Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt
Genre: YA (MATURE YA OR NEW ADULT IMO)
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Goodreads Says: 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.
This was an incredibly hard read for me. It was at page 68 that I really wanted to abandon this read. After tweeting how difficult of a time I was having finishing and having my Twitter friends reassure me that I wasn’t alone in feeling the way I did but that I should finish because it was a quick read, I decided to keep going.
This is definitely not what I was expecting. I definitely got suckered into this read by the very cute cover that is probably the most misleading part of this all and I definitely wasn't prepared for what I was getting into even after I read the synopsis.
Anna only ever wanted her mother’s love. She felt, at a very young age, that her mother’s love would be enough. Her father was non-existent, as was any other family, but Anna was OK with that because all she’s ever known was her mother to begin with. Things go downhill when Anna’s mom starts searching for love in all the wrong places and starts to jump from guy to guy, marriage to marriage and literally leaves Anna to raise herself.
Surprisingly, Anna realizes what her mother is in search of at a very young age but then begins to do the very same things her mother is doing. So our journey begins…
There is nothing cute about this read. There is nothing remotely mild or casual about this read. There should be warning labels all over this read.
Warning: There is explicit graphic sex, rape, abortion, lots of drugs, and uh, yeah, there’s nothing uplifting about this book.
The writing is really simple and the chapters are short and to the point. This was good because you got the feeling of a quick read right away. With that said, Anna’s voice starts off as a seven year old, hence the simplicity of the writing and pretty much continues in this voice for the entire book. There isn't much interaction with others and again her world is so immature that it’s hard to see her grow at all.
I’m not a prude y’all. I really am not but there’s a whole lot of sex in this book and in full out graphic detail. It made me, a 35 year-old, extremely uncomfortable. This should definitely be for mature readers and I would even say this is a New Adult novel and not a YA. It’s just that strong.
With that said, I understand that this is supposed to be a story that is meant to shock its readers. I get that the author is trying to bring awareness to its readers who perhaps don’t already know that girls or boys like the characters in this book exist and that there are really crappy lives like the ones in the book. The author was probably hoping the reader could take this story and break some cycles because there were lessons to learn from this read, becoming a better person walking away from this read. Great! However, my biggest pet peeve about some contemporary reads of this nature is that they DON’T convey the last part clearly. It’s not even that the message is lost because the message was just not there. Let me try to explain myself. ..
Anna finally meets a “nice” boy with a “nice” family with all the right values and family love that she seeks. Sam goes to school and works hard at it. He also wants to take things slow with Anna because he’s a virgin and wants to wait. Do you think Anna is motivated to go to school? No. Do you think she thinks Sam’s intentions are admirable and different and nice? Nope… She pushes Sam to have sex with her and gets frustrated when he doesn't until he finally gives in… Bad things happen to Anna and Anna does bad things in turn. Do you think Anna feels bad for any of it? No, she doesn't. It’s a “oh well” type of attitude. It’s all very casual and little to no feeling or a reaction at all. It was as if the book was almost giving permission to do all these things with little consequence. This irks me!
Another thing...Not one adult in this book, and there were plenty of them, lifted a finger to help this child out. There were warning signs, there were adults that went through similar experiences and not one tried to help in some way.
I've worked with so many kids here in Chicago and have friends that work with kids at different capacities as well. We talk about some of the issues that are discussed in this book. We talk about how casual the kids nowadays take things and how sex, drugs, not going to school, dropping out, hanging out, experimenting and all that jazz, is totally the norm nowadays. We talk about how we can bring on change. How we can show them there are better ways to do things and to live.
*There is always one person that will help. The help might be limited but it would be something and a lot more than the adults in this book.*
I fear that books like this, unless they are read along with an adult who has common sense, won’t be able to grasp that this crap is not normal, that it shouldn't be normal. I also fear that they’ll walk away thinking “Oook… we see this all the time. What is so special about this?”
Things don’t happen and you just say “oh well, shit happens”. No, shit happens and you say “I won’t let that happen again”. To break the cycle one must see the change that brings on the break and then you have to actually witness the break. The break was not shown in Uses for Boys.
At the end I didn't feel uplifted. At the end of this book I felt spent. I was utterly sad for the girl in these pages, for teens who will read this book alone without guidance, for the real Annas of the world.
ARC was provided by St. Martin's Press via NetGalley.