Uses for Boysby 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, brining home the next stepfather. Anna is left on her ownuntil she discovers that she can make boys her family. From Desmond to Joey,
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, brining home the next stepfather. Anna is left on her ownuntil 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 highthe 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 loseand something to offer. Real, shocking, uplifting, and stunningly lyrical, Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt is a story of breaking down and growing up.
“I wish every young woman could gain the wisdom found in these pages. Quiet. Stark. Possibly life changing.” Ellen Hopkins, #1 New York Times Bestselling author of the Crank trilogy
“Many girls will relate to the fact that 'there are no fathers in this story'… Scheidt's spare and poetic debut offers up pretty images for some decidedly unpretty situations ('the unmade bed is peaked and stormy'); at times, her prose feels as tightly wrought as a novel in verse. This is a story about where we come from, and how, sometimes, we have to break free from the past in order to shape our own future... Lots of teens will see themselves in the pages of this beautiful, honest novel.” Booklist (Starred Review)
“Like its narrator, Uses for Boys is poetic, sensual, edgy and strong. Captivated, I finished it in two sittings and sobbed at the end.” Francesca Lia Block, New York Times bestselling author of Weetzie Bat and I was a Teenage Fairy
“If somebody had handed me this book when I was fifteen, I would have felt 75% less alone and 100% less crazy.” Pam Houston, award-winning author of Cowboys Are My Weakness and Contents May Have Shifted
“Some writers know how to make something terribly complicated and true...simple. That's what Erica Lorraine Scheidt does in Uses for Boys. With stark, lucid prose, she hones in on that experience we girls know well: we believe boys will fill our emptiness.” Kerry Cohen, author of Loose Girl
Read an Excerpt
the tell-me-again times
In the happy times, in the tell-me-again times, when I’m seven and there are no stepbrothers and it’s before the stepfathers, my mom lets me sleep in her bed.
Her bed is a raft on the ocean. It’s a cloud, a forest, a spaceship, a cocoon we share. I stretch out big as I can, a five-pointed star, and she bundles me back up in her arms. When I wake I’m tangled in her hair.
“Tell me again,” I say and she tells me again how she wanted me more than anything.
“More than anything in the world,” she says, “I wanted a little girl.”
I’m her little girl. I measure my fingers against hers. I watch in the mirror as she brushes her hair. I look for myself in her features. I stare at her feet. Her toes, like my toes, are crooked and strangely long.
“You have my feet,” I say.
In the tell-me-again times she looks down and places her bare foot next to mine. Our apartment is small and I can see the front door from where we stand.
“Tell me again,” I say and she tells me how it was before I came. What it was like when she was all alone. She had no mother, she says, she had no father. All she wanted was a little girl and that little girl is me.
“Now I have everything,” she says and the side of her foot presses against the side of mine.
eight is too big for stories
But everything changes and I’m not everything anymore. We’re in the bathroom and she’s getting ready. His name is Thomas, she says, and he won’t like it if she’s late. She tugs at the skin below her eyes, smooths her eyebrow with the tip of her finger. I’m getting old, she says.
“Tell me again,” I say.
“Eight is too big for stories,” she tells me. She sweeps past me to pick out a dress and when she does, I know. I know this dress. It’s the dress she wore the first time, the dress she wore the last time she left me alone. It’s yellow and when I touch the fabric, my fingers leave marks.
“Stop that,” my mom says and steps out of reach. Then she sprays perfume between her breasts and I turn away. I know what comes next. She’ll go out and I’ll get a babysitter. She’ll wear perfume and put on nylons. She’ll wear high-heeled shoes. The babysitter will sit at our kitchen table and play solitaire.
“Why do you have to go?” I say.
“I’m tired of being alone,” she says and I stare at the wall of her room. The bathroom fan shuts off in the next room. Alone is how our story starts. But then I came along and changed all that.
“You’re not alone,” I say. My back is to her and on the wall of her bedroom are the photographs I know by heart. The pictures that go with our story. She always starts with the littlest one. The one of her mother.
