Title: Uses For Boys
Author: Erica Lorraine Scheidt
Publication: January 15th 2013 by St Martin’s Press
Source: Finished copy provided by the publisher for an honest review
"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."
Thoughts: Do not be fooled by the title and cover. When I first picked up USES FOR BOYS, I was expecting a contemporary novel with a romantic based theme. What I got was so much more than I thought it'd be. Dark and realistic, USES FOR BOYS is an intense coming of age story that speaks volumes about what it's like growing up neglected and lost.
The story begins with Anna as a young girl. For as long as she can remember, it has been just her mom and her. This all changes when Anna's mom decides she doesn't want to be alone anymore and needs to find a man. With her mom always gone, Anna can't help but feel this all-consuming emptiness inside of her. It's not until Anna's first awkward encounter with a boy that she soon starts to believe maybe a boy is what she needs after all.
So, first and foremost, this book does not contain any sort of butterflies in your gut nor romantic feelings whatsoever. Are we clear? Good! Let's be honest, not all of us fall in love in high school let alone jr. high. Instead, what the author does is take you to a different, more dangerous realm. One I'm sure many girls have experienced before.
The story is told exclusively through Anna's point of view and is written in kind of a prose-journal/diary entry sort of way. Each entry is an event that impacts Anna's life and shapes her into who she is and somewhat explains why she does the things she does. All this poor girl wants more than anything in this world is a family to belong to and pure comfort. She wants her mom to hold her and love her like she did when she was younger. Throughout the novel, my heart constantly ached for Anna. I just wanted to reach out for her, stop her from making stupid mistakes and just hug her. At her age, many girls find comfort in boys, especially if they grew up without a father figure. Plus, who hasn't been an outcast at some point in their life? While I personally don't agree with many of Anna's choices, I still understand where she's coming from.
Also, something that I really enjoyed about this novel is how the author reminds us that there are consequences to one's actions. Anna is a prime example of this. Without visiting the spoiler department, I'll just say that what this girl has to go through might make some people uncomfortable. Heck, it made ME uncomfortable! The thing is, it's truthful. It's sad but it does happen.
I'm not going to focus on the other characters in this book. Though some of the secondary characters are interesting and unique (and some are *ahem* assholes, excuse the expression), I personally feel like Anna deserves all the attention. It's her story, and I recommend it to people who are looking for a contemporary novel that isn't full of fluff.
“And then he hugs me. Really hugs me. Like he thinks that there's only one of me and I'm special and I'm enough for him. Like he doesn't need anything else. Like he was alone and then I came along.”
“And the stories we tell ourselves are not the only stories.”
“Angel asks me about Josh and I tell her that he likes it when I fall asleep with my head on his chest. I tell her how he keeps me wrapped up in his arms all night. How romantic it is, how he's loved me forever.
She knows how it is with boys. 'It's always romantic in the beginning,' she says.”