Butter by Erin Jade Lange. Grades 8+ Bloomsbury, September 2012. 316 pages. Reviewed from egalley provided by NetGalley.
He's called Butter because of an incident that happened to him a couple of years ago. Oh, kids have changed how the story goes. Butter hears himself touted as the hardcore dude who ate an entire stick of butter. That's not exactly how it happened. Butter will never forget how it happened. And now, after years of bullying, years of hating himself, years of being rejected by the girls he likes, Butter has had enough. He creates a website. And he invites the kids at school to watch live via the internet as he eats himself to death on New Year's Eve. Almost instantly, Butter is a sensation at school. The popular kids adopt him, inviting him to parties even as they're taking bets over what his final menu will be. But the biggest question is one that Butter's still trying to answer: will he actually do it?
Guys, the tension is built so perfectly in this book that I was actually anxious as I was reading it. I went back and forth as Butter was going back and forth: WILL HE actually do it? No, no way. He's not gonna... well, wait... maybe he IS going to... And that was hard to take because Butter is actually a pretty great guy. He's smart and thoughtful and musically gifted. If the kids at school or even his own father would take the time to look past his looks, they'd find kind of a great kid in there.
The theme of looking deeper than the surface is prevalent throughout the book. Not only is Butter dealing with how kids see him, he's got a huge crush on a girl at school, even though he barely knows her. As Butter hangs out with the popular kids more, he can see that they're not exactly the best friends to each other.
I recently read Allen Zadoff's Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can't Have, which takes a similar premise the opposite way and it's hard not to compare them in my mind. Both feature obese teen boys who are bullied at school. While Zadoff's Andy chooses to join the football team and gain popularity that way, Butter chooses a much darker path. It'd be really interesting to pair these books for a discussion on teen obesity, cliques, and bullying.
I'd hand this book to fans of Allen Zadoff's book and also Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, Joshua C. Cohen's Leverage, or Susan Vaught's Big Fat Manifesto.
Don't miss Kelly's review of Butter over at STACKED.
Butter is on shelves now.