Uses For Boys Erica Lorraine Scheidt Book Review

I think the majority of my feelings about the books I read come down to timing — how I am feeling, the book I’ve read just before, the weather, and the list goes on. Unfortunately, I cannot help but compare my current reads to my previous read, especially if the books have similar themes and are in the same genre. Y’all, this was kind of an issue for me when reading debut author Erica Lorraine Scheidt’s Uses For Boys. I guess I had all of these expectations going into it because my friends had enjoyed it, but I kept comparing Uses For Boys to The Sea Of Tranquility  by Katja Millay, another tragedy girl book, and finding that Uses For Boys comes up short.

Uses For Boys Erica Lorraine Scheidt Book Cover

Uses For Boys opens with main character Anna telling us about her childhood, about how as a very little girl she lived in an apartment with her mom and her mom is all — I had you so that I wouldn’t be alone. Yet, as Anna gets old her mom decides Anna is not enough and thus looks for the affection of other men — going through a litany of stepdads for Anna. Of course, Anna internalizes this and pretty much mimics her mother. When Anna’s stepdad and stepbrothers move out, she finds herself alone in the giant house her mom and stepdad bought together. You see, Mom is out looking for a good time and a man, so she has like no time for her daughter. She’s pretty much a textbook case of neglectful parent. She clearly does not give a crap about her daughter. So anyways, Anna begins to turn to boys for comfort and makes the decision to let boys use her for sexual favors so that she can feel loved. Oh, and she has a best friend with the name Toy which I just couldn’t get over as a name. Who names their kid Toy? There was no mention of Toy’s parents being celebrities so I am sure that is not the case. ALSO, the official summary describes a boy named Sam, but do not be fooled he doesn’t show up until you are 68% of the way through Uses For Boys – I know this because I just did a Kindle search for Sam.

I hate saying this because it makes me feel awful as a human being but I wasn’t all that enamored with Anna as a character. Yes, I felt for her situation and thought what she was going through and her reactions were depressing and awful. However, all I know about Anna after finishing the book is that she has sex a lot and that she wears second hand clothes and has a neglectful mom and no dad. Yes. That is legit it. I don’t know her hobbies or her favorite color or what makes her tick. I don’t know her habits. I just felt like I didn’t get to know her as a fully-fleshed, realized character. She just felt kind of one note oh poor tragedy me to me.

Yet, I found that I really enjoyed Erica Lorraine Scheidt’s writing style. It’s snappy. It moves at a quick pace. Uses For Boys is told in first person through Anna’s thoughts. It’s very stream of consciousness and I like that. It’s very different in form than what I am used to. Like, I am used to either verse or straight up prose without sentence fragments or anything. I thought that the fragments were a good choice because it gives us readers a glimpse into how Anna thinks and why she keeps obsessing over the mother/father/family thing and how it crops into her thinking ALL THE TIME.

HOWEVER, just because I dug the writing style does not mean I don’t have any hang ups with Uses For Boys, because I do. First off, every other chapter is sexing. And not the sexytimes sexing, the this is making my skin crawl sort of sexing. And here is the thing — I am probably one of the most liberal bloggers out there when it comes to books that have sex in them. I’m not the type to go all prude about sex. But this book honestly made me feel so uncomfortable and squicked out about it. And I know it’s there to illustrate the bad decisions/repercussions of Anna’s upbringing, but seriously it was graphic for even me. AND I KNOW TEENS DO IT. I know that and I like never ever complain sex in books, but for me, personally, this was a little TOO MUCH. Also? I thought that the whole Sam thing was totally rushed. Based on the official synopsis, I went in expecting like at least 50% of the book to be focused on Anna and Sam and how he changes her life, in maybe a sort of My Life Next Door way, but I did not get that. Instead, Sam’s on page time is very short and not at all what I was hoping for.

I guess I have a truly hard time saying who should read this book and who should maybe stay away. If you are uncomfortable with teenage sexytimes, this is probably not the book for you, and that is perfectly valid and fine to feel that way. If you like books about tragic girls, then you should definitely check out Uses For Boys. Jen, at Makeshift Bookmark mentioned the film Thirteen in her review and I think I have to truly agree with her assessment. Like, I think maybe my shoulder-shrug feelings to Uses For Boys are related to my feelings for the movie Thirteen. I was not a huge fan of that movie, but my sister loved it and made me watch it because she was so sure that I would love it. But I was like, ok this is an uncomfortable trainwreck oh no why is she doing that with the tattoo artist AHHH!  SO maybe here’s the thing, if you loved the film Thirteen, you’ll probably l-o-v-e Uses For Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt. Or if you are like me and think, ugh this is just TOO uncomfortable to sit through, you might not love this book.

Disclosure: Received for review via Netgalley.

Other reviews of Uses For Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt:

GReads! – “This novel packs quite a punch in just a few pages, but it’s a story worth reading.

Makeshift Bookmark – “Just because Uses for Boys is heavy and issue-y and…I’ll just say it: depressing, doesn’t mean you should write this one off

Into The Hall Of Books – “I want people to know how great it is, and well-written.

About April (Books&Wine)

April is 28 years old and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. In her free time she can be found reading, working out, or eating junk food. She often wears her sunglasses at night.

Comments

  1. I just reviewed this one yesterday. I really liked it, but I totally understand where you’re coming from. Anna wasn’t easy to like and the sex was uncomfortable. I think the two reasons I loved it so much were they writing style and the fact that I’ve never read anything that covers this issue. At least I can’t remember reading anything like it. But if I had read something even slightly similar beforehand I probably would have had a hard time with it too. Great review, April!

