Uses for Boys
reminds me of something. And I think, though it's been ages since I read it, that the something is Go Ask Alice
Anna starts very young, with just her and her mother, where she is her mother's whole world and Anna feels very separate from every one else. When her mother expands her own world, she does it in a way that keeps Anna out (in fact, the one time she takes Anna with her, to the resort, Anna is raped). So Anna escapes her mother to live a very sad bohemian life filled with coffee, vintage dresses, and boys. Though sex, and sexual abuse, fill Uses for Boys
and its title is, of course, "Uses for Boys," I think this book is really about mothers and how mothers teach daughters how to tell their stories. We see this with Anna and her mother and also with Toy and her mother and Jane and her unborn child. At the end, though Anna, per blurb on the book, is redeemed or something by her relationship with Sam, a kid her own age with a healthy family, it's really Sam's mother (and her daughter, Em) who makes the difference to Anna.
To me, more than anything, Uses for Boys
is a story of isolation and neglect. The distant, simplistic narrative voice reads a lot like a diary whose writer hides nothing not because they have nothing to hide, but because they have no one to hide it from. Her mantra becomes, "I had no father. I had no mother." Even Anna's name is used so little that's easy to forget that she has one. Like "anonymous" diaries of the 1970s, or classic fairy tales, the voice of Uses for Boys
and its stark language (no euphemisms here!) reads like a cautionary tale. It is not quite true but full of truth, made of the honesty of nightmares, and ultimately leaves it up to the reader to decide on the message and moral, if, indeed, there is one.
I imagine this book will get a lot of attention during awards speculation time. It definitely stays with you.