Publication Date: January 15, 2013
Page Count: 240
Published by: St. Martin's Press
Source: review copy provided by publisher
Synopsis From Goodreads:
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.
I was really looking forward to reading Uses For Boys. Unfortunately, it turned out to be such a disappointment to me. I really hate to say that, but that's how I feel. I knew from the synopsis that things weren't going to be sparkly and pretty, but I didn't expect it to be so dark and downright depressing.
The protagonist, Anna, is being raised by a self-centered and heartless mother who's only thoughts are on whichever man is in her life at the time. She gives no time or attention to Anna, and often leaves her alone for days or weeks while she is off looking for happiness with these men. Anna grows up wanting, needing, and craving love and attention from her mother. From the beginning I realized that Anna had a skewed (and screwed up) view of love, sex, and relationships because of her mother. Anna never learned her own self-worth, and instead went looking for it in the worst possible way.
Anna was lonely and lacked self-esteem, so when boys started noticing her, she didn't handle their attention appropriately for her age (which was 12!) She let herself be used by them because she convinced herself that it was normal. As things progress from one boy to the next, Anna's actions became more shocking and disturbing. At times it was really uncomfortable reading about Anna's sexual encounters. Even though Anna thought continuously about wanting to be loved, she was emotionally detached with these boys and let herself be used over and over again. Not that things were all one sided, because there were many times that the boys were used by Anna. I honestly and truly believe that Anna had something wrong with her. Even if it was never directly addressed by the author, Anna did not seem like a 'normal' person. Her way of acting and her thought processes were very strange (at least to me).
I did not enjoy the writing style in this book. The sparse style may work for some, but I felt that there wasn't enough direct dialogue for my liking. Instead, the author used short sentences to describe Anna's actions and train of thoughts. Because of that I had a hard time connecting with the story or with Anna. I also had a difficult time feeling anything but pity for Anna.
Please don't be fooled by the pretty cover. This is a dark (and dirty) story about a sad and lonely girl who turns to sex to get the love and attention that she craves. I really did not enjoy reading Uses For Boys. I would not recommend this to teens due to the explicit sexual content.
eARC provided by St. Martin's Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
2013 YA Contemporary Challenge
2013 Debut Author Challenge
2013 Standalone Reading Challenge