From the cover and title of Uses for Boys, I would expect to read something close to, “OMG, I totes <3 boys!” Fortunately, there is none of that nonsense here (save it for Facebook, ladies). What is here is the story of a young girl named Anna, who struggles to learn her own story: from the “tell-me-again-times” before she turns eight and her mother gets a facelift and a new husband…to when she drops out of high school at sixteen, moves to the city on her own and tells people, “I have no mother, I have no father.” After this move, life only gets more complicated as she struggles with the need for affection with the pain of unhealthy relationships.
So where do boys figure in exactly? Like many emotionally neglected girls (and all girls really), Anna realizes that, for a price, boys are more than willing to provide attention and their own kind of affection. She first learns this on the school bus at 12-years-old when she lets Desmond Dreyfus touch her while his friends, Michael Cox and Carl Drier, watch. This begins her intense, and sometimes painful, sexual history. With no one to teach her, she learns as she goes.
Made up of short, titled chapters, this book is as complex, edgy, real, emotional, compelling, etc. as real life. Ellen Hopkins, of the Crank trilogy, said, “I wish every young woman could gain the wisdom found in these pages. Quitet. Stark. Possibly life-changing.” And I think we could totes include every young man in there, as well.