“The last one,” my mom says, meaning it’s the last picture taken before her mother died. She died before I was born. “She was so lonely,” my mom says. Our story starts on the day that her father left her mother. It starts with my mom taking care of her mother when she was just a kid like me.
I can take care of you, I think. But already she has her coat on. She’s opening the front door because Thomas is waiting downstairs.
I look at another photo, the one of me at the beach sorting seashells and seaweed and tiny bits of glass. In it, I’m concentrating and wearing my mom’s sweater with the sleeves rolled up.
“Bye,” she calls and I look up, but the door is already closed.
he’s our family now
She goes out that night. She goes out the next night. I sleep alone in her bed and when she comes home, she packs a suitcase. She’s going away for the weekend, she says. She’s going away for the week. In between she comes home. She repacks. She washes her nylons and hangs them in the shower. She washes her face in the sink. I watch her in the mirror as she gets ready to go out again. She looks at her face from different angles. She pinches and pulls at her skin.
Then I meet this man. This Thomas. She brings him home like he’s some kind of gift.
And I’m told to be nice. I’m told to stand still. I’m made to wash my face.
I stand in front of him with my arms straight down at my sides. He’s in the kitchen, crossing in front of the light like an eclipse. Our kitchen table looks strangely small. Our ceilings too low. I’m watching the front door and willing him to walk back out of it. Instead he bends down until his face is even with mine.
“She looks just like you,” he says.
“You don’t look like anyone special at all,” I tell him. And I curse him. And I start a club to hate him. And I make a magic spell to get rid of him. And when she marries him, when we pack up our apartment and move into his house, when I change schools and have to eat the food he likes to eat, I don’t talk to him.
“Anna,” my mom says.
“What?” I say.
“Be nice,” she says. “He’s our family now.”
Copyright © 2012 by Erica Lorraine Scheidt
Meet the Author
As a teenager, ERICA LORRAINE SCHEIDT studied writing at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University and later received an MA in creative writing from University of California, Davis. Now a teaching artist and longtime volunteer at 826 Valencia, Erica works with teen writers in the San Francisco Bay Area. She's a 2012 Artist in Residence at Headlands Center for the Arts and is currently at work on a second novel for young adults.
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This is a mature book, with sad themes laced with hope especially at the end. This is not light, not fluffy, and the beautiful cover fits in some ways but if you go in expecting any thing except dark and gritty, you are probably going to be disappointed. That said, I don't think I even had seen the cover when I read the blurb, but I knew that it would be a book for me. I just wanted to make clear so that it is not an issue for those who might be expecting something else. Anna, the main character grows and learns so much about herself and life in this book. Just when I started to feel sorry for her or get disappointed in her she would start to change and realize things about herself and those around her. I see so much of myself in her, lonely and looking for love in all the wrong places until things finally clicked. Having the right people and some of the people who had been in my life but I finally realized their value or the pain that they themselves are dealing with and they also need a little love and support. Sam is so innocent and so whose all at the same time and I love how he saw through her problems to the person she was inside. I also loved reading about his family especially his sister and his mom. She is so involved and had so much to offer, I ish there were more like her in ya lit. Anna really breaks my heart how distant and absent her mom was, but it is the sad reality for so many people, and I think that her story can help them feel less alone. And hopefully can also teach from her mistakes, and open eyes to some dark issues. There is many places where I just wanted to hug her and especially one spot where I wish I could open her eyes and make her see that it is not her fault. Bottom line gritty contemporary with dark themes about the reality of life both good and bad, through love friendship.and the choices we all make.
