Friday, January 18, 2013

Review: Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt

Title: Uses for Boys
Author: Erica Lorraine Scheidt
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Release Date: January 15, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Format: eARC
Pages: 240
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Bookdepository
Read from January 14 to 15, 2013
My rating: 3 stars: I like it (2.5)
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, 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 have no father. I have no mother. Then you came along and everything changed. 

Uses for Boys majorly caught me off guard. I started this book thinking it would be just another YA Contemporary about troubled teenagers. In the beginning it does feel like one; but then the story takes a totally different turn from what I expected, and led me along a road I would've never taken if it I had known any better.

Anna grows up with no father. In her early childhood, her mother would tell her again and again that Anna is all she ever wanted, and Anna loved the idea. It was bliss, until her mother starts going out all the time to chase after new husbands, one after another, and then she has no time for Anna anymore. Growing up with no father and as good as no mother, Anna turns to the people who give her attention: boys. All of a sudden boys start talking to her, saying that she's pretty, flirting with her, and Anna goes along with it, giving them all they want, one boy after another, just so she can have their company.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, it's quite entertaining. If it were dull, I would've hated it, but it wasn't, so I went through it pretty fast. It has an easy narrative style, like a person talking, rather than a well thought-out piece of writing like other novels. The story is divided into a lot of parts, and each parts come up pretty randomly, so it isn't always predictable. And that's a good things. But on the other hand, the subject matter is quite discomforting. The book talks about sex pretty bluntly, and I feel weird reading this in the words of a thirteen or fifteen year old (I don't remember which one). For a young girl her age, Anna is very experienced with boys, having slept with 4 or more (I lost count), not to mention that she got pregnant, and had an abortion. I didn't enjoy watching someone let her life slip away like that for no good reason other than to feel loved.

Her mother is partly to blame, I get that. Negligent parents do a lot of damage to their children. And we can see how Anna's mother affects her pretty clearly. She would say that she cares, but then she never shows it. What kind of mother lets her child quit school and move out at 13 to live in a boyfriend's apartment? As hard is it is to imagine, I know there are parents like this out there.

In a way, I think I understand that this book just wants to "tell it like it is" with no fancy fabrications, no glorifying, no denouncing. That would explain why the narrative is this way, and why Anna doesn't acknowledge any of her actions to be anything (not the right thing, not the wrong thing, not a mistake, not anything) other than things she feels like she has to do. Trying so hard to impress, Anna willingly falls victim to her so-called friend and boyfriends, and this is very common among teenagers. Like Anna, they're not always likeable, and don't always know right from wrong. We can judge all we want, but it's also important to understand them, why they are the way they are and why they do the things they do. To me, Uses for Boys is a story that speaks of real teenagers with problems. Even though the book falls short of plot and denouement, it's quite an easy and enjoyable read, unless you're put off by dark, discomforting stories with (too) many sex scenes.

This review is also posted on Goodreads.
I received a digital copy from NetGalley and the publisher for review.

1 comment:

  1. I love reading posts with such a fresh point of view on this interesting topic.


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