Uses for boys - Book Review
Erica Lorraine Scheidt
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.
I have to say – this book didn’t do a lot of things for me. I admit, I walked into it knowing very little about the book itself. However the story addresses some very sensitive issues and I commend the author for choosing to write about topics considered delicate in the teenager world. Yet as much as I liked Anna’s character, ultimately I just thought the book read very flat.
Anna only wants a family, someone to be there to welcome her home from school, cook her dinner and assure her that everything is going to be ok. Her mom used to do that, but not anymore. As her mom flits from one man’s bed to another, Anna’s loneliness spreads through her system like a disease. Until one day on the school bus when a boy touches her for the first time and she starts to wonder, is this what love is? After that first sexual experience, she seeks out other men, letting them take advantage of her while she convinces herself this is all she needs to feel loved.
Then Anna meets a girl named Toy – another lonely girl – who makes Anna realises that there may be better men out there. The kind who will treat her right, buy her things and be there when she needs comforting. And so she meets Sam, who is just the kind of man Toy described. He changes Anna’s world and offers her the thing she always wanted, a family. But can Anna trust herself to not screw things up?
At the essence, this book is a story of how a girl finds her self-worth. Not through a guy, but because a women finally tells us to value herself more, and that she is worth more than the pair of boobs men tend to see her as.
However Anna goes through a lot of men before she discovers this. And the book explores the darker elements of children following in their parents footsteps. With scenes of rape, drugs, violence and depression, this is by no means a light read.
The writing style is also interesting. For while the book sees us through several years of Anna’s life, the voice of the character never seems to change. She remains childlike, in both her beliefs and dreams, yet her experiences are certainly adult which in a way, makes the book even darker.
Otherwise I found the plot a little repetitive. Each chapter Anna had a new guy and she never really seemed to learn anything from her experiences. Also while I understand that Sam is the one who is supposed to ‘save’ her in the end, I didn’t really feel like much had changed – other than Anna deciding she wanted a better life for herself. It all left me feeling kind of… ‘Oh, well I guess that’s it then. Story over.’
So while I respect the author for bringing these unspoken issues of teenager life to the surface, I’m sad to say that I just couldn't connect with this book. For that reason I rate it 2.5 stars!