Blurb (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.
My rating: 8 out of 10 stars
(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.