    Also, I’m so looking forward to reading Sea of Tranquility!

    • Lori, I am so far behind on reading reviews but you can bet I will read yours before the end of the week.

      I think that the writing style was fabulous and it did help me to not outright hate the book, ya know. I guess I thought it was good that the issue of sexual promiscuity was covered BUT I don’t know, I just wish that maybe it had been done a little bit differently in a way where I could connect to Anna more and actually really care about her character.

      I’m positive you will love The Sea Of Tranquility!

  2. Oh boo! Bad luck. I hate when I have to be critical of a book for not being another book, but, yo, that happens. When I read One Lonely Degree, I felt like it was several other books I’d read put together and didn’t handle the whole infidelity thing as well, and, maybe, if I hadn’t read whatever those things were, it would have been fine, but I HAD, and you can’t subtract that knowledge from your head. Of course, sometimes you don’t even notice, because the book holds you in its sway.

    Another neglectful parent and an unlikable heroine. Sigh. Maybe not. I really don’t like when books just roll on the poor little me theme. Like, my favorites are John Green and A. S. King, because, yes, terrible shit happens, but their characters face it with humor. Of course, most of their stuff isn’t AS depressing, but I’m sure if I took the time I could come up with something comparable. I guess most important is that the heroine or hero doesn’t just sit around moping and doing stupid shit, but not taking any ownership of that. In Kody Keplinger’s A Midsummer’s Nightmare, the heroine hooks up a lot and gets drunk all the time, but she totally owns that about herself, and when she can’t anymore she changes. Yes, Anna’s life sucks, but is she even trying to ameliorate that?

    Oh wow, I kind of want to read it to see what the sexing is like, because if you’re squicked out? HOLY CRAP. I may try… I DON’T KNOW!

    • I hate that feeling as well — being critical of a book because it’s not the other one. But, like you said, you can’t erase prior knowledge, plus books don’t exist in a vacuum. I think it’s human nature to make those comparisons and if you’ve read a lot of a certain sort of book it’s going to be inevitable.

      Right, I think that the neglectful parent/unlikable leading character trope is a little played out. I mean, okay The Sea Of Tranquility had this — maybe not with the neglectful parent thing, but the characterization was so strong and it was so well written that I felt actual hope for the character.

      I think that your point about John Green and AS King are great because there’s a certain sort of gallows/black humor that really can enhance my liking of the character and can really just work with these sorts of books. Like, humor eases the tension for me as a reader.

      Also all your talk of A Midsummer’s Nightmare makes me want to order it. I think I’ll put it on my TTT when I get around it it.

      Well, at first Anna doesn’t try to change but towards the end she sort of does.

      Yeah, it takes A LOT to squick me out. A LOT indeed.

  3. I felt the same way when I read it. It made me uncomfortable and I didn’t feel as if I got to know Anna at all by the end of the book. And I agree, the synopsis was misleading! I expected Sam to show up a lot sooner too. Anyway, great review.

    PS. I’m gonna check out Sea of Tranquility 🙂

    • Rachel — I am SO SO SO glad I am not the only one to feel like that. Pretty much everyone I know was all oh this was so great and I’m like, sigh, I didn’t feel that way. AND YES, with that synopsis I was all oh he’s going to show up and it’s going to be heartfelt and emotional and a turning point, but NO.

      PS — YAYYYYYY! I hope you fall head over heels for it like I did.

  4. Great review April. While I don’t mind when authors mention sex in books-teens do have sex- I don’t really wanna read about it in detail. I’m sure that if it makes you uncomfortable, I won’t really like it. Sadly, I might skip this one.

  5. I have to say that I am HORRIBLY bummed about this. It is such a wonderful premise – I mean, who doesn’t love to see kids like this change and come out stronger people? (My mom’s mom was very much this way – and once she found “the husband” the two of them left the 4 of their kids to do their own thing, while they traveled and lived the lives THEY really wanted… So I have a soft spot for these kinds of stories!)

    So what I’m trying to say is I’m bummed that this isn’t a deeper story; that it’s just a kid misbehaving because she has no guidance and wants attention and it stops there. I was so excited for it, but I don’t think I’ll waste my time.

    -Jac @ For Love and Books

    • I agree that the premise is great. I like to see the kids act resilient and come out strong in the end.

      Don’t get me wrong, there’s some depth here, but I just never really connected or cared too terribly much about main character Anna.

      I mean, maybe you’ll like it, but I think if you’re looking for something that isn’t quite so one note, you might want to look elsewhere.

  6. Oh man, oh man. The more I read such different reviews of this book… the more I am thinking I WANT I WANT I NEED TO READ IT. I’m not scared of heavy issues in books (I feel like I say this in comments a lot) and I think of reading/watching Previous and feeling very whoa this is uncomfortable but is happening every single day somewhere. These books are written for a reason, for someone, ya know?

    I’m just… totally sure that the people who write the synopsis on books is just about selling a romance or something. It drives me crazy, and I have noticed this so much. (Other Words for Love had a romantic tone too, and I felt like the book was about much more than that.) I wish that would stop happening. If you are not afraid to have such dark issues in books, turn that into a reason why people should pick up the writing.

    Thanks for sharing your views. (I am very amused you searched Sam in your reading. haha.)

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