Wednesday, November 20, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: BUTTER by Erin Jade Lange

I use Grammarly to check for plagiarism because I prefer to get credit for my own creativity.

Erin Jade Lange
Bloomsbury USA
14-17 years
320 pp.

A lonely obese boy everyone calls "Butter" is about to make history. He is going to eat himself to death-live on the Internet-and everyone is invited to watch. When he first makes the announcement online to his classmates, Butter expects pity, insults, and possibly sheer indifference. What he gets are morbid cheerleaders rallying around his deadly plan. Yet as their dark encouragement grows, it begins to feel a lot like popularity. And that feels good. But what happens when Butter reaches his suicide deadline? Can he live with the fallout if he doesn't go through with his plans?


I picked up BUTTER after hearing about for months. Finally my curiosity got the better of me. I brought the book home, read the first chapter, and handed it to my teenage son. "You gotta read this," I told him. He's an avid reader and very fast, and I trust him to give me an honest opinion about anything he's read. He whipped through it in days and told me it was "disturbing" and "a great book." Very odd words to describe a book about a 423 pound teenager.

Butter's hefty weight makes him an outcast at school and at home. His only escape is his online relationship with Anna, who believes her virtual boyfriend is a jock from another school, and playing his sax.  Butter decides to literally eat himself to death on New Year's Eve, the night he has also promised to reveal his true identity to Anna.  When he creates a website, "Butter's Last Meal," to his surprise the very kids who once shunned him now rally around him. His new although morbid friendships lead Butter into a world he never thought he could be a part of. But when the countdown to his suicide finally arrives, he has to decide whether or not he'll go through with it.

What Butter does is, as my son said, disturbing. And it is a great book. Told in Butter's voice, the story is straightforward with few embellishments. Lange perfectly captures the seedy side of high school, though it would have been nice if she had somehow acknowledged the fact that not all high schoolers are sex-crazed, partying, alcoholics.  Yes, there is an overabundance of underage drinking and shallow adolescent humor here, but the story itself is really touching. Butter is an accessible character with depth and realism, someone even the thinnest most popular kids in school can relate to. Where Lange succeeds is tapping into the heart of kids who might otherwise be ignored or misunderstood, showing that they are real people with real feelings. Even if Lange fell a little short doing the same about "popular" kids, Butter is still a noble story that kept me turning the pages long into the night.

BUTTER is a perfect fit for fans of contemporary teen fiction, like 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  I give it a very strong:

(Note:  BUTTER has led me to add a fourth topic to my content review.)

Sexuality:  Moderate
Violence:   Moderate (discussion of suicide)
Profanity:  High
Substance Abuse:  High

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