{Review} Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt

{Review} Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine ScheidtUses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt
Published by St. Martin's Press on January 15, 2013
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 240
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2.5 Stars

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 has been one of the hardest reviews that we have ever had to write. That could be because this has been one of the hardest books that we’ve ever read.

Let’s start with why we wanted to read it. We read the summary–we expected some angst, ya’ll. But every time we thought our poor wussperv hearts couldn’t take it, we would look at the beautiful cover and think *sigh* that’s the kind of book we wanna read. This was one of our most anticipated books of 2013.

Remember how your mom said you can’t judge a book by its cover? Turns out she was right after all.

Uses for Boys is well-written and heartbreakingly real, but we didn’t like it. Not one bit. This review is going to be spoilery, so proceed with caution.

The story starts off with seven-year-old Anna living alone with her mother.

In the happy times, in the tell-me-again times, when I’m seven and there are no stepbrothers and it’s before the stepfathers, my mom lets me sleep in her bed.

Her bed is a raft on the ocean. It’s a cloud, a forest, a spaceship, a cocoon we share. I stretch out big as I can, a five-pointed star, and she bundles me back up in her arms. When I wake I’m tangled in her hair.

“Tell me again,” I say and she tells me again how she wanted me more than anything.

“More than anything in the world,” she says, “I wanted a little girl.”

…All she wanted was a little girl and that little girl is me.

“Now I have everything, she says.

Then her mom meets a guy and gets married and they move. Her mom becomes wrapped up in her new husband and her new job and then gets divorced and meets a new guy (and then another and we think another) and in all of that, she just…forgets about her kid. Her mom is busy. She lets too much of her self-worth be determined by a (any) man.

And here is where we have to pause as mothers and ask, “Really? Is this really how easy it is?” It makes us sad.

In all of this time, Anna goes from being seven to being sixteen. When she is thirteen, she lets a boy touch her on the bus, which earns her the reputation of being a slut and causes her to lose the one friend she had. She’s lonely and gets a boyfriend who comes over after school everyday and they start having sex–at fourteen. He moves away and she meets Toy, a girl who seems to be a kindred spirit and becomes her “best” friend. We use quotes around “best” because at some point Anna realizes that Toy is at her best when Anna’s at her worst. Then, she meets Josh, who is a little older and has his own apartment.

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 this is dumb, really dumb, because it feels so good and I like him more every second and I’m rehearsing how to tell Toy and because even though his apartment is ugly and small and the walls are yellow when they’re supposed to be white, the streetlight through the curtainless windows does something; it makes our bodies pink and radiant and it fills the room with a kind of grace…

Anna and Josh break up, and she gets her own apartment (at seventeen). She is still lonely and is just looking for someone to pay attention to her.

Sometimes kids come into the cafe after school and sometimes I’m invisible to them. I want someone to ask me why I’m there. Why I’m not in school. I want someone to recognize that I’m a kid like they are.

And then Sam does.

Sam is a seventeen year old student with a normal family who has rules and eats dinner together. He’s different, and he’s not just about sex–I think he really loves Anna, and she loves him, too, as much as she’s capable of.

This book was gut-wrenching. There’s rape. There’s abortion. There’s just so much sad. We wanted to find Anna and hug her and take care of her, and we wanted to find her mother and shake her until she got a brain. This is almost a must-read for mothers. Just because your kid doesn’t get bad grades or doesn’t cut themselves or isn’t doing drugs doesn’t mean there isn’t something going on. Talk to your kids, for fucks sake. Pay attention if they don’t have any friends or ever have a conversation with you about…we don’t know…anything.

Debut author Erica Lorraine Scheidt writes beautifully. The words and the way the story was told were haunting and authentic. I think too often, this is what happens in real life. Maybe not all of it, but some.

So why the low review? On Kassiah’s goodreads, she gave this one star because like we said, we didn’t like this book. Here, we averaged because in some ways, it’s a five-star prize-worthy book. We just didn’t like it.

Fear not, Pretties, the end is (somewhat) hopeful. But we would have liked a little more from the end. There is also something that happens close to the end that we feel practically negates the growth that we thought Anna had experienced. If that hadn’t happened, we feel like we would have had a different reaction to this book. We still wouldn’t have liked it, but we would have felt like it was worth our time reading it.

When it’s all said and done, though, we don’t. Some of you will love it. We want the swoony, romantic story that goes with that beautiful cover. This book will stay with us, but we wish we hadn’t read it.

Rating Report
5 Stars
3 Stars
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0.5 Stars
Overall: 2.5


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2.5 Stars

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