Scheidt, Erica Lorranie. Uses For Boys. St. Martins Press, 2013. 227p. Grades 10-12. Realistic Fiction.
Anna is an only child raised by only her mother. She remembers the good days when it was just the two of them. Since her began to mother use men to fill a void and left Anna alone, Anna figures out that boys can become her family. Finally, Anna finds a boy that is more than useful and she has to figure out how to navigate new intense feelings.
Review: Uses For Boys was incredibly difficult to for me to get through. It was too real for me. Anna’s character was someone who was alone and tries to fill the gaping hole that her mother left. Because her mother filled the gap for herself, with husbands and boyfriends, Anna turns to boys to create her family. Her first encounter with a boy on the bus who grabs her breast, her reaction is incredibly realistic, she isn’t quite sure what to do with herself. I think that shock and going along with it really gets into the mind of a young girl who hasn’t had the attention of boys before. But one who has seen that her mother places men before herself. While this lends itself to being a tradition plotline, it’s not. So much more happens. One of the most difficult scenes to read is when Anna gets raped and doesn’t tell anyone about. She’s makes it up in her mind like it wasn’t rape and it was sweet and nice. This is a completely different version of Speak. Anna doesn’t get justice. It makes her feel like it’s just what happens. Boys use you and you use them right back.
Anna finally finds herself a friend. Toy and Anna bond over their lack of father and absentee mother. Toy has a multitude of boys, all of which tell her they love her and have all of the perfect traits without any of the imperfect ones. Anna doesn’t understand why her boys aren’t like Toy’s. This situation forces Anna into wanting a family like what Toy has with her boys. So Anna moves out and drops out of high school to be with one of her boyfriends. Anna’s continuous need for attention from boys is something I think a lot of girls can relate to. The need to feel wanted and needed is really important. Anna’s story shows how wrong this can go.
It’s at this point of the novel, that I think it takes a turn for the worse. Anna meets Sam and she sees what it is like to have a loving family of people who legitimately care about you. She finally understands that what she is going through by herself, isn’t how it’s ‘supposed to be’. At 16 she is not an adult. Once she meets Sam’s family it kind of has a fairy tale ending. They are going to take care of her and everything is going to be okay. I think that in reality it would be much harder for Anna to turn her life around and get back on her feet. After the harsh reality of the first part of the novel, the second part fell flat.
With all of the intense material, the writing was beautiful. It was very simple, elegant writing. Scheidt did a wonderful job using sentence structure to convey Anna’s mood. It was prose-like. The chapters were short in a way that reminded me of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying except it was all in Anna’s point of view. While this book most definitely will have some backlash. It is worth a read and will be an important book for many teens.
**I read an advanced readers copy of this book.**