My Thoughts: I wanted so much to like this book. I went into it with bright eyes expecting a cute story about a girl who distracts herself with boys. What happened? It wasn’t exactly a cute story. It was a very depressing story. Anna’s story starts when she’s seven and the beginning progresses to her preteens quickly. We learn of the deteriorating relationship between her and her mother. At thirteen is when the boy distractions start. Let me say it straight up--I thought the boy distractions were going to be of the making out kind. I was wrong--it was the having sex kind. So, it kind of threw me off. Since Anna’s mom isn’t around and they aren’t close like they used to be, she dives into this world of having sex with boys without a care in the world. These distractions keep her from understanding real life. She eventually drops out of school, she gets a job, she gets an apartment. She grows up too fast. When she meets Sam, she begins to see the more important things. And although there’s some sort of redemption in the end, it’s still barely hanging by a thread because it just happens suddenly. Uses For Boys was a hard read. Seeing Anna going through all of this made me want to take her under my wings. It’s a realistic story though, because I know there are a lot of young adults who don’t have a good home life and they look to other things to make them feel something. Yet, I just found it sad and depressing. I didn’t hate the book, and I know some people will find it compelling. It wasn’t for me, that’s all. My Rating: It's Okay: It can wait until tomorrow
Anna is lonely, alone, and incredibly passive; she'll let boys do whatever they want to her. I would tell you more about the story, but there isn't really anything else to tell. Review You will not hear this from me often, but I hated this book. I wasn't offended, even thought the novel could be graphic at times, simply bored. I think that I understand what the author was trying to do with the story, and she did paint a fairly distinct picture or a very lonely and detached girl. Unfortunately, the story never really went anywhere. I kept waiting for some kind of redeeming feature, but it just never came. I never felt that Anna actually grew a backbone or became her own person, hell, I never felt like Anna became a person at all. For a book that primarily focused on a girl that found her identity through boys, I was surprised that the male characters were even less developed than Anna. My biggest issue with this was the character Sam. I think that he was supposed to be a good guy and a redeeming character, but he just wasn't anything beyond a vehicle for Anna into his home. While the writing was not terrible, the formatting of the chapters was irritating. Like the sparse, blank characters, the chapters were just odd; occasionally just fragments of a story or an isolated thought. Ugg. My Recommendation Honestly, the story made me thing of a mindless string of paper dolls humping each other. I wouldn't recommend this novel to anyone, especially the target audience of teenagers; I fear that they might possibly think that the behavior in the novel is OK and it is simply not. I give it a 1/5 - Not worth the effort.
I didn't know what to expect when I picked up USES FOR BOYS, but certainly not the direct, blunt, edgy masterpiece that has kept me thinking about it for days. The book is a quick read, but it is one that stays with you a long time. Anna and her relationships are so complicated but so real your heart breaks for her throughout the book. I think many young women will identify with her feelings, even if they don't endorse some of her choices. Erica's writing is beautiful and she manages to say so much with just a few words. While this is a story for more mature YA readers, I think it's one that should be read by everyone who has a daughter or everyone who is a daughter. I can't wait to see what Erica Scheidt writes next!
See the cover? See it? See it? The story is exactly like that and more (if you know what I mean). Uses for Boys was a surprise read for me. I was not expecting the sex scenes at all. It is not a light contemporary read, and I'm not sure if everyone would enjoy reading it due to that. What I liked about it is it's fast paced and straightforward. It took me two days to finish reading it. Although it is intended for young adults, there are a lot of scenes meant for adults. The whole book was basically about Anna getting all the guys. I was kind of bothered by the detailed descriptions, and I'm sure some will be too. I wasn't sure what to feel for Anna. At the beginning I felt a lot of sympathy for her because her mother would always leave her alone in the house. I think Anna was 8 years old at that time? I suck at remembering things, anyways her mother would end up with a new guy, they marry, move, then divorce. That happened so many times that it just became an ordinary thing for Anna and her mom. Eventually she decided to move out, and followed her mother's footsteps (which is bringing guys home). The last time we get to see Anna is when she's 16. That's the time where I kind of got annoyed by her character. She still didn't learn her lesson. But then again she didn't have a family to guide her as she was growing up. But she didn't drop out of school till she was 16 so I'm pretty sure she has a clue of what's right and what's wrong. It wasn't clear what was on Anna's mind (like how she takes her decisions) because the whole book is basically about Anna wanting to have sex and she wants to tell about it to her friend Toy. I don't know how else to describe her because it didn't really say much in the book although she's the one who's narrating it. I think she's innocent but not really at the same time. The ending wasn't what I expected at all. I felt shocked that it just ended like that. It was an open ending. It says on the summary that it's about "breaking down and growing up". For me I Anna grew physically, but the choices that she was making didn't really change as she was growing up. If you want to get out of your usual light-contemporary reads, then you should give this one a go!
