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, brining 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 by Erica Lorraine Scheidt is a story of breaking down and growing up.
1 1/2 stars
Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Griffin for this eARC! This title is now available.
CONTENT WARNING: If you are the kind of person who doesn’t like graphic sex in your books … look elsewhere. This review will also be discussing this, so … fair warning. THERE WILL BE ALL OF THE SPOILERS because I can’t even handle what happened.
When I read this blurb, I had my assumptions about this book. I was expecting a broken girl meets a good guy and everything is happiness and puppies until something happens and then they break up and then they realize their love for each other and then get back together. You know, the basic plot of every romance story ever. What with the beautiful cover and the promise of “lyrical” prose, I thought that’s what HAD to be going on here.
IT’S NOT. IT’S REALLY NOT.
Okay, lyrical yes. And that’s the only reason for that half star, there. Scheidt does have a way with words I can’t deny. Fair warning, though, that’s going to be about the only good thing I say about this book. I try to keep it SO BALANCED in my reviews, usually, but this one … I just can’t do it.
Let’s talk about Anna, first. Anna is the most passive, depressed child I’ve ever met, who is so obsessed with sex I can’t even. I’ll mention this again, but you should know right now that most of this book takes place when Anna is 14 to 16 years old. BUT SHE’S SO OBSESSED WITH SEX. Also, also, back to the passive part. Anna doesn’t give the air of DOING much in this book at all. She basically just drifts through life, magically always finding another guy to sleep with her when she gets bored. And each one of them is more of a horrible person than the last, until Sam. But still. I couldn’t help but hate her from page one, because she doesn’t DO ANYTHING.
So, basically, the whole first part of the book is about how Anna’s mom does nothing but chase guys around her entire life. She gets married, they move, she gets divorced, etc. Anna is always lonely and hates her life. Then, one day, on the bus, this guy named Desmond starts playing with her breasts and she lets him, disconnectedly looking out the window the whole time, until she jumps off at her bus stop without even reacting to the whole thing. A couple of bus rides later, Desmond has brought his two friends in on the fun, and everyone in school is calling Anna a slut because she’s letting these boys do whatever they want under her shirt. SHE IS THIRTEEN AT THIS POINT.
Then Anna gets a boyfriend. His name is Joey, and without any preamble he starts spending every day after school at her house, having sex. Seriously. A recurring theme with the guys in this book is that they give their name and then there is sex. There is no in between. There are lots and lots of sex, some happy feelings, and then Joey announces he’s moving away. Anna has sex with him one last time, and then he’s gone. Bam. SHE IS FOURTEEN AT THIS POINT.
Then Anna’s mom finally remembers her daughter exists and takes her on vacation with her and her current boyfriend. At this point I was like, FINALLY SOME GOOD THINGS. But that’s a lie. There are no good things. During a party at the house of Anna’s new friend, this guy named Todd starts messing with her breasts without asking. Anna’s friend tells him to go away, but this just makes Anna moody. That night, Todd creeps in to her room in the middle of the night and rapes her. Yes, rapes her. Covers her mouth with his hand and everything. After it’s over, the only other mentions of Todd are Anna missing him. Then the fact that she was raped just disappears. THERE IS NO AMOUNT OF CAPS THAT CAN EXPLAIN HOW I FEEL ABOUT THIS. Fine, maybe the fact that she wants to believe he really liked her is a PTSD thing. But IF YOU INCLUDE RAPE, IT CANNOT BE A PLOT CONVENTION. It cannot be a thing that just happens and then life goes on like la-dee-da. Just–I can’t explain how angry this made me.
Some times passes, and then Anna meets Josh. They have sex, and a few pages later they’re moving in together. I think Anna’s 16 or 17 by this point. She drops out of school and starts working at a coffee shop. Then she realizes she’s pregnant and goes to have an abortion. Yep, yep, exactly what I just said. There is pregnancy and there is an abortion. That happened. By this point, I just can’t even any more.
Josh and Anna break up really soon after the abortion, and Anna moves in on her own. AT SEVENTEEN. She has a couple of one nights stands with random dudes and then she meets Sam. Sam is the most normal guy in this book. He’s 17 and sweet to Anna. For at least a couple of pages it’s not about sex. Then it’s about sex again, maybe just with a little more love. The thing is that the Sam thing is only a tiny bit of the book, not the bulk of it like I expected, and even during it Anna feels listless and passive. By this point, I don’t think she can be repaired quite that easily.
I respect what the author was trying to do. I do–none of this is easy stuff to write about. But I still can’t deny that I just felt sick to my stomach for this entire book. The rape, the abortion, the sex and everything in between–I literally could barely handle it. I only finished it because I wanted to write my review with the whole picture, because I KNEW I had to say SO MANY THINGS about this book. Even now, I cannot believe what I read. Yes, I understand it’s realistic. Yes, I understand the author was trying to present something other than the bright side of life. I respect the attempt, but I cannot in good faith give this book anything more than 1 1/2 stars and I certainly won’t recommend it to anyone. I read books as an escape from this negativity, and when I put this book down I was depressed for two days. I haven’t been this angry since Beautiful Disaster and Shattered Souls. Maybe this works for some people, but just certainly not for me.