by Erica Lorraine Scheidt
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.
This book threw me for totally out of balance. To say that I liked it, would actually be a lie. It had an profound impact on me. So much so, that its been on my mind since I have finished it. I am totally disturbed, appalled and even disgusted by some of the things, but I am also intrigued, hear broke and totally aware that many things are the hard cold reality.
I have been mulling it all over, uncounted times. Told a good friend about it and discussed it with her for over two hours. Then had another a heart to heart with Katy about it, plus a lengthy discussion in Mitch's thread. And finally feel like I can try and write a review that might even make some sense. (Iam apologizing in advance in case I don't)
I really didn't like the writing style. The first couple few chapters, I assumed that it was that simplistic because Anna is really young. But it didn't change. And around half way in it actually kinda annoyed me. I felt like I was stuck in the mind of an obsessive child. I would have preferred if Anna's voice would have matured and her POV would have sounded at least slightly different when she was 7 or 16… Saying all this though I got to admit, it didn't stop me reading it, which is amazing, since the prose for me is one of the most important things about a book. I am totally aware that Scheidt did it on purpose, maybe that's one of the reasons I managed to overlook it.
I think than MANY will not like this book. There will be lots of divided opinions. It's definitely NOT a book for everybody.
In my opinion I would neither classify it as YA nor give it to a teen to read. It a really heavy topic and Scheidt does not embellish or beautify it.
I have to say that I find the cover a bit misleading- don't know why its a bit too cute it think… This is definitely the furthest from a cute story.
The way it is written, one gets little insight into any character other than Anna. Everything is tinged by her view of it.
But the book really is about Anna and her "uses for boys" or at least what she believes them to be. It didn't matter to me. I felt quite disconnected to most of the support characters- Anna and her feelings and issues were kinda more than enough for me.
*A WARNING: WHILE I AM TRYING TO WRITE THIS REVIEW AS SPOILER FREE AS POSSIBLE, ITS CONTENTS MIGHT GIVE AWAY SOME OF THE PLOT. only read on if you either don't mind or preferably if you have read the book*
As mentioned above I found many things in the book revolting and disturbing.
The depiction of the sex was often extremely horrifying. I hated what happened with Desmond, Todd or Josh and how Anna dealt with it. I was disturbed by her just dropping out of school and even more so by the fact that all these things happened to her and no one ever intervened. The most disturbing thing is that all this happens to a girl between the age of 12 and 16! She is so incredibly young! Her understanding of love is so distorted and she is a girl that was totally abandoned by her parents, her friends and even the system.
I think this book had such a huge impact because of the fact that I know many women/girls, who are to some degree like Anna. In fact on several levels not just what happens to her, but her entire view on sex and relationships and how she handles what happens to her.
There are way to many girls out there, who turn to sex for solace. Who don't know the difference between sex and love. And who have never been taught that fulfillment and happiness come from within oneself and not through an other person.
I have to admit I find Anna's young age totally mind boggling - but the fact that teenage pregnancies between the age of 12 and 16 have been ever increasing for the last 15years proves that, what Scheidt's depicting is the sad reality that many extremely young girls are sexually active, while their parents more often than not are completely oblivious of it.
Anna's inability to talk about what happens with her, again is a common thread with girls who find themselves in similar circumstances. When she says that she doesn't tell anyone about Todd, because that makes it somehow less real, my heart total broke, because this is such a typical female response to the situation. Worse even many girls who have gone through something similar feel either ashamed to bring it up or like Anna have actually no one to really go to.
I think Scheidt has written something that take a lot of guts to put out there. She didn't embellish or beautify things. What she does do is shed light to a disturbingly increasing phenomena.
But neither none these things are the reasons I rated it quite shockingly so high. It's that in my opinion the book does not only shed light on an ugly reality but actually has some important messages and it deals with at least a couple of issues.
“Tell me again,” I say and she tells me how it was before I came. What it was like when she was all alone. She had no mother, she says, she had no father. All she wanted was a little girl and that little girl is me.
“Now I have everything,” she says
The mother implanting probable unwittingly two things into little Anna. Firstly that the one needs someone to fulfill her. By saying Anna was it she put that responsibility on her shoulders and when later she dates again shifting her attention from Anna to the men she is seeing, Anna misunderstands that love equals attention.
Second the story it self as well. Anna does make it her story.
I think those were the two issues Scheidt actually did deal with.
Both are issues that are really common for women actually. Tons of women are looking for that one person what fulfills them and makes them happy rather than finding contentment within themselves. In reality no-one will be able to do so and that putting that expectation on another human being is totally unfair and overwhelming. I think that this is the source for most of Anna's problems. Since her mother suffers of this misconception as well.
Anna is never taught self esteem or self value. And her approach to any relationship steams from those things and she never learns to really trust. All of these circumstances not only add to her inability to really connect with others, they also make her even more lonely.
But I look for him. My useless father. I look for him at the cafe. On the street.
About halfway into the book I felt incredibly depressed and upset. The above quote just broke my heart, but then the thing with Josh happened.
In the water I watch my feet emerge, disconnected in the far end of the tub. This is me, I think, and I sit up suddenly, like a revelation.
This changed everything for me. This sentence held a promise that not only made me able to finish the book, it made me 'like' it.
Anna discovers that she is just herself. She kinda starts seeing for the first time that it ends and starts with yourself. Trying to find out what love really is, what family means.
I do like that even at the end of the book, Anna hasn't quite gotten there yet. Because this is a long journey and it probably takes all of us a life time to actually find contentment within ourselves.
Right at the end she does see that while she was looking for someone to fill the void and her loneliness, there are those who are there for her when she calls them. And she starts discovering about love.
But my absolutely favorite part in the book:
I don't tell Jane my mom's story. I don't tell her that I'd made it mine. ….but even I knew this wasn't going to change anything.
My mom's story is not my story. I'm going to need a new story
That Anna sees that we make our own story. That we don't have to make the story of others our own, we have a choice!
Scheidt has created a seemingly simple and disturbing story , that on second glance has many layers, huge insight and even some surprisingly beautiful aspects to it! A book that made me think for two days and will stay with me for a while.
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