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Uses for Boys

Uses for Boys - Erica Lorraine Scheidt You can find my totally spoilery review with quotes and more non-flailing on the Fictionators. I'll try to tone it down here.

This has been one of the hardest reviews that I have ever had to write. That could be because this has been one of the hardest books that I've ever read.

Let's start with why I wanted to read it. I read the summary--I expected some angst, ya'll. But every time I thought my poor wussperv heart couldn't take it, I would look at the beautiful cover and think *sigh* that's the kind of book I wanna read. This was one of my most anticipated books of 2013.

Remember how your mom said you can't judge a book by its cover? Turns out she was right after all.

Uses for Boys is well-written and heartbreakingly real, but I didn't like it. Not one bit. This review is going to be spoilery, so proceed with caution.

The story starts off with seven-year-old Anna living alone with her mother. Then her mom meets a guy and gets married and they move. Her mom becomes wrapped up in her new husband and her new job and then gets divorced and meets a new guy (and then another and I think another) and in all of that, she just...forgets about her kid. Her mom is busy. She lets too much of her self-worth be determined by a (any) man.

And here is where I have to pause as a mother and ask, "Really? Is this really how easy it is?" It makes me sad.

In all of this time, Anna goes from being seven to being sixteen. When she is thirteen, she lets a boy touch her on the bus, which earns her the reputation of being a slut and causes her to lose the one friend she had. She's lonely and gets a boyfriend who comes over after school everyday and they start having sex--at fourteen. They break up and there are other boys and along the way, she meets a girl she considers to be a kindred spirit. She's still lonely and is just looking for someone to pay attention to her.
Sometimes kids come into the cafe after school and sometimes I'm invisible to them. I want someone to ask me why I'm there. Why I'm not in school. I want someone to recognize that I'm a kid like they are.

And then Sam does.

Sam is a seventeen year old student with a normal family who has rules and eats dinner together. He's different, and he's not just about sex--I think he really loves Anna, and she loves him, too, as much as she's capable of.

This book was gut-wrenching. There's rape. There's abortion. There's just so much sad. I wanted to find Anna and hug her and take care of her, and I wanted to find her mother and shake her until she got a brain. This is almost a must-read for mothers. Just because your kid doesn't get bad grades or doesn't cut themselves or isn't doing drugs doesn't mean there isn't something going on. Talk to your kids, for fucks sake. Pay attention if they don't have any friends or ever have a conversation with you about...I don't know...anything.

Debut author Erica Lorraine Scheidt writes beautifully. The words and the way the story was told were haunting and authentic. I think too often, this is what happens in real life. Maybe not all of it, but some.

So why the low review? On the Fictionators, I gave this two-and-a-half stars because I averaged. In some ways, it's a five-star prize-worthy book. I just didn't like it.

The end is (somewhat) hopeful, but I would have liked a little more. There is also something that happens close to the end that I feel practically negates the growth that I thought Anna had experienced. If that hadn't happened, I feel like I would have had a different reaction to this book. I still wouldn't have liked it, but I would have felt like it was worth my time reading it.

When it's all said and done, though, I don't. Some of you will love it. I want the swoony, romantic story that goes with that beautiful cover. This book will stay with me, but I wish I hadn't read it.