Saturday, May 4, 2013

Review: Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt

Uses for Boys
by Erica Lorraine Scheidt
Published: January 15, 2013
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Available: Amazon

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.

**Warning - This review will contain spoilers**

I really wanted to love this book. The cover and the blurb appealed to the romantic in me. Even after I started reading, I thought there was such an opportunity to develop a story of personal redemption, to show how a girl can make the choices that Anna does earlier in the story and still learn to value herself.

The first few chapters do an amazing job of setting up how the abandonment by her father and the emotional distance from her mother has effected her. She watches her mother go from man to man, constantly in search for someone who will 'love' her. It's an example Anna begins to follow. It's sad at first and while I didn't really like Anna, I could pity her. Then she's raped and I think okay, here's a turning point. Instead, she mopes around wondering why her rapist didn't kiss her?!?! Uh, what? I could have understood her feeling anger, hurt, fear, even misplaced guilt, but curiosity about why he didn't kiss her?? This is when I realized that Anna didn't mind having sex with different guys. She didn't mind being used by the guys. She was using them as much as they were using her. And that is where my sympathy for her ended. There's a lot of narrative about her being alone, and how her mom just doesn't care, but ultimately she makes the same choices as her mom, and then still whines about her. 

The boys in the book are set up to be villains, but honestly, apart from the one who rapes her (although her thought process doesn't even suggest that she would have said no) they are simply doing what typical teenage boys do. If a girl has no respect for herself, then they're not going to respect her. Should they? Yes, but if you're willing to sit on school bus and jerk one of them off while his buddies and everyone else on the bus watches then that's on you. Especially when you keep doing it. I thought this would be the lesson Anna learns. That she has value and should expect to be valued by boys. But even at the end she is driven by the physical side.

Sam is set up as her savior, but he's not. He is simply a boy whose parents taught him to be respectful of everyone regardless of their actions. The blurb on the book suggests that he teaches Anna that she has a value beyond sex, but he doesn't (consider the fact that she cheats on him twice with a one night stand). Sam's a virgin, all the way up until Anna manages to pressure him into having sex. Then she gets him to lie to his parents about it. When they get caught by his mom, Anna suddenly feels embarrassed. 

Then book is pretty much over. She never changes her actions. She never stops complaining about the way her mom is always on the hunt for a new man. She never tries to help her friend Toy deal with the problems she obviously has. She simply keeps going.

I've read a few reviews and many say there was no point to this book. That it ends before we see Anna come to any realizations. And while I agree that we don't see that, I wonder if that isn't the point. Could it be that the blurb is misleading? Maybe this is really a story about a girl who never has and never will place any value on herself beyond what she can give to boys. Maybe it is a hard look at how some people never change, no matter how many times they get hurt.

This is not a book for everyone and my recommendations would be limited to much older teens. The sex is graphic for YA and there is no lesson to learn from the mistakes she makes.In the end I just liked it and blame myself for judging a book by its cover.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you. A story doesn't have to with someone realizing something and changing her whole life. Great insight.

    - Ellie at The Selkie Reads Stories