Thomas's Reviews > Butter

Butter by Erin Jade Lange
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bookshelves: young-adult, realistic-fiction

Here's my preface: I know some people are naturally heavier than others. I'm aware that some people have medical issues. I know, as cliche as it sounds, that what's on the inside matters much more than what's on the outside.

But Butter was just so frustrating. I don't want to sound insensitive or make it seem like I'm a jerk who hates obese people, but this book had me on the edge. The main character, at 423 pounds, would eat to upset his mom and would fail to take responsibility for his actions - even when he was aware that what he was thinking was wrong. He possessed a propensity for thinking shallow things that would set me off. Here's an example:

So it was just me, a pile of dirty dishes, and a dining table covered in crumbs and splattered juice. The suddenly nauseating smell of pot roast overwhelmed me. I fought the urge to puke. That's right. I fought it. I was a binge eater, not a bulimic. That sh*t is for girls.

Not cool. However, Erin Jade Lange did develop Butter and make him more relatable by revealing the bullying and taunting he had experienced. Unfortunately, this didn't compensate for the cast of one-sided characters and Butter's lack of logic. I didn't dislike Butter for his inability to overcome his weight issue; I disliked how he handled his issue through his dangerous and reckless actions.

I'll give Erin Jade Lange points for crafting a complexly simple book. There's no clear message - which is a positive and a negative - and I never really understood Butter, but still felt somewhat sorry for him. We all should know by now that bullying is wrong and making fun of other people because of their appearances is also wrong. Erin Jade Lange tackles these topics in a way that is on one hand annoying, on the other hand, thought-provoking.

*review cross-posted on my blog, the quiet voice.
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Reading Progress

June 10, 2012 – Shelved
December 19, 2012 – Started Reading
December 21, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)

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message 1: by John (new)

John I'd hate this. On one hand: when you are overweight (coming from experience), you are very aware of the downsides to actions like eating, but that doesn't mean that black-and-white thinking comes in (it doesn't for anyone, so I don't get why some people expect that.) BUT - dammit, that sexist comment about bulimia would have me putting the book down and saying, "No, this is not okay." In general, the book sounds like a failed attempt at writing about a "real" issue without showing the proper understanding of the issue in the text.

Thomas John wrote: "I'd hate this. On one hand: when you are overweight (coming from experience), you are very aware of the downsides to actions like eating, but that doesn't mean that black-and-white thinking comes ..."

I agree, perhaps in my review I did make it sound like I was expecting too much black-and-white thinking. But Butter's thinking process in general irked me - he just didn't make much sense, except for a few bits. He would make insensitive comments toward people but then expect pity for himself. I suppose that that is true of some people; it doesn't excuse his behavior though.

Yeah, you pretty much nailed it. The author didn't have to make the book some preachy message book, but I do believe she could've done a better job fleshing out her characters and substantiating the story overall.

message 3: by John (new)

John Indeed. Unlikable narrators are common in YA, but they are hard to do. I don't think a lot of authors realize that the thinking needs to be more nuanced with them. It may be real, but it's also true that people feel bad when they act that way, at least a little bit. A lack of awareness of his insensitivity would have been helpful - and, frankly, in an issue book, I'd take an author making sure to send the right message over being 100% realistic. So, totally agreed. :) Thank you for making me totally fine with ignoring this book.

Thomas Yeah, unlikable narrators aren't rare, but the good ones have other qualities or circumstances that mitigate their nastiness. There's a fine blend when it comes to sending the right message and being realistic - it's difficult, and I doubt I'd be able to do it perfectly if I were to write a book right now, but it's possible.

You're welcome, but I feel guilty that you might have tried this book and loved it if not for me!

message 5: by John (new)

John I honestly had already read a deterring review from Steph Su, but your review pretty much confirmed it.

And, as someone who struggles with weight despite not being overweight anymore, I take those books very sensitively, like I do LGBTQ books.

message 6: by Shawn (new)

Shawn Marie See, now I feel like the odd one out. I think if you look at this from the point of view of someone who sees obesity as an addiction it will change your perception of the narrator entirely. As with any addiction, the one struggling is very much acting out of a primal need to fulfill whatever is driving him (or her) to do the act which will satisfy them, albeit good sense or thought out judgment calls. Also, most times people with addictions know they have one, and feel powerless to it, hense they try and make others miserable by controlling other aspects, without even knowing it, because they themselves cannot control themselves. Also, as far as the "sexist" comment, I don't feel the author intended this maliciously and I don't think it was their...what's the to preach a lesson or show some moral teaching on sexism or gender roles. I think, that the author was trying to show a bigger picture, the cycle of addiction, the reaction to actions and the consequences for everyone's actions in the grand scheme of things. I also have to add at 30+ my outlook on things may be a little different, as I know that with each generation, different stereotypes and groups within our society are perceived differently. I feel like my generation is a little less PC, and a lot more "big picture".
Great review though!

Thomas Thank you so much for sharing your insightful thoughts, Shawn! I agree that viewing the obesity as an addiction creates a new perspective on the book. However, I still feel that other components of Butter - the lackluster dialogue, the weak characterization, the callous treatment and portrayal of the narrator's behaviors - still detracted from the novel. The author did not need to "preach a lesson or show some moral teaching" on the issues at hand within the book, but at the same time that does not excuse the narrator's actions and the lack of consequences he faced. Still, I feel so glad knowing that others walked away from this novel with such deep, varied thoughts.

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