Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt
Published: January 15, 2013 by St Martin's Press
Received: ARC for review via netgalley
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. [goodreads]
Uses for Boys is the type of novel that may hook you with its very raw and deliberate writing style; or it may turn you away. For me, I was drawn towards Scheidt's writing. The use of language that fills this story is both simple, yet beautiful. I was constantly shocked and riveted by how something expressed through such small breaths of a sentence could evoke such an intense reading experience. Since this novel contains mature content, I do not feel comfortable recommending it to younger readers.
Anna comes from a single parent home, but at an early age even her mother left her alone quite often. Her childhood became a constant revolving door of her mother's boyfriends, new stepfathers, and the baggage they moved in with. The idea that she needed a boy so that she didn't feel alone was implanted in her mind at such a young age, that it soon became the only reality she could grasp a hold of. When the wrong boys came around, Anna latched on to them. She accepted the love they gave, which usually resulted in sex. Her warped view on what it meant to respect your body and accept affection from others really tore at my heart. There were many moments that I wanted to show Anna the right way. That her mother's mistakes did not have to be her own.
As I continued to follow Anna's story, she began to show signs of wanting to get out, of wanting to find something better for herself. The path she chose was not an easy one, and the responsibilities she took on were very difficult to read about at times. My heart ached for her, but at the same time I felt frustrated and angry. This story brought out an array of emotions. Within a few pages I'm witnessing the beauty of the girl inside Anna; the one who wants to know love and give love in return. Then I find myself uncomfortable with the actions and decisions she makes, knowing they will ultimately hurt her. But beyond all that, a story of hope emerges.
There is such a vast array of relationships that Anna accepts into her life. We witness Anna's struggles with her mom, the person she seeks the most comfort from, but only receives a broken shell of in return. Then there is her best friend, the girl who portrays the life Anna wants, but secretly is hiding away her own demons. And then there are the boys she encounters. She seeks meaning in some, but then realizes they're completely useless in the end (as her mother always told her). One boy sticks though and changes the way she accepts love into her life. He shows her what a true family is, opening herself to a vulnerable side she didn't know existed.
This novel packs quite a punch in just a few pages, but it's a story worth reading. Though it was sad to follow Anna and her misguided choices, following her story through the beauty in Scheidt's writing was still very rewarding.