Book Review: Butter by Erin Jade Lange
Now over 400 pounds, Butter is a teenage boy who knows all to well the loneliness that comes from being an outcast. But when he announces that he is going to eat himself to death online, he finds that popularity is both toxic and fleeting -and often quite dishonest. Butter by Erin Jade Lange is a heartbreaking tale that touches on bullying, our online culture, loneliness, and a teenage boy living with obesity.
|Releases September 18th by Bloomsbury
This is not an easy book to read, Butter is full of self loathing and has the complicated attitude to match; he is not always likable and doesn’t realize how much he gets in his own way when it comes to making friends. At one point he expresses extreme jealousy when a fat camp friend loses weight (a realistic reaction I think). However, this is a very authentic portrait of the teenage life. Teenagers of all walks of life, especially those with body image issues, self sabotage with the best of them. We all create a variety of defense mechanisms to help cope with the pain of who we are, or who we perceive ourselves to be.
When Butter makes his announcement, strangers come out of the woodwork and decide that they are going to be his “friend”. There is a morbid curiosity that permeates our society and, like the arena games in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, we get an inside look at how much we are willing to derive our entertainment off of the suffering of others. Butter is a unique look at bullying, particularly online bullying, because mocking the obese seems to be one of the last acceptable forms of bullying that we condone in society. We can’t condone obesity because of the serious and undeniable health affects that it brings into a person’s life, but it seems we ought to be able to discuss the issues without personally condemning those that are struggling with serious weight issues. If you spend any time reading online comments you know that this is not the case.
Perhaps an important part of the issue is that we seem to associate obesity without laziness or a lack of self control and we often fail to recognize the emotional and sometimes physical causes that contribute. This is an area where Lange excels in her depiction of Butter, helping the reader to understand the deep emotional issues that come into play. In the end, Butter turns out to be a sympathetic character that most teens will be able to identify with: we all hate something about ourselves and see something different in the mirror than others see in us.
The question is, will Butter go through with it and eat himself to death or not? At times, even Butter doesn’t know the answer to this question. But readers will definitely be turning the page to find out. 4 stars out of 5. Recommended for all library collections.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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