Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Uses for Boys - Erica Lorraine Scheidt

Uses for Boys Erica Lorraine Scheidt book cover
Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: January 15, 2013
Source/Format: Publisher (Thanks Macmillan!) || Paperback
[I received this book from the publisher. This in no way affects the thoughts expressed in my review.]

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.(from Goodreads)

Honestly, I’m still not quite sure what I’d like to say about Uses for Boys. This is not to say that I think this is an awful book. On the contrary, I think that despite being a very dark tale, one filled with sorrow and heaviness that weighs on your heart, it’s one that really opens up a new level of reality for a reader. I can’t say I enjoyed what I was reading, but I can say that it opened my eyes to a few new things.

One of my strongest reactions to this book was the urge to simply protect Anna. For the most part, I wanted to bring her someplace safe and warm, where she could feel love and kindness and care. But this also sometimes translated into me mentally yelling at her that she’s doing stupid things (and that happened quite a few times!). Her fragility, lack of stability and passive submission to many of the things that happened to her made me sad and kept me worried about what would happen next. However, the occasional peeks into her independent and creative nature kept me hoping that she would turn out just fine.

Since this book is about her, I obviously thought about Anna a lot. Overall, I was faced with the question of whether it really was in Anna’s nature to act as she did, or if it was the (lack of) nurture from her mother that forced her into questionable situations. It’s a question I still can’t answer, and I can appreciate the fact that this book actually makes me think and debate and wonder about this. (And if you’ve read it, you’re welcome to sound off in the comments!)

Thanks to the various reviews I’d read before starting the book, I wasn’t too shocked by the explicit content – from masturbation, to sex, to abortion. Even though these things are realities that I’ve never had to face personally, I thought it was an accurate portrayal of someone’s possible reality in this world. It helped me to understand people who are in Anna’s situation a little better, and that was worth reading all the hard, humiliating, confusing stuff that Anna went through.

This story definitely surprised me with its gritty portrayal of Anna and her life, but at the same time, I thought it was very well done. If you’re looking for a contemporary filled with romance or one with a happy ending, this is not the book for you. But if you’re up for reading a grittier, realistic contemporary novel that covers one girl’s issues with relationships and her own self-worth, Uses for Boys might just be the book you’re looking for.

14 comments:

  1. I've seen so many conflicting things about this book -- from extreme love to extreme hate! Would I like it? I can't tell! I mean, I like gritty contemps so that doesn't scare me away!

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  2. This one sounds so dark. I don't mind a gritty book sometimes, but Uses for Boys sounds very heavy. I also think that Anna will annoy me despite the protective feelings. That's why I think I need to stay away from this book, but I really enjoyed reading your review Alexa :) Thanks for sharing.

    Mel@thedailyprophecy.

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  3. I'm really happy you didn't find this book overly shocking or unbelievable just because it wasn't something you've gone through. I think that's one of the issues this book is coming up against a lot. Yeah, a lot of 13 year olds don't have tons of sex and have to deal with an abortion or any of that, but at the same time, a lot do, and I think that it's important to remember, like you said, just because it's not your reality, it is someone's.

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  4. I've seen this one around but hadn't read a review of it until now. I'm very intrigued by it, I do like gritty contemporary sometimes, it just gives you a new perspective of certain things. Great review!! =)

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  5. Thank you for this review! I was contemplating on reading it next and your review just persuaded me to do so.

    Tt @ NeverEndingStoires

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  6. This book seems to be quite polarising, but I think I'm certain now that it isn't my kind of read. I'm glad to hear it gets you thinking about the nurture vs nature debate, though. That's always interesting to look at in different situations. Great review, Alexa!

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  7. I've seen a lot of mixed reviews for this. But I really liked your review and I think I will get around to this eventually.

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  8. I really liked this book! I thought it was so honest. I felt the same as you though, like I wanted to scoop Anna up and save her! I was sad when she was having sex at such a young age, but I wasn't disturbed by it like I was in Beautiful by Amy Reed... that book freaked me out. Anna did what she did because she was lonely and it was relatable to me on some level. Great Review!

    Michelle @ Pink Polka Dot Book Blog

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  9. This: "it’s one that really opens up a new level of reality for a reader" Is making me so curious about the book! I've seen so many terrible reviews for it though but I'd also be ready for the more explicit parts and I'm usually not bothered by that at all. I think it's a book that you just have to read for yourself it seems! Lovely review, muffin!

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  10. I love this review! It captures a lot of the thoughts I had about this book, which was much darker than I expected from the cover and not quite what I wanted to read. But I did react strongly to it and I also really wanted to protect Anna. I think you did a great job capturing the many facets of this book.

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  11. This is a great review! I think everyone agrees that the cover and jacket copy didn't really reflect what the book was. It was tough to read, but this is the best about YA, I think. We should have books that reflect a variety of experiences because people/teens want to see themselves reflected in art. Not everyone has a life full of rainbows and sunshine, but that doesn't mean they can't triumph over adversity.

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  12. While the premise is a sad one, I think it can really hit home for some readers because it's a situation that can reflect a reality. Too often, I think, we see girls who put their self worth and esteem into their friends and boys and it doesn't have to (shouldn't) be that way. So while this isn't one of those whimsical romances, I can really appreciate the fact that it strikes home with a difficult, realistic message. And often, books like that are the ones that leave the most lasting impression. Great review, Alexa!

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  13. I really love how thoughtful this review is, Alexa. I don't think this really sounds like the book for me, so I'll probably pass because there are so many books I'm dying to read, but I love how much thought and care you put into writing a review for a book you didn't really like that much.

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  14. I loved this book so much. Yes, it's eye-opening, but it wasn't too terribly shocking for me because I've worked in women's health/L&D as a nurse, specifically with young girls. So I've seen a lot of behavior like Anna's and the after-effects of it, all across the board. Still, there were scenes that made me cringe and want to reach through the book and just grab Anna and HELP HER or HUG HER or be the one person that made the comment or suggestion or compliment or something that made a difference in her life. I think this is absolutely one of the more discussable books I've read lately and I loved that about it.

    ALSO, I loved the author's writing style. Short, choppy, clipped phrases, short paragraphs and chapters. I just loved it. I have no idea yet what is next on this author's plate, but I will be watching for it.

    Great review, Alexa. :)

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Thanks for leaving a comment! I love seeing what you have to say, and will try to reply (here or on Twitter) as soon as I can :)

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