Paperback: 240 Pages
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Uses for Boys is a realistic fiction, contemporary YA novel, not a usual read for me. The title, cute cover and interesting blurb made me request it on Netgalley, however, and I’m glad I did.
What I can tell you right from the start is that this novel is a love it or leave it read. If you can’t get used to the way Scheidt writes, if you don’t like it after the first chapter, I can guarantee you won’t make it past the second one. But, if you like it, then you’ll love it up until the end, or close to, anyway.
The word that first comes to mind when I think of Uses for Boys is short. Not because it’s a short book, but because everything else in it is. Short chapters made of short and to the point sentences. The story’s a first person narrative, simple present tense, from Anna’s POV.
The MC, Anna, never knew her father. She grew up, living with her mother, the latter always telling her how she’s everything for her, the best thing in the world. Then everything changes. Her mother stops telling her stories, stops paying attention to Anna. Instead, feeling lonely, she starts dating an endless number of men, marrying and eventually divorcing them, one by one. Slowly, but surely, she becomes an absentee mother, neglecting her kid.
Anna narrates her own life, from the age of seven, then eight and so on and so forth. The way the story’s written, I felt like an invisible person in the room with Anna and her mother, watching the events unfold. Like a hypnotherapist listening to his patient recount his memories. Weird? Maybe. Did I love it? Absolutely!
Her voice is oddly clinical and detached, up until a couple of chapters before the end, which I think is why I had some problems connecting to her character. Her crappy, oblivious, obsessed mother and her storyline made sure I did sympathize and like her, though.
Having such a horrible parent as an example and in desperate need of a connection, love, attention, Anna looses herself in boys, sex and the way they/it make her feel. At first, mistaking sex for the healthy relationship she seeks, then using the boys consciously. In this regard, Uses for Boys really reminds me of Melissa P.’s 100 Strokes of the Brush Before Bed’s storyline. Only it’s much, much better and doesn’t try to shock the reader for the sake of ..shocking the reader.
Another thing I found different and weird, but welcomed it with open arms because it worked so well, was the fact that Anna barely speaks throughout the book. She thinks, but rarely says, especially in the first half. Really works to show how withdrawn and in-her-head she is.
Toy, her friend, is her perfect counterpart. Although I appreciated her character, admittedly she brought something to the story, I didn’t particularly like her. What I liked is that I didn’t see coming what her secret was. To be honest, I was expecting much worse.
Same thing with Sam. He’s introduced, in the story, well after the half mark and he’s not really fleshed out, which, in the end, didn’t bother me. Since it’s Anna’s story, and even if you don’t like his character or don’t know much about him, you’ll definitely like his effect on her, I didn’t mind.
I liked it. The simple writing, the short sentences, they really worked for me. The two reasons I gave this book a 3.5 out of 5 rating, are as follows. Firstly, I don’t think Anna’s voice changes throughout the book, even though she grows up, matures. Her voice stays the same, whether she’s seven or sixteen. I didn’t find that believable.
Secondly, and this is probably my biggest problem with the book, I really dislike the ending. It left me so confused because it’s so sudden. I was expecting more, sure there had to be more, to the point I started asking myself maybe I was missing pages.
But, overall, Uses for Boys was good.
*I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged.