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. Real, shocking, uplifting, and stunningly lyrical, Uses for Boys is a story of breaking down and growing up.
Uses for Boys is not a romance, it’s a dark gritty look into a dysfunctional family and the impact it has on the protagonist. This was not an easy book to read with its dark subject matter and unusual writing style. It touches on sex, rape, drugs, lies, loss, and emotional scars. Anna tries to fill the emptiness she feels with boys. (i.e. sex) It is sad and raw and ugly. She is brave and lonely and I cried for the loss of this young woman’s innocence.
Anna does not know who her father is and she is perfectly happy being her mom’s one and only. Anna turns eight and her Mom starts dressing up, going out and bringing home a string of boyfriends, husbands, and step-brothers. She finds herself moving from one new home to another. When the last marriage fails she becomes a latch-key kid. I felt so sorry for Anna and hated her mother;’s selfish ways. I hated that this awkward girl confused abuse and attention from boys as love. Toy was an interesting girlfriend and I loved the way the girls dressed in vintage clothing. For all that Anna does wrong; there is a lot she does right and responsibly.
Scheidt does not paint us a pretty picture; she instead delivers a raw, gritty, dark tale of the darker side of being a teenage girls. It is a painful look at promiscuity and why some girls are drawn to it. It may cause some readers to look twice at the school “slut” While this is labeled young adult, it really pushes the limits and is meant for a much older reader. Sex, abortion and drug use are all present. I would not want my own daughter’s exposed to this without a lot of discussion to follow. The tale is told from Anna’s point of view, but there is very little dialogue as we are essentially taking a trip inside her mind as she shares her thoughts, fears and warped reality.
Used for Boys was unique, dark and gritty. It is definitely meant for older teens and I would advise parental discussions. Fans of Beautiful Disaster and character driven issues will appreciate this unique perspective. I have a feeling this will have mixed reviews from over the top love to downright loathing.
Three rich roast coffee out of five