Published: January 15, 2013
St. Martin's Press, paperback, 240 pages
Goodreads Summary: 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, brining 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.
So yes, I read the summary. It sounded like a heavy book. But then I looked at the cover and saw FLUFF AND KISSING. Listen, you guys. If that's what you're expected from Uses for Boys, you've come to the wrong place. This book reminded me a lot of the movie Thirteen, if you've seen it, minus the copious amount of drugs (but they're still there.) But don't let that deter you. Just because Uses for Boys is heavy and issue-y and...I'll just say it: depressing, doesn't mean you should write this one off.
I think the most striking aspect of Uses for Boys is the fact that I've known so many girls like this. So many girls who didn't have a strong female or male influence on them, so they go through life thinking that giving themselves sexually is the best way to compensate, make friends, and make people like them. Many times, this turns out not so great. These girls are called "sluts," "whores," "skanks," etc. And after hearing it from all their peers, they come to believe that these names are, in fact, what they are. They become numbed to this and have allowed society to set their own standard for them. It's absolutely maddening.
Anna's story made my heart ache and my stomach nauseated. I wanted so badly to MAKE IT OKAY. The atmosphere of this book was so dark and grim and even the one person that Anna thought she could rely on, her "best friend" Toy, was worthless. Uses for Boys is a story of lost souls, struggling and scrambling to find even the tiniest glimpse of goodness in their life. This book made me take a good look at my life and thank God for the hand I was dealt, because it could always be so much worse. Anna tried so hard to hold onto beautiful things in her life, yet used sex as a weapon and a security blanket for all of her alleged shortcomings.
Erica Lorraine Scheidt writes like magic. It's this lyrical stream of consciousness that invades your soul and makes you want to put yourself on the line in order to shield and protect her characters. I love to incorporate humor into my reviews, but with Uses for Boys, I want to be that voice of reason for Anna. To tell her that she's better than what all the mean girls made her out to be. That she is worth something and everything.
Uses for Boys is one that EVERYONE needs to read. It's haunting and beautiful and horrible. But Scheidt paints a beautiful portrayal of hope in the most shadowy, doubt-filled scenerios and I applaud her for it.