First of all, I chose USES FOR BOYS by Erica Lorraine Scheidt based on the cover, per one of my 2015 Reading Challenge bullet points. The cover is cute romance. Kisses tangled in fairy lights. The book is NOT cute. It’s gritty, dark, and emotional.
Here is the Goodreads blurb:
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.
Scheidt’s writing is lyrical, just like the blurb says! There wasn’t a lot of dialogue and we stay mostly inside Anna’s head, which was a unique perspective. I imagine it had to be difficult to render fully fleshed out side characters with so little dialogue and only Anna’s observations, but by knowing Anna so deeply we can discern what she’s seeing and what she’s not. I found the perspective very effective and plowed through this book pretty quickly.
Anna’s simplistic, frank view of sex (and sexual coercion) can be disturbing at times, particularly for me as an adult reader, but hers is an important story that needs to be told. To her, sex is love and love is family. She’s all alone and desperately clinging to any semblance of family and love that she can find. It’s sad but it’s real for a certain subset of girls, and if they can see themselves in Anna, perhaps they can also gain her hard-won perspective.
Have you read USES FOR BOYS? What books have you read based only on the cover?