Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt, St. Martin’s Griffin, New York, ISBN: 978-1-250-00711-7
By outward appearances, Anna is moving up in the world. Through a series of failed marriages, her mother manages to get them out of their tiny apartment and into a large, comfortable home in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon. With each move, however, Anna becomes increasingly isolated. Her mother abandons her, sometimes for weeks at a time, while she dates what might be her next husband.
At fourteen, Anna is living alone. Boys fill an empty space, but Anna doesn’t realize that while she may have “uses for boys”, they also have uses for her. She starts to smoke pot, get drunk, and have sex. She can’t understand why none of her relationships feels as romantic as the ones her friend Toy describes when they are together. Toy has thoughtful, considerate, sensitive boys lavishing her with attention and gifts, whereas Anna feels emptier after each encounter.
When Anna finally meets Sam, a boy with a loving family, she gets a glimpse into the kind of home she so desperately wants. Now she must decide if she can change her behavior or if she’s doomed to repeat the mistakes of her mother.
Uses For Boys is not an easy book to read. It chronicles one girl’s dark spiral into a world filled with alcohol, drugs, and sex. Throughout reading, I was desperate for someone to help Anna and prevent her from making such disastrous choices. She’s so desperate for human connection that she responds to any offer of companionship.
While Anna’s story is tragic, Erica Lorraine Scheidt’s writing is so lyrical and true that the book is also a beautiful read. Writing in the first person, Scheidt captures Anna’s struggles and reveals her strength and vulnerabilities. The reader roots for her to find a way out of the mess her mother has put her into. Her story reveals how significant our family bonds are to our future relationships.
Information about the author
The author writes on her Amazon.com author page, “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.”
Young Adult Fiction
Reading Level / Interest Age
Grade 10 and up