Uses For Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt
Published by St. Martin’s Press
Publish Date: January 13, 2013
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. –(summary excerpt from Goodreads)
by Erica Lorraine Scheidt
My Thoughts: Uses For Boys caught my eye with merely half-a-glance with that beautiful, beautiful cover and interesting summary. I read it super-quick because I just couldn’t put it down.** The story gripped me and held me tight, not wanting to let me go. Since I finished it a few weeks ago, I’ve really struggled with exactly what I wanted to say about it. I want people to know how great it is, and well-written.
Uses For Boys begins when Anna is a very young girl, living with her mother. From a very young age, Anna’s mother leaves her alone for periods of time while she is out looking for men – men to make her feel complete, to round out her family. At first, Anna’s mother leaves for only a few hours, but this soon progresses to her staying out overnight, leaving Anna completely alone. Before long, Anna becomes accustomed to being home alone for several nights at a time. She only sees her mother when she briefly stops home to change clothes, re-pack her suitcase, and give Anna money to buy groceries. Anna never has a good, healthy, consistent male role model/father figure to look up to. Worse still, even though Anna has a mother present, she is unable to look up to her or build a relationship with her because of her mother’s near-constant absence.
Let’s rewind a bit — In her mother’s absence, Anna still goes to school like other kids. Friendships come and go, just as with other kids. And just like with other girls, Anna discovers boys. At first, one boy gives her attention and they have a brief boyfriend-girlfriend ‘relationship.’ After that relationship ends, there are others. Anna finds that she is able to get the attention she desperately craves in the boys she easily finds anywhere she looks. These relationships are not healthy – certainly not – but Anna has no idea what a healthy relationship looks like. But then Sam comes along. Sam, like a starry sky and a breath of fresh air. Sam is different and this changes Anna’s life.
Sam is a normal boy from a normal family. He knows love and respect from his own family, so he knows how to show these things to other people. He knows acceptance from other people, so he knows how to give it away. Sam is not any of the things that every single person in Anna’s life has ever been to her. Anna learns the meaning of family, and this begins to change everything about Anna for the better, and it is awesome.
When Sam entered the story, it was like the sun finally coming out on an overcast day. He was written as such a great guy – not perfect, but sort of an all-around guy-next-door. Coming from a stable family, he really couldn’t relate to Anna on many levels at all, but he liked her and he was able to see the positive in her – and she had never ever experienced anyone that saw good things in her before. Not only could Sam see good things in her, but his family could, and they were encouraging to her and this transformed her. I’m not saying that once Anna found Sam, life was perfect and everything is happily ever after. But the transformation in Anna’s character was wonderful, such a hopeful, positive development, that when I closed the book, I smiled and was happy.
Uses For Boys has a writing style that I love. The author writes in short chapters, short sentences, short thoughts. I love this because I feel like this structure of the story matched Anna’s thoughts and movements and feelings – choppy and detached from emotion, as if she were moving through life without any meaning (until she met Sam). The story is one that is believable and most likely all-too-true in many instances, which makes it so heartbreaking. I wanted a better life for Anna, but I also wanted better lives for all of the negative influences that would breeze in and out of her life.
This book is thought-provoking while telling its story. I know that my words will not do the book justice. I know that some will read this and think that this book isn’t for them. I am so glad that I took a chance on Uses For Boys because I loved it and I loved the ending.
I recommend Uses For Boys to readers who love YA contemporary with issues. There are scenes involving mature content, so younger readers – be smart when choosing this one!
YA Contemporary, Issues-Heavy
Uses For Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt
You need to make sure you’re mature enough for this one!**
Is USES FOR BOYS on your to-read list?