I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Way I Am Now by Amber Smith
Series: The Way I Used to Be #2
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on November 7, 2023
Genres: YA Contemporary Romance
Source: the publisher
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Eden and Josh decide to give their relationship another chance in this much anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestseller The Way I Used to Be that explores how to move forward after trauma—in life and in love.
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?
The first book really got me and definitely ended in a way it could be the end. But the author has gone on to give Eden and Josh a second chance, but also to let the readers know how the trial goes, as that is also such a traumatic experience for victims who must prove their own innocence in this type of a case. And while I wondered if we needed this book, the author wrote it and made it perfect. It was nice to see how Eden’s life went on after. It wasn’t just all of a sudden everything was better because of what happened at the end of the last book.
Eden had a lot to still deal with, the trial, her family dealing with what had happened, and even just being able to move on. And then Josh was there. Eden got the chance to go to college and she took it. She moved out, and lived in the same building as Josh. It gave them the chance to hang out and also spend time with each other, as each was busy in their own way. Josh with basketball, even as he grew to wonder if he really cared at all about it anymore. Eden worked, had a job at a cafe with a jerk of a boss, and tried to be a first year college student.
Josh had been the first person she’d actually told about what had happened to her that night. But even with telling him, she didn’t tell him every detail, so there were still bits and pieces that seemed like secrets or things just coming between them. Then the trial, oh was that so frustrating and sad to read, even as I knew that the defending attorney was going to ask those kinds of questions and try to paint her the way he tried. But Eden persevered, and even made a new friend with her roommate Parker. She started some bad habits again, smoking for one, but soon was able to push those aside, as she realized it wasn’t what would help her.
And then Eden made a mistake, a small one, understandable even, but also it was easy to understand why Josh kind of was so upset. You see Josh’s life wasn’t perfect either. He was dealing with his father supposedly being back on the wagon, sober for a long time now. But it was hard for him to trust his father after he’d done that so many times in the past. Plus basketball wasn’t going smoothly. Guys on the team were upsetting in how they reacted to a warning from the coach about how they treated women when the court case came to light. Then they accused him of not being all-in for the team, sliding by, and not deserving it.
Josh and Eden have a break in the book. And as much as it sucks, it fit. It was real. It was a good thing. It reminded me of the end of the After series when Tessa and Hardin go their separate ways. Sometimes it is needed, to make a relationship not toxic, to solve the things about themselves they need to do in order to be able to be a good partner in a healthy relationship. So we do still get a happy ending for the two, and I love the way it happens.
There is one quote from the book, from the trial, that just really, really stuck with me. And is something I think so many people don’t even think about. When the defense attorney asked her, “Did you ever say no?” Her response was perfect, once she realized how to answer that question. “I couldn’t answer a question that was never asked…He.Never.Asked.The.Question…That’s my answer.”
Such a great book, after the first one which was also so good. Sorry it took me so long to read the first one, but it was perfect to read the two back to back like this.