Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt
Published: Published January 15th 2013 by St Martin’s Press
Source: local library
Synopsis: 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.
My thoughts: Uses for Boys was already on my radar—I loved the cover and am always drawn to edgy titles such as this—but I knew I had to make it a priority when I read Sarah McCarry’s post about the reviews for this book. I’d read reviews of this book that were full of praise, but had also seen the horribly insensitive reviews like those McCarry discusses in her post and knew I had to investigate for myself.
This is certainly a controversial book that will not please everyone. The sexual experiences are at times rather explicit without at all being sexy. Anna becomes sexually active at a very young age and with boys who aren’t respectful or caring. She is raped and doesn’t tell anyone. She is very deliberately trying to connect with someone, and she uses sex in an attempt to do so. Woefully neglected by her mother, who values male companionship over her daughter, Anna looks for love in what turns out to be the wrong places.
My heart broke for Anna. In my work with teens in the juvenile justice system and the state’s care (prior to my job in the library), I met many girls who had similar attitudes about sex. It’s a difficult cycle to break once you’re on that path, and I’ve seen many young women end up in terrible situations and abusive relationships.
This is a very character driven novel with fantastic voice. Scheidt’s prose is lyrical, to be sure, and Anna’s first person narration reads very much like stream of consciousness.
I do feel that there wasn’t enough change in the style as Anna ages. The story begins when she is much younger than a typical YA protagonist. Though she does age into her teenage years, the voice stays very much the same.
I also feel that the story was uneven. It’s only very late in the novel that Anna meets Sam and begins to grow and change. I would have liked for this section of the story to be more fleshed out.
The short chapters and narrative style will appeal to reluctant readers and the very realistic treatment of sex will also find fans, but this is a divisive novel that will not strike the right chord with every reader.
Recommended for fans of: Ellen Hopkins
Kim at YA Asylum: “For me, the moral of this story is sex doesn’t equal love. And that’s not something that I needed to be told, even a few years ago when I was still a teen. But I suppose some girls do. I guess Uses for Boys is meant to be a ‘What-Not-To-Do-With-Your-Life’ book. But I enjoyed the writing enough that I know I’ll read this author’s next book.”
Lori at Pure Imagination: “Some of the scenes will knock the breath out of you because they are so powerful. As the reader you know that Anna is making horrible choices. It’s impossible not to want to sit her down and tell her all the things her mother should have. The writing is stunning. It’s hard to believe that Scheidt is a debut author. I think Uses for Boys is a beautiful book that shouldn’t go unnoticed. You should definitely give it a chance if it sounds like your kind of story.”