One interesting thing about this book is the way in which reading the blurb puts the reader in the same boat as many of the characters. It has one of the most arresting hooks of any book coming out this fall: Butter, the morbidly obese teenage protagonist has announced that he is going to eat himself to death. What's more, he is going to do it in one meal, broadcast live over the internet.
Will you watch?
Erin Jade Lange does a great job keeping Butter's story human, rather than veering into the easy, lurid territory of stereotypes about bullying and suicide. Butter's voice is frustrated, angry, lonely, scared, and full of the kind of hopelessness that it's so easy to truly believe when you're a teenager with a problem that seems impossible. In Butter's case, his weight has gotten so out of control that he can't imagine ever feeling normal or healthy. At school he is mostly invisible, called by a nickname that has lost all meaning to most of his classmates (one derived from a gruesome attack just before high school.) I think the best thing about this book is the way Lange captures the absolute certainty with which teenagers understand their perceptions of the world (especially negative perceptions) and then uses supporting characters to challenge some of those assumptions. Because Butter is the first-person narrator, it's easy to take his version of the truth as fact, which makes for a surprising reading experience when he learns to see things differently. I remember that certainty and that sense of hopelessness, about problems large and small. If you've ever stayed up all night certain the world is ending, only to see things differently in the light of day, you may recognize something of yourself in Butter.
Butter offers a conflicted, relatable male narrator, a realistic look at what it can feel like to be an outsider, and a unique take on issues of bullying and popularity. I recommend this to anyone looking for something a little different in contemporary YA.
I received a free, advance e-book copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.