Published: January 15, 2016
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.
This was the most depressing book that I think I have ever read or listened to but it is also very haunting.
In the “tell me again times”, Anna’s mom tells her the story of how she was alone and had always wanted a daughter. But Anna slowly learns the truth, having a daughter is not enough to fill the void inside her mother. So she watches as her mother marries, divorces, marries, divorces, and then spends a great deal of time dating man after man and leaving Anna in the house alone.
Anna often spends night after night alone in the lying house. It looks beautiful, but it is empty. She turns on the TV to fill it with noise. She wanders from room to room. And when nothing she can do fills that emptiness, she begins to try to fill it with boys in much the same way she sees her mother trying to fill her own emptiness with men.
Anna’s story is a series of relationships, very few of them real or fulfilling:
Her mother – absent, distant, unaware
The first boy – a boy who assaults her on the school bus, although she doesn’t realize at the time what it is.
Joey – For a while, he fills the void. But then just as her mother told her all men do, he leaves.
The rapist – he haunts her.
Toy – the best friend, lost herself, but Anna doesn’t recognize this until much later.
Josh – For a while, he too fills the void.
And then Sam – here she sees for the first time what a real family must look like, and it creates in her a longing so real, so palpable that the world around her shifts.
By the time Sam comes along Anna has gotten pregnant and had an abortion but he is a virgin and wants to WAIT for their first time together. They do wait-for awhile but the temptation is too great and they have sex, whenever and where ever they can. One afternoon Anna goes over to Sam’s house because he is sick and one thing leads to another and they have sex and his mother walks in on them and tells her to leave.
It’s during this time of depression and loneliness that Anna discovers that Toy is as broken as she is and has been lying about all her romantic boyfriends (none of whom exist). Anna has been trying fill the emptiness inside of her with boy after boy after boy until she sees something else and decides she is going to find a way to make it happen for herself, and it’s important because Anna realizes this for herself and acts upon it for herself.
The book ends with Anna feeling hopeful and that’s something she has never felt before.