Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt
YA contemporary*Paperback & e-book, 240 pages
Expected publication: January 15th 2013 by St Martin’s Press
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.
About the author:
Erica Lorraine Scheidt
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 think's 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.
"Our story starts on the day that her father left her mother. It starts with my mom taking care of her mother when she was just a kid like me. I can take care of you, I think."
Our narrator, Anna, begins her story at the tender age of seven. I was struck by her intelligence, her astute way of thinking, and her innocent love for her mother. Family comes in all shapes and for Anna, family is her and her mom. Mom primps for dates, marries, divorces, primps, marries, and throughout it all Anna becomes a victim of the cycle--a product of her upbringing and subsequent victim of emotional abandonment by her mom. My heart would break for this brave girl, each time another stepfather was introduced, another house became home. As the marriages fail so does her mom's interest in coming home to her daughter. Anna is left alone A LOT and as an inquisitive child, begins to think things, feel things, experience things especially when it comes to sex.
Uses For Boys is a gripping contemporary YA novel which is written in a sparse raw style, often times distant or cold, but never without feeling. For a contemporary told through a sparse use of language, the landscape the author paints across its 240 pages is a touching one, filled with a mix of characters and situations. The reader gets what Anna endures as she reaches sixteen, hangs with her friend, Toy, and meets a slew of different guys. For one so young, she's trying to find something and many times she seeks it in the arms of a new guy. Throughout it all, Anna remains what she has always been: a strong but lonely girl wanting a family of her own to love, to need, to share with.
Uses For Boys may not be for everyone. Some scenes are uncomfortable to read but they are honest and realistic. Not everyone gets to be part of the 2.5 kids living in a pretty house with a white picket fence and two loving parents. Anna has a workaholic mother, stuffed animals she calls "family" replaced over time by boys then guys as she grows older. Some are nice, others use her, one takes advantage, yet others do care for her and there is a glimmer of hope by the story's conclusion of something good with Sam. Anna is the mature voice for the unspoken in a vocal society that all too easily forgets about its youth. Profoundly moving, Uses For Boys is a powerful debut by a gifted author.
Favorite excerpt: "In the bathroom I look at myself in the mirror. I don't look like my mom anymore. I don't look like anyone. I look at my reflection. This lying house tricks the birds. Why do we live in this lying house? I hate this house."
Cover comment: DON'T let the cute cover of the kissing couple with the holiday lights fool you into thinking this is a contemporary YA with a cute romance and a HEA. I may like the cover art but find it misleading.
Book source: Netgalley.