her assault, the Eden who tries to hide and push down her shame and guilt over what happened, and a third Eden who chooses to share and face what happened to her and try to heal and move forward.
I can see that opinions of this book are varied, but I also feel that it's hard to "review" this kind of a narrative. Eden's story was not a neat and tidy narrative. But these books are important and can both touch and inspire many.