Title: Uses for Boys
Author: Erica Lorraine Scheidt
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: January 15, 2013
Summary 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.
Lyrically told in short vignettes, Erica Lorraine Scheidt’s Uses for Boys is a book every girl should read. Anna’s story is one I think many women will relate to, because it describes so many aspects of womanhood, love, and sex. Her story is one unique to the YA genre because of the deep exploration of sex. Almost all young adult novels today have some sort of romance, but I haven’t read one that goes into the complexities of sex like this book does.
Scheidt captures perfectly Anna’s loneliness, and how that feeds into her need for affection, even if it’s just the physical kind. Even though in real life, Anna would likely be a girl others call a slut as they did in the book, Scheidt is very good at making Anna a sympathetic character that I think many readers will grow to love. Personally, I loved Anna instantly because I identified really strongly with her and her experiences, but I imagine the way she behaves throughout the majority of the novel may be off-putting to some readers.
I think the only thing I would have changed would be the speed of Anna and Sam’s relationship. Since Sam is the one boy who she shares real love with, it would have made sense to me if Scheidt had paced their relationship a little more slowly. I also wish Scheidt had had a few more scenes with Anna and Sam and his family, so readers could fully absorb the whole idea of Anna feeling like she was part of a family. While it did seem like Anna’s relationship with Sam’s family got pretty equal face time to Anna and Sam’s sex life, I felt like their relationship would have seemed more meaningful if things had happened other than sex more often.
Uses for Boys is a gritty, heartbreaking story that I am sure will offend many people due to the mildly graphic descriptions of sex. However, it has moments of beauty and hope peppered throughout it that make it a worthwhile read. I highly recommend this book and will be anxiously awaiting more from Ms. Scheidt.