Author: Erica Lorraine Scheidt
Published by: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: January 15, 2013
Anna remembers a time before boys, when she was little and everything made sense. When she and her mom were a family, just the two of them against the world. But now her mom is gone most of the time, chasing the next marriage, bringing home the next stepfather. Anna is left on her own—until she discovers that she can make boys her family. From Desmond to Joey, Todd to Sam, Anna learns that if you give boys what they want, you can get what you need. But the price is high—the other kids make fun of her; the girls call her a slut. Anna's new friend, Toy, seems to have found a way around the loneliness, but Toy has her own secrets that even Anna can't know.
Then comes Sam. When Anna actually meets a boy who is more than just useful, whose family eats dinner together, laughs, and tells stories, the truth about love becomes clear. And she finally learns how it feels to have something to lose—and something to offer. Real, shocking, uplifting, and stunningly lyrical, Uses for Boys is a story of breaking down and growing up.
Ugh, I had to totally scrap the original review I wrote for this book, because it got way too personal. It was therapeutic, though. So let’s start over. Uses for Boys is a book that takes you places… painful places. I think this is the hardest review I’ve ever had to write. Part of me just wants to say how I really liked this book, but a big part of me wants to go over every little part and talk about the psychology of it all. The author captured something very raw and real with Uses for Boys, and I wish I could eloquently express why this book is so good, but I know I won’t be able to pull it off.
The story starts when Anna as a young girl living with her mother. As Anna gets older, her mother leaves her alone a lot to work and to seek the company of men. She not only leaves her physically, but also emotionally. Anna soon discovers that she can use boys for the attention she seeks and try to fill the emotional void. The book follows Anna’s painful road to happiness and love.
Anna’s mom is easy to dislike, but I really felt sorry for her as the story went on and got a little more insight. Scheidt did a fantastic job at bringing it all around, and the significance of where Anna chose to live was great. I want to discuss it all, but don’t want to spoil it. What the author did and how she had it play out was excellent, though.
I know the girl Anna is. I know her story very well. When certain things happened in the book, it’s way too easy for me to feel the depth of where the feelings, behavior, and train of thoughts were coming from. The use of sex and drugs, the pregnancy at a young age, the dissociation… yep, familiar with it all. For me, this is one of those books where if someone knocks it or the characters, it’s hard not to take personally. I know better though. Not everyone can connect with something like this, and not everyone wants to. This story is very realistic, and covers a lot of issues.
At first I wasn’t sure if I was going to like the way Uses for Boys was written, but soon realized that it was perfect for Anna’s story, because it really fit her voice. I loved how the author included how Anna would imagine how a scenario or dialogue might play out in certain situations, because it was so accurate. Even the way Anna wanted someone to ask her certain things, just needed someone to ask… but sort of freezes and doesn’t know what to say when they do. So much of this book was spot on and genuine.
No, this isn’t an easy read to get through; it’s tough to read at times. However, there is a lot of beauty to it, as well. Anna has to go down a certain path and figure things out for herself before she can move on and stop the cycle passed on from her mom. As hard as it was to read Anna’s story, I was rooting for her the entire time to hit that “ah-ha moment.” I have to say that I was very proud of her in the end, even though she continues to be a work in progress. It’s definitely a book that takes you through the dark before seeing the light. This is ultimately a love story. Not just the love between a boy and a girl, but the love a girl discovers for herself. Anna seeks to fill the void she feels through the use of guys, but has to learn to fill that void by loving herself. She also discovers the love of a close, supportive family.
This is one of those books that I wish people would just try instead of relying too much on reviews (including mine) to decide if they’ll read it or not. I also hope people don’t focus solely on the darkness of the book, because there is so much more to it than that. Honestly, I wish I could have read this when I was sixteen. And after reading Uses for Boys, I see the subtle things on the cover that go so well with the story.
Overall, I liked Uses for Boys a lot, and hope more people read it.