In a nutshell, Uses for Boys is a story of a neglected child who grows up as a teenager who, as the synopsis says, feels the need to have to use her body to get what she feels like she needs: human companionship in a house too large for comfort.
Uses for Boys was a very unexpectedly intense read. I genuinely didn't realize how much it'd affect me, and, to be frank, was a bit out of my comfort zone. At times, yes, it did leave me a bit shocked and hurt for Anna, but it was a good type of emotion. I will not deny that it's a very difficult book to finish, and at times I did have to set it down and take a break, it does not mean it was a bad book. I chose to put it in both YA and NA genres because though this (I believe) marketed to YA, some things in the story definitely are more suitable for NA audiences.
There are some themes a bit more difficult than most to comprehend in the story, such as the non-consensual sexual acts. In the synopsis, it states that Anna gets called "slut", but she considers it the price of companionship. So according to the synopsis, there is some sex in the book. But at some bits, I couldn't help but stop and think, "Did Anna actually agree to do it?" In fact, in one particular instance, she clearly says, "Stop," and the boy just continued what he was doing. Though Erica Lorraine Scheidt didn't make these non-consensual sexual acts look positive, I feel like it wasn't handled correctly. But then again, this is a devastatingly honest story, and these incidents do happen in real life.
That was not the only form of abuse Anna received. She was constantly neglected as a child by her mother who was constantly either working or chasing down boyfriends. From a young age, she was left to grow up in her mother's dream-home, but definitely somewhere she was not comfortable in.
The five of us move into a big house in the suburbs outside of Portland. A big new house with a big yard and tall glass windows. "I've always wanted a house like this," my mom says and she sighs and puts her arm over my shoulder. "This," she says, "is the house I always wanted."
I always felt it was quite sad how her mother constructed Anna's world, full of material items that she wanted to make her feel a bit more perfect, rather than the woman who had a child out of wedlock. And again, I felt disappointment as her mother said this one phrase
"I don't want to be the only one," she says, "alone in that big house." And then she says, "You don't appreciate what you have."
Wasn't the perfect house what she always wanted? Ah, double stands, double standards everywhere.
But what really hits home is the fact that this does happen, and what Anna experiences in the story has happened many times over. For all you know, there could be an Anna character in your life right now, but you just can't see.
I really, really loved Anna. I wanted to reach out to her and give her a hand, a shoulder to cry on. I wanted to help her. She was an awfully realistic character, flawed in so many ways, and made mistakes that are made every day across the world. Her mistakes aren't the type that could be fixed with a single patch, but permanent mistakes that'd she'd have to carry for the rest of her life. They aren't the kind that can be brushed off. Personally, I even loved young Anna who narrated the beginning part of the story. As a young child, Anna could see things in the innocent wisdom that seems like only children possess.
"We're a family," my mom says. But we're not a family. We're something else.
Uses for Boys tells a stunningly honest story of a realistic scenario that might as well be true. It blew me away, and, yes, made me very uncomfortable with some themes Scheidt chose to incorporate into the story. I'd recommend it to more mature YA audiences, and NA readers.