Anna grows up with a single mother that is never there for her. Her mother goes out every night, sometimes several days and nights at one time, leaving Anna all alone. Anna is expected to be responsible for herself at a young age. She makes herself dinner every night, wakes herself up to go to school, and takes the bus home just to arrive to an empty house day after day. Anna is lonely and desperately wants her mother's love and attention. However, Anna's mother's priorities consist of dating a variety of men, getting married and divorced several times, and preserving her youth and looks. After each divorce, she is constantly on the prowl to snag a new man. All that Anna wants is someone to love her and pay attention to her. She becomes best friends with Toy an eccentric young girl who lives in her head and is always inventing stories. Anna and Toy are constantly competing with one another over who has the better boyfriend and are jealous and envious of one another throughout the story. Toy doesn't really listen to Anna's feelings and stories, because she is always too busy talking about herself. Toy is there for Anna and comforts her only when she is at her lowest. However, they are a lot a like because they both live lonely lives with absentee fathers, and mother's. Anna goes through many dysfuntional relations with a variety of boys until she meets Sam. Anna realizes quickly that Sam is different from any guy she has ever known. She also becomes enamored with Sam's family, and they her, and is envious that her boyfriend has a warm and nurturing relationship with his parents and siblings, something that she has always desired. I was thoroughly dissapointed with Uses for Boys. I preordered it because I loved both the book cover and the synopsis of the story. Who knows, maybe my expectations were too high. I just know that as I began reading, I thought to myself, "this story is going to be good." However, as the story progressed, it dragged. I thought, "Ok, this story is going to get better." Well, no such luck. It never did get better. I was frustrated because Anna did not grow as a character. She made the same mistakes continuously and did not learn from them. The story was very redondent and static. It was like the movie groundhog Day where the same events take place over and over again. Just change the guys name and looks and you have the same circumstances and story repeating itself time and time again. Also, this story was emotionally draining, dark, and depressing. I kept waiting to see some form of hope to enter the character's life. However, Anna's life just went downhill, and she didn't understand why. The reason being that she did not look at her own actions and make the necessary changes. I disliked the way the story ended. It was unimpressive, and I still had questions that were never addressed. Yes, there were a few aspects of the story that I enjoyed. I did get a clear picture of the characters and the plot events. The author's writing style was easy to read, and the story took off at a fast pace. It was very realistic of the real world and not sugar coated in any way. I did connect with Anna's emotions. So much that I felt physically ill while reading this book, but continued reading, hopeful that Anna's life would improve, and her mother would mature, and realize what is important in life. To read the rest of the review go to A Bookish Escape: h
Don't judge a book by its cover... or synopsis. That was the lesson learnt in reading Uses For Boys. Are you expecting a short and cute contemporary? well I must warn you, this book is not for you. What started off as an innocent girl who never fit in anywhere, soon dramatically escalated into a girl jumping from one boy to another in a disturbing pace. Uses For Boys, in my opinion, is mislabeled. I do know some people who would appreciate the underlying point the author wanted to make through this book, I know I got it, but it was an uncomfortable experience, especially knowing that young teens might pick this up and read it. The writing of this novel is different. It isn't really told from any POVs, first, second, or third, and there is barely any dialogue, which I usually find annoying, but I actually enjoyed here. The writing style of Scheidt is different and unique and I found myself immersed in it and flipping the pages at a fast rate.. then we get to the disturbing over explicit scenes. I do not know why these scenes were needed, what point they were trying to make, reinforce the plot? I honestly wished these scenes were omitted. Also, throughout most of the novel there is this very discomforting feeling towards Anna and her daddy issues. I was also enraged at her mother's behavior; maybe because I could never imagine my mother being anything but selfless towards her children, I couldn't stand her mother's lack of interest towards her only child. Even with all of that, my confused feelings towards the book, I still wanted to continue reading it to find out what happens in the end. Anna does mature and grow up towards the end of the novel, salvage whatever was left of her daughter-mother relationship, and finally accept herself for who she is and become confident in her independence and her not needing a guy to define her. I give Scheidt points for keeping me interested through it all. I would recommend it to mature teens and ones who want to read something different.
