I have to say - this book didn't do a lot of things for me. I admit, I walked into it knowing very little about the book itself. However the story addresses some very sensitive issues and I commend the author for choosing to write about topics considered delicate in the teenager world. Yet as much as I liked Anna's character, ultimately I just thought the book read very flat.
Anna only wants a family, someone to be there to welcome her home from school, cook her dinner and assure her that everything is going to be ok. Her mom used to do that, but not anymore. As her mom flits from one man's bed to another, Anna's loneliness spreads through her system like a disease. Until one day on the school bus when a boy touches her for the first time and she starts to wonder, is this what love is? After that first sexual experience, she seeks out other men, letting them take advantage of her while she convinces herself this is all she needs to feel loved.
Then Anna meets a girl named Toy - another lonely girl - who makes Anna realizes that there may be better men out there. The kind who will treat her right, buy her things and be there when she needs comforting. And so she meets Sam, who is just the kind of man Toy described. He changes Anna's world and offers her the thing she always wanted, a family. But can Anna trust herself to not screw things up?
At the essence, this book is a story of how a girl finds her self-worth. Not through a guy, but because a women finally tells us to value herself more, and that she is worth more than the pair of boobs men tend to see her as.
However Anna goes through a lot of men before she discovers this. And the book explores the darker elements of children following in their parents footsteps. With scenes of rape, drugs, violence and depression, this is by no means a light read.
The writing style is also interesting. For while the book sees us through several years of Anna's life, the voice of the character never seems to change. She remains childlike, in both her beliefs and dreams, yet her experiences are certainly adult which in a way, makes the book even darker.
Otherwise I found the plot a little repetitive. Each chapter Anna had a new guy and she never really seemed to learn anything from her experiences. Also while I understand that Sam is the one who is supposed to 'save' her in the end, I didn't really feel like much had changed - other than Anna deciding she wanted a better life for herself. It all left me feeling kind of... 'Oh, well I guess that's it then. Story over.'
So while I respect the author for bringing these unspoken issues of teenager life to the surface, I'm sad to say that I just couldn't connect with this book. For that reason I rate it 1 star!
About the book
Uses for Boys is the debut young adult novel by Erica Lorraine Scheidt. The book was published by St. Martin's Griffin on 15th January and the book is 240 pages long.
Synopsis (Taken from Goodreads.com)
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
What I thought
This was one of those books that I didn't know much about before reading. However, I'm beginning to start reading things unlike what I normally would and by authors I haven't heard of - giving more authors a chance.
Uses for Boys begins in quite a sad way, with Anna wanting to go back to the days where her mother was so happy to have a little daughter and for that daughter to be everything she ever needed. However, the story quickly changes as Anna grows older and her mother moves on. Quickly, Anna is left on her own when her mum goes from man to man, always being with someone new and relationships never lasting long at all - even if she marries the man. I actually lost count of how many times her mum got remarried throughout this story. I hated the example that Anna's mum set for her.
Then there is Anna herself. As her mum leaves her alone to go off with random men, she does whatever the hell she wants, which includes bringing boys home to have sex with at the age of 13/ 14. Although teenagers do have sex at a young age, and this is no secret, I do not think that way in which the subject was approached was appropriate at all. If it wasn't bad enough that Anna was doing these things at such a young age, she doesn't stop nor think there is anything wrong at all. The whole time we follow Anna in this book, she sleeps with numerous boys and doesn't really care how she treats them, and is treated by them.
In regards to writing style, Uses for Boys is very simple and if I hadn't known the age this was aimed at, I would have said it was aimed at a younger audience. This is only in the style of the writing though, not the actual words which are quite shocking if I'm honest. I do feel as though some of the content was used to shock rather than for it to be meaningful in any way. I think the plot could have been something amazing, if done slightly differently and written slightly different. There was definitely promise behind the basic idea but I don't think it was done to its full potential.
I also don't think the title was a very good choice either. Uses for Boys makes the book sound quite funny, much like the book How To Keep A Boy As A Pet but it isn't funny at all. By reading everything previously said in this review, I'm sure you can see what the uses for boys actually are in this book. Poor boys!
This book wasn't for me at all unfortunately and I wish I could find more that I liked about it.