Summary and book reviews of Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt

Uses for Boys

By Erica Lorraine Scheidt

Uses for Boys
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  • Paperback: Jan 2013,
    240 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Tamara Smith

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Book Summary

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 by Erica Lorraine Scheidt is a story of breaking down and growing up.

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.

"...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. What do you think the title Uses for Boys signifies? In what ways does it describe the events and relationships portrayed in the novel? 

  2. Compare and contrast the parent/child relationships in the story, including Anna and her mom; Toy and her mom; Sam and his mom. What effect do these relationships have on each character's actions?

  3. What is the significance of storytelling in this book? Consider the stories Anna's mom tells her as a child and Toy's stories about boys. What do you think Anna means when she says, "the stories we tell ourselves are not the only stories"? Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not? 

  4. How do you think the novel might be different (or ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Like the cover of the book, Anna could appear to be confusing or contradictory. She could be painted in very black and white brush strokes, labeled a slut or latchkey kid or a stoner or a dropout. But she doesn't appear this way. With an incredible economy of words, Scheidt crafts Anna into a nuanced, complicated character.   (Reviewed by Tamara Smith).

Full Review Members Only (1260 words).

Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Scheidt's novel packs a punch; this fast-moving book can be devoured in one sitting, but reveals even more upon rereading. Ages 13–up.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Haunting, frank and un-put-downable. Fiction. 14-17

Booklist

Starred Review. 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 ... 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.

Author Blurb Ellen Hopkins, #1 New York Times Bestselling author of the Crank trilogy
I wish every young woman could gain the wisdom found in these pages. Quiet. Stark. Possibly life changing.

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826 National

Erica Lorraine Scheidt is a long-time volunteer for the non-profit organization, 826 Valencia, headquartered in San Francisco. Her latest effort involves teaching a writing workshop for teens, called Chapter One. In the workshop teens focus on crafting the first chapters of their novels. Here is the description of the workshop:

Calling all novelists and would-be novelists! In this four-week workshop, you will write first chapters and key scenes from your upcoming novel, as well as a synopsis and outline. Each participant will choose a favorite novel to use as a guide and as a group, we'll closely examine our favorite novels for language, form, and structure, as well as character, plot, and conflict. We will steal good ideas mercilessly ...

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