This is part of the blog tour for Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt, organized by Shane at Itching for Books.
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.
With a beautiful cover, I sort of assumed this would be something light and not heavy. And while I found some parts of the story sweet and enjoyable, for the most part this story made me feel sad, heavy and wistful.
The story is narrated by Anna. From a very young age, Anna knows she doesn’t like her reality. She is constantly being left alone as her mom is rarely home. When she grows a little older, she learns that if she allows boys to do what they want with her in the house, she would have company. But boys do leave eventually and she’d be left alone again. It’s really sad to see what Anna has to go through. Because her mom is rarely present, Anna seldom talks to her mother. She rarely expresses her true feelings to anybody. Maybe if her mom pays more attention to her, she’d not have to suffer from all the pain, dread and sorrow in her life.
As the story progresses, I learn how history is kind of repeating itself from one generation to the next. Anna’s grandmother was hardly there for Anna’s mom when she was young, and Anna’s mom was not really offering much of her time and attention to be with Anna. Perhaps Anna’s mom does not know how to communicate her love to her daughter, I find her cold, inattentive and extremely selfish. But I like that Anna is strong. She is a person who’d seek changes and she seldom gives up on herself until she finds her way to feel better. Life is tough for her as she does not have any role model to look up upon but she gradually learns from her many painful mistakes and she realizes in the end that it is always up to her to treasure what means the most to her in her life.
I guess if Anna has never met Sam and his family, she might not recognize what she has been truly craving for in her life since childhood. I like Sam’s mother. Despite being unhappy with some of the lies that Anna and Sam made up, she genuinely cares for the teens and I like that she is firm but not harsh on them.
In the end, reading Uses for Boys helps me realize how blessed I am, to have a mother who is supportive, attentive and encouraging. The meaning of love may vary from person to person, and I’m thankful that Scheidt shares a beautiful story of what love is (and isn’t) in Uses for Boys.
About the Author
When Erica was a kid all she did was write. She dropped out of high school and attended the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University where she was surrounded by writers and artists.
But then, in Erica’s early twenties, she got a job. She worked hard at that job for 15 years and didn’t write a word.
Then this happened: Erica walked into a bookstore and bought two books by Francesca Lia Block. No particular reason, she just liked their covers. Then Erica read everything Francesca wrote. She read all the YA she could. She still does. Erica thinks the world that happens between 13 and 17 is everything.
She quit her job. Studied writing. And then spent three and a half years writing Uses for Boys. Now she’s working on a new novel and it’s like falling down a hole. Writing her first novel taught her nothing about writing the next one.