by Erica Lorraine Scheidt
To be published by St. Martin's Press
on January 15, 2013
Source: e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.
My summary: Anna is desperately lonely. Her mother is always putting on make-up and a new dress to chase that next guy, leaving Anna alone. There's always a new date, then a new husband, a new house to live in, and the inevitable divorce. Anna has to fend for herself, to fend off the boys who want too much. She just wants to be loved.
My take: Uses for Boys is a gritty contemporary YA about a girl left alone to parent herself. There's a lot of mature content here, and some dark subject material.
My heart went out to Anna, who is constantly left alone while her mother goes off on one date after another, marries a new guy, then splits up with him and starts the process over. It's hard not to feel heartbroken for her, to feel her loneliness as her mother goes off again and again, to watch both Anna and her mother make all sorts of terrible decisions just to feel important to someone, if only for a short time.
Although Anna is an extremely sympathetic character, I can't say I found her a very interesting one until pretty far into the book. As a result of both her mother's horrible parenting and a traumatic experience she suffers, Anna dissociates herself a lot of the time, seeming to leave her body and watch herself from outside. She has also absorbed her mother's skewed view of the world, in which there is a perfect man somewhere around the corner, a prince hidden somewhere in a pond of toads. Anna's mother is obsessed with her appearance, and so Anna is constantly plotting out perfect outfits for herself as a way to control her surroundings. I understood where the author was going with this, but this part of the book went on a litttle too long for me.
Things got considerably more interesting when Anna met Sam, one in a line of many guys she attaches herself to. But unlike the other guys, Sam isn't a world-weary sixteen year-old like Anna. He's a real teenager, a kid who lives with his family in a middle-class world that couldn't be more different from Anna's.
This was where Uses for Boys really started to grab me.Watching Anna negotiate Sam's ordinary suburban life makes her realize all that she's missed out on. Sam's parents are understandably wary that their son's new girlfriend is a high school dropout who lives alone and works at a coffee house. The juxtaposition of their two worlds was what make the book come alive for me, and I wished that the first part of the book had been shorter and the second half longer. While I didn't expect a happily ever after, I would have liked to see Anna take at least a couple steps toward creating a life for herself that didn't involve giving herself to any guy who showed interest.
Uses for Boys isn't going to be a book for everyone, but there was something about it that will stick with me, and I'll be watching to see what Erica Lorraine Scheidt writes next.
I would definitely be interested in checking out more of this author's writing but this story was so not for me. I just could not handle the first part and by the time the second part rolled around, I was a little past caring.ReplyDelete
I think the first part was a little too long. After a few chapters, I really got how awful her life was and I was ready for something new.Delete
Sam didn't come into the book until 68% of the way through (not a math genius, just reading on a Kindle) and I thought that was too long. I loved the part of the story where their two worlds collided -- I could have read way more of that.
I thought this was a sad book. I felt sorry for Anna..I didnt always understand her actions, but I was like you, I liked seeing her interact with Sam.ReplyDelete
I felt SO bad for her. But she wasn't an interesting character to me until she started to grow as a person.Delete
I felt really sorry for anna too. her life could have been so different if her mother had just paid her a little more attention.ReplyDelete
I wasn't the biggest fan of the neding either, I felt that Anna still had more to learn, and would have liked to have found out what happened next.
I did like it overall though :)
Yeah, I would have loved it if Sam came in 1/3 to 1/2 of the way through and then I could have found out just a bit more.Delete
I'm glad that you liked this. I couldn't get into the writing style of it so I stopped fairly early into it. Only 12% I think. Her mom sounded like a total wreck, but unfortunately I didn't get far since the writing put me off.ReplyDelete
It wasn't the writing style for me, it was just that Anna was so stunted as a person because of the awful mother. Her view of the world was so off. She only became interesting to me when she began to see that her life could be different.Delete
Uses for Boys was a breathtaking read,although some of the parts felt a little dragged out I really liked it too.Anna's narration was raw and honest-a well written book.ReplyDelete
It was certainly a different story and I liked that. As a parent, I kept wondering what I'd do if one of my kids brought home a street kid as a boyfriend or girlfriend.Delete
I was looking forward to your review on this one. I have this book coming to me in the mail and I've been reading a few mixed reviews on it. I'm glad to see you ended up liking it and at least I know it will probably take some time getting into it. I'll give it a chance though!ReplyDelete
I think you'll like it. Just be aware that it's dark for a while. As soon as a friend told me that it would get better, I kept with it and was really glad that I did.Delete
Sounds like an interesting, possibly heart wrenching one. I may have to add it to my TBR.ReplyDelete
Great review. I've been seeing a lot of mixed reviews about it.ReplyDelete
like I said in the review, it's definitely not a book for everyone. But I like gritty books sometimes!Delete
I was waiting to see what you would think of this one. I felt so horrible for Anna and I also wish we had gotten more of the Sam story. I would be interested in reading something else from this author.ReplyDelete
Sam (and his family) really were shining lights in this dark book. It definitely made me squirm to read it but in the end, I'm really glad that I did. Don't think I'll forget this book for a while:)ReplyDelete
I agree, the book really picks up when Sam comes onto the page. I would have really liked to see their story more. I won't be forgetting this book anytime soon, but I can't say I loved it. It's not a book to cuddle with, but it does make you think and focuses on a side to teen life that doesn't get much coverage in YA.ReplyDelete
It's the contrast when the two worlds meet that I will find interesting I think.ReplyDelete
I do like gritty contemporary.Maybe I'll check tshi one out.ReplyDelete
I struggled with the content, and totally thought it should have been new adult or come with a warning label, but like you I thought it was well done. This was dark and gritty and raw.ReplyDelete
I have seen a few reviews on this book and they have been a mix, none of them really bad though. It does sound interesting so I will have to add it to my TBR list. Thanks for the warning that this book may not be for everyone, I appreciate the honesty in your reviewsReplyDelete
This was a great book but very sad and dark. I thought it still held a great message for young girls and a great perspective on someone going through such a difficult time. I read it in one sitting easily but it isn't enjoyable which will put people off. The cover doesn't match the story much either.ReplyDelete
I intend to read this. I love gritty contemps....ReplyDelete
Huh. I've seen some mixed reviews for this book, but yours actually makes me want to pick it up. The disassociation sounds interesting--thanks for the review.ReplyDelete
Wendy @ The Midnight Garden