Uses For Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt | Rating: ★★★★★
“I belong here, I tell Toy. I’m hungry for every city block. Every brick building. Every crowded intersection. Electric. I feel brand new.”
From the moment I opened this book, I was drawn and hooked into the story. It’s one of my favorite novels that represents a sort of coming of age as well as the exploration of sexuality. There’s something very meaningful in the way that Erica writes the story. In its flow, there is something just so appealing to the story.
I read Uses For Boys ages ago when I saw the summary for it and saw the little shout out that Ellen Hopkins gave it. I will never, ever regret picking it up and giving it a go. Although there were many aspects of the story I didn’t relate to, and there were many moments you feel uncomfortable for the narrator, it still managed to touch my heart and make me feel as though I know Anna and her mind.
Which is, if you ask me, an open door to something great.
We learn from the start that Anna had once had a decent relationship with her mother when she was younger. But soon through her mothers relationships and inability to really listen, there is this wall up between the two of them. Anna feels the distance and the heartbreak in her mothers constant working and relationships with varied men.
And with an absent mother of a young girl, we already know that this can lead to a lot of issues in the fragile teenage mind. If only some parents weren’t so damn selfish…
As she physically matures a little more, she opens the door to her sexuality and begins to embrace boys in hopes that she’ll find a way to fix the mess in heart brought on by her mothers neglect. Except, it starts in an unfortunate way — there’s an incident on the school bus that may be triggering to many readers.
Not long after, she decides to reach that level of closeness, to fill that void, by experimenting with her male classmates. A part of her, I think, believes this is normal and this will be something positive, to make herself whole again.
This causes tension amongst many other classmates and begins to cause a rift between her and the girls in her class.
Naturally there is some slut shaming involved. Which is an unfortunate turn of events and so, so painfully realistic. Kids can be so cruel. It’s okay to embrace your sexuality, ladies. This is something very important to remember in life. Although it is obvious that Anna isn’t fully ready for this, when she first starts to toy around with it, and is doing it for the wrong choices. I think we can all relate to doing things to feel something and perhaps to fit in.
It’s a very raw deal and the story brings a great voice, great development and beautiful. At times, it may come with difficulty when you read it. But eventually, after life runs its course and seemingly runs Anna down to exhaustion, you begin to see changes. You see the acceptance of her past, the realization of similarities between she and her mother.
You see growth. And although she still has a ways to go, Anna’s story shows us a positive air that she can love herself first and foremost.
Whether that be the insight into what makes her mother tick, to the downfall of Anna’s choices herself and the decisions she has to make in regards to specific topics, the novel is great and manages to come together in a very satisfying way by the end. This is all that can be said without spoiling every plot detail, so I do recommend you check out this gem unless certain things will trigger you and take you to a place you’d rather not be.
Overall, it’s a beautiful and gritty coming of age story that deserves a lot more credit than it receives.
Warnings: sexual content, pregnancy and drug use. Please only read if you are 16 or older. You never know what you may learn from it, either.