Rating: 4 Her bed is a raft on the ocean. It’s a cloud, a forest, a spaceship, a cocoon we share. I stretch out big as I can, a five-pointed star, and she bundles me back up in her arms. When I wake I’m tangled in her hair. “Tell me again,” I say and she tells me again how she wanted me more than anything. The Low Down: Anna calls the time before she turned eight the “tell-me-again times,” where her mother would tirelessly respond to endless requests from Anna to tell her how Anna was all she needed. “Now I have everything,” she says. But then things change, and Anna is no longer enough. An ever-changing line of suitors, then step-fathers pull her mother farther and farther away. Anna spends so much time alone. How can she fill the emptiness? Somehow, almost without her noticing, boys are there. Filling in the gaps, making her forget, but still leaving her empty. And lonely. At school, she’s become that girl. So she leaves. Anna then meets someone damaged like her. She wants to really connect with her friend, Toy, tell her she understands mothers that are absent, fathers that are long gone. But some things are hard to say. And hear. Their lives are full of secrets and half-truths. Then she meets Sam. He actually wants her to meet his family - a new experience for Anna, who is used to being invisible. A house full of warmth and love. Anna holds her breath, hoping this time, this family will last. Best Thang ‘Bout It: The way this is written suits the story so well. Told in first person, it is lyrical, with certain important phrases, paragraphs, stories repeated like a refrain, a promise, a hope, a wish. Though the subject matter is sad and heavy, the light prose lulls the reader into Anna’s world, making you feel adrift on that raft with Anna. This story breaks my heart. Anna is left alone a lot at a very young age. Her mother is always has her purse, on her way to somewhere else. Anna doesn’t have talks with her mother about homework, boys, friends, anything. Her mother teaches her nothing except how to expect nothing. Her feelings of worthlessness, coupled with her naiveté, make her an easy mark for those boys who think they can do what they want with her. These feelings also allow her to let them. I’m Cranky Because: I’m only cranky in a fictional way, meaning, It kills me that Anna’s mom was so selfish. And you know this happens in real life. To Read or Not To Read: Absolutely, especially if you have a daughter. Or a son. Or both. Or neither. Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt was published January 15, 2013 by St. Martin's Griffin. A free copy of this book was given to Ink and Page in return for an honest review. Genre: New Adult Fiction Contemporary Romance Ages: 16-18 and up (depending on maturity level) You Might Want to Know: I am classifying this book as New Adult because of the subject matter, even though the main characters are high school-aged. There is a lot of sexual activity, drinking and drug use. This book deals with mature themes.
