Uses For Boys, a contemporary YA novel by Erica Lorraine Scheidt
(Reviewed for the Debut Author Challenge and The Bookanistas.)
From Goodreads: 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.
I first heard about Uses For Boys on author Sarah McCarry‘s blog, The Rejectionist. She wrote an honest and affecting piece on slut-shaming as it relates to this debut novel and its Goodreads reviews. The undeniable thread of ignorance in the review excerpts Sarah included in her post hurt my heart and made me wonder, yet again, at the lack of compassion in some people. The excerpts Sarah posted also made me wonder about the book itself. So, I did a little more research on Uses For Boys. While it was pretty clear from the story’s summary that Anna and I don’t have a lot in common, her journey intrigued me.
Uses For Boys is a tough book to read. It’s a character study, an in-depth, unflinching look at what it’s like to live in Anna’s shoes, and it is haunting. Throughout most of the story, Anna is just trying to survive. Yes, she makes some crappy choices. Yes, there were several occasions when I thought, Oh, Anna, don’t do that! Yes, Anna sleeps with a lot of boys, and yes, several of them are one night stands. But the thing is, Anna has her reasons for behaving the way she does. Reasons that, for the most part, spiral back to her neglectful mother and the varied occasions of assault Anna suffered early-on. I may not have been able to relate to Anna’s experiences, but I was certainly rooting for her to find happiness and some inner peace. Erica Lorraine Scheidt’s fearless flair for storytelling and stark, lyrical prose helped me empathize with her protagonist in a way I didn’t think I’d be able to.
My favorite parts of Uses For Boys were the chapters involving Toy, Anna’s incredibly complex best friend, and Sam, the gentle boy who comes along toward the end of the novel and, with his awesome family, becomes a catalyst of change in Anna’s life. Additionally, and this is sort of a small thing, but I also loved the way Erica Lorraine Scheidt described Anna and Toy’s clothing. Fashion is such a big part of their lives — it’s what brought them together and, at times, it’s what keeps them together. Their senses of style and clothing choices were so eccentric and odd, they added a very cool bit of color to an otherwise dark story.
Uses For Boys is definitely one to check out if you’re a fan of edgy, upper YA (this book is very frank in its discussions of sexuality), and if you enjoy character-driven contemporary stories.
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And learn more about the Debut Author Challenge HERE.
8 thoughts on “Book Talk :: USES FOR BOYS”
I remember reading that post about slut-shaming and was curious about this book. Like you, I have very little in common with Anna, but this isn’t something that would keep me from reading it. Thanks for the honest review, Katy! 🙂
My pleasure. 🙂 Even though Anna and I didn’t share many commonalities, I was still absorbed by her story. And Erica Lorraine Scheidt’s writing is lovely. You’ll have to let me know what you think if you decide to pick this one up.
I hadn’t read the post until you linked to it (and I almost didn’t read it because it’s too early in the day for me to be angry). I think more than the lack of compassion, it’s the society that breeds that lack of compassion that bothers me. I mean, the attitude has to come from somewhere.
I have this book out from the library right now, and I’m really intrigued now so I’ll most likely be reading it within the next week or two. Thanks for posting this review!
I agree with you about lack of compassion, Steph. As the mother of a little girl, I find it all very, very scary.
Let me know what you think after you read this one. I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews, so I’d love to get your opinion.
My dad raised my sister and me to stand up for ourselves and to believe we deserve to be treated with respect, so seeing things like this just don’t even make sense to me. And I find it horrifying that this whole mindset still exists, to the point where women just accept it because it’s just been ingrained that it’s their fault. For example, I only found out my best friend’s (thankfully now ex) boyfriend was abusing her because I happened to walk in on him doing it – and the reason she never said anything to me was because she assumed it was her fault he was doing it because HER DAD always told her it was her own fault if she ever ended up in that position.
I can’t wait to read this book. I’ve got it on hold at the library. I also had seen the post at the Rejectionist and was deeply troubled by the response it’s received.
Scary, isn’t it, Molly? Makes me nervous about the world my little girl will face when she’s a teenager. I hope you enjoy USES FOR BOYS… You’ll have to let me know what you think.
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