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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Short chapters and high-interest material might make this a good choice for older reluctant readers. Motivated parents and educators can use this book to talk about tricky subjects, like society's different expectations of girls and boys when it comes to sex. See our discussion questions for some ideas about how to get your teens thinking about these often difficult subjects.
The main character learns to find her own strength and build her own family. There is a lesson here about being able to decide your own life story -- and that a happy ending is possible, even after a series of mistakes.
Positive Role Models
Anna does meet many happy and well-balanced people in the book, including a kind, wise woman she meets at an abortion clinic, and her boyfriend Sam and his functional family. Anna herself makes a lot of mistakes, but she is strong and smart -- and loyal to the people she loves, even though it may be easier to leave them behind.
Violence & Scariness
Anna is raped by an older boy when she's drunk, but she keeps it a secret even from her mother.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
There are lot of depictions of teen sex and one character gets pregnant after moving in with her teen boyfriend. A character describes sex with men.
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A couple instances of "f--k," and Anna gets called a "slut."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens drink to drunkenness and also smoke pot. Anna's friend Toy often needs to take care of her alcoholic mother.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Uses for Boys is a mature book that includes teen drinking and marijuana use, sex, rape, and an abortion. Anna may make poor decisions -- she has several sexual partners as a young teen, for example -- but readers will admire her unflinching narration, strength, and growing understanding about her worth and what matters most. Short chapters and high-interest material might make this a good choice for older reluctant readers.
Is It Any Good?
This is a poetic book that will be a big hit with fans of coming-of-age classic House on Mango Street and other lyrical stories. Like Mango Street, this book's easy-to-read vignettes are full of significant details that are both memorable and deeper than they first appear. Anna doesn't hold back on the gritty details, but brave adults can use her story to spark some great discussions about teen sexuality -- including the emotional reasons why teens have sex, how girls and boys are often treated differently when it comes to sex, and even how teen romantic relationships are depicted in the media vs. how they are in real life.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.