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to St. Martin's Press and Netgalley.) 8-year-old Anna lives with her mother. She’s never known her father, but it doesn’t matter, because her mother tells her a story that makes her feel loved – ‘I had no mother, I had no father, all I wanted was a little girl, and then I had you, and I had everything.’ But then Anna’s mother starts going out on dates and leaving Anna alone, feeling like she’s no longer enough for her mother, no longer her everything. Then come a succession of step-fathers and step-brothers, but eventually they all leave, and Anna is alone with her mother once more. By the time she’s 14, Anna barely sees her mother who breezes in and out of the house for clean clothes, and she begins to look for love and affection elsewhere. Thus Anna’s story about boys begins – how they make her feel when their hands are on her, how sex makes her feel wanted again. But are boys and sex any substitute for a loving mother? Where will Anna’s life go from here? I have to say that I enjoyed this book, I even wanted to give it a higher rating, but the ending meant that I couldn’t This book wasn’t really what I was expecting at all. Reading the blurb for this book and seeing the cover had me anticipating a girly YA romance story, which wasn’t really what this book was about. Yes there were boys, and yes there was mention of love and sex, but this wasn’t really a romance, this is more about Anna’s life, and life choices, and how her absentee mother affects her thoughts and decisions. Anna really feels abandoned when her mother begins dating. Her mother has always told her that she is everything to her, and when her mother then tells her that she’s tired of being alone, she breaks Anna’s heart. Anna and her mother have always been everything to each other, and when her mother goes out looking for someone else, she doesn’t realise that not only is she leaving Anna alone, she’s also making Anna feel as if she’s not good enough. Anna’s mother sees quite a lot of different men, and Anna has several step-fathers in a relatively short space of time. She doesn’t get why she’s not enough for her mother anymore, and longs to be back wrapped in her mother’s arms, in her mother’s bed, being told that she is her everything. That isn’t going to happen though, so when boys start showing an interest in her, and she feels what it’s like to feel wanted again, Anna takes what comfort she can. Anna loses her virginity at a young age, she’s later the victim of a sexual assault, and as boys let her down she moves on to another. Anna seems to always be let down in some way though, and her lack of a mother really shows at times. This book really shows how Anna’s mother’s lack of love and support for her daughter affect her both emotionally and physically, and how different Anna’s life might have been had she had a mother who was there for her. Now, the ending! I enjoyed this book, but I have a problem with books that don’t have endings. This book had an ending of a sort – Anna had matured, she’d learned some things, she’d grown as a person, but there was still so much left, so many unanswered questions, that as much as I liked this book, I can’t bring myself to like the ending. Anna still has issues with her mother, she still has issues with her best friend, and she still has issues with boys. Although she has learned some things about herself, she still has so much more to learn, and so much further to go. Anyway, apart from the slightly lacking ending this was a good book, and it was beautifully written. I found it really engaging, and didn’t want to put it down. It was also just the right length – not too long or too short, and I really felt like I connected with Anna. Overall; an enjoyable book about a young girls life growing up, and her search for love and affection. 8 out of 10.
Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt is definitely one of those books where the cover is not at all what you may think the story is about. At a glance it looks like it could be one of those contemporary coming of age tales that will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy by the end. Total opposite, my friend…total opposite. The one emotion that I felt while reading Uses for Boys was…sad. So very sad for main character, Anna. One of Anna’s favorite memories is the one where her mother tells her the story of how Anna meant the world to her. That all her mother wanted was a little girl…and she had Anna. Memories of how Anna would ask her mother to repeat the story to her over and over again, and each time the love her mother felt for Anna radiated through the words in her story. Until one day, the story never came again. Anna’s mother started to do her own thing. Dated and married over and over again. Uprooted Anna from their homes to start new, and then to only have that semblance of family ripped away from beneath her, and to watch her mom drift further and further away from her, more and more each day. Times where her mother would not come home for a day or two, to weeks, to going on trips without her and having Anna fend for herself. And while Anna gets older, incidences that should not be accepted and feel somewhat normal are happening to Anna. A different boy, a different memory. Anna is just finding out where exactly she fits in this world, and where she belongs. With feelings of being used and discarded continuously, we witness Anna travelling down a dangerous road, where I feel like she’s trying to find her own happy ever after. With much context about drug use and sex, Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt is a more mature read due to its mature subject matter. I couldn’t help but get swept up in this story of loneliness and the need to feel loved. Author, Erica Lorraine Scheidt, opens up the readers eyes to a life that happens behind closed doors. Where there are individuals who only dream of the perfect family and family moments, but are instead living in the reality of being alone, wandering around to find someone(s) who will accept them and love them, and perhaps give them what they only dream of…a family, a life to want to come home to every day. I, personally, found it difficult to read the different encounters that Anna comes across…especially at such a young age. Her need to feel a loving touch, which only causes her to find that kind of touch in the wrong places and, a lot of the time, from the wrong people. I could feel Anna’s loneliness in my heart, and read the book in one sitting with my mouth agape, shaking my head, wishing that she would meet someone to help fill this void that Anna is missing inside. Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Schedit is a quick read, but one that will remain in your mind long after you’ve finished. Thank goodness Gabby passed on this one and I picked it up to review. Absolutely not a read for my 14 year old.
this book was ok