Uses for BoysFeatured
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 what I was expecting based on the title. It's deep, fluid, and almost poetic in the way it reads. There are so many wrong paths Anna goes down throughout the book, but then there also is the element of hope and the light at the end of the tunnel that shows Anna the way life can really be.
I loved Erica Lorraine Scheidt's unique writing style. She features shorter, choppy sentences interspersed among longer more fluid sentences. It's a style that usually I am not a fan of, but in this book it just worked. There are also very short chapters, another element that much of the time drives me nuts, but with Uses for Boys, it really worked.
Uses for Boys follows Anna's life from a young age to her teenage years and it was a fun progression. I loved how the style of the book really works its way into the plot. I liked the plot, yet I wanted more. More backstory and more development. I was instantly sucked into the story on page one, something that doesn''t happen very often for me, and I stayed that way throughout the entirety of the book. I read Uses for Boys in one sitting. But when I finished, I was left wanting more from everything that had happened.
Uses for Boys was a book I quite enjoyed. It was unique, different, and quite fast paced. I loved the character growth in Anna throughout the novel and the character she has become by the book's end.
It's not until she meets Sam and his family that she gets a glimpse of what love and family are supposed to look and feel like. They're also the first people to see Anna for who she is and all she can become. One of the things I really enjoyed was the way this ended, full of love, forgiveness and acceptance.
Here's the deal. Uses For Boys is ugly. It's raw, gritty, real, and heartbreaking. The protagonist, Anna, is one that just tears you up. She is disconnected and naive. She is so lonely and desperate for love and attention, and she relies heavily on the only guidance she has ever received... The poor example of her self-absorbed, bed-hopping, several times married mother. Her reality is stark, cold, and unforgiving, and although she experiences a small bit of light and hope through her sometimes friendship with Toy, and fledgling relationship with Sam, as the reader, I was left wondering if it would ever be enough. When I picked this book up, my expectations were based on the cover, and the cover told to me expect a YA Romance. Well, nothing could have been more misleading. This book is a coming-of-age story about a girl who is coming of age under the harshest of circumstances. Anna's voice was tragic and and crushingly despondent. I had so many feelings while reading this book, and I have to say, that the good ones were few and far between. I can't say that I enjoyed this book, because much of it was difficult to read, from a subject-matter standpoint, but I found it compelling nonetheless. I thought it was extremely well written in a beautifully simple way that is not often found, especially in YA.
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.
With a lyrical prose that feels very similar to stream-of-conscious writing that pours from every page, as readers, we’re thrust headlong down a spiral of gut-wrenching heartache of a girl longing for the long lost love of her mother. We travel through Anna’s life as she endures several hardships that a girl as young as herself should never have to experience, and you feel the pain behind the words and thoughts of a girl left alone in the world. You feel the bone-weary tiredness and the need for acceptance and the undeniable misery of wanting to have a story of love to share with others and with herself. But sadly, she goes looking for love in all the wrong places, and she wears her despondency like a war-torn scar. Because the truth is, nothing good in her life has ever stayed, it’s merely a fleeting memory that she struggles to hold on to with all her might.
Special Notes: The author doesn’t hold back any on terms of underage sex, though the scenes aren’t overly graphic. If the idea of a young girl through the ages of thirteen to sixteen having quite a few sex partners makes you feel uncomfortable, I suggest you not read this book. Also, there is a rape scene. Though Anna is conflicted about the nature of it and decides not to tell anyone, it happens, so fair warning.
Verdict: Uses for Boys made me feel. A Lot. It sunk it’s teeth deep in my skin and wove its depressive nature around my heart. I wanted to scoop Anna up and cradle her and give her the love that her mother should have been giving her all along. I wanted to throttle the mother and make her realize how poorly she took care of her only daughter who only wanted her time and affection, not the big houses and money or the step-fathers and family that came with them.
While I certainly appreciated the honesty and raw innocence of the words behind Anna’s story, I feel like the book lacked substance- the meat- to garner a higher rating from me. This book won’t be for everyone because it deals with the grittier truths of some young girls in this often cruel world, but for a select few of you, I suspect this story will move you beyond words.
**Note:** An e-ARC of this novel was provided by St. Martin’s Press for review via Net Galley. However, that did not influence this review in any way.
That said, I don't think I even had seen the cover when I read the blurb, but I knew that it would be a book for me. I just wanted to make clear so that it is not an issue for those who might be expecting something else.
Anna, the main character grows and learns so much about herself and life in this book. Just when I started to feel sorry for her or get disappointed in her she would start to change and realize things about herself and those around her. I see so much of myself in her, lonely and looking for love in all the wrong places until things finally clicked. Having the right people and some of the people who had been in my life but I finally realized their value or the pain that they themselves are dealing with and they also need a little love and support.
Sam is so innocent and so whose all at the same time and I love how he saw through her problems to the person she was inside. I also loved reading about his family especially his sister and his mom. She is so involved and had so much to offer, I ish there were more like her in ya lit.
Anna really breaks my heart how distant and absent her mom was, but it is the sad reality for so many people, and I think that her story can help them feel less alone. And hopefully can also teach from her mistakes, and open eyes to some dark issues. There is many places where I just wanted to hug her and especially one spot where I wish I could open her eyes and make her see that it is not her fault.
Bottom line: gritty contemporary with dark themes about the reality of life both good and bad, through love friendship.and the choices we all make.