Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt
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. (Goodreads)
Anna has never really had a family. No father. A mother who is absent even on the rare occasion she’s around. Early in life she’s labeled a slut because she finds that guys can easily fill the empty space within her, if only temporarily. Many boys wander in and out of her sad life, and Anna so willingly gives of herself physically in the hopes of grasping something real. When she finally meets a nice boy–one with a real home and a family–she’s stunned that this life Sam leads, one with normal dinners and parental expectations, this is the kind of she’s always wanted.
Uses for Boys is edgy, dark, and incredibly painful. The prose is bare and somehow raw. Anna, her friends, her mom–they’re all a complete mess. And Anna is young and makes such cavalier choices about her life and her body without concern for the long-term. It was difficult to witness and it was hard to feel more than pity for a girl who learns little from her experiences.
What was most disturbing was the graphic nature of the sex. I’m not opposed to sex in books, YA or otherwise, as long as it fits the story and is tastefully done, but this went over the top. The age Anna begins experimenting sexually (twelve!) is tough enough, but it’s the fact that it’s narrated in such detail that disturbed me most. It was too much, too stark, too unfeeling.
I did not enjoy this book, and while that’s understandable considering the content, I found myself sad in the end because a) Anna really doesn’t grow or move forward in life (other than realizing she wants a family life) and b) her views about sex and her body seem so empty, even when she seems to find love. It’s more of a thing she clings to to escape pain rather than something that’s intimate and solid in a trusting relationship.
Crush Intensity: 1/5 I’m certainly not the last word on this book. You can find multiple reviews by people who liked it and those who didn’t here.
Thank you to St.Martin’s Press for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.