Book Info: YA Contemporary, ARC via NetGalley, Hardcover 316 pages
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
High school student “Butter” is a lonely obese guy who can’t get out of the over-eating cycle. He needs to lose weight for his health but lacks the support at home and motivation to stick to the plan. Butter is usually ignored at school but has also been a bully target at times. After a particularly bad day, Butter’s thoughts turn to self-harm and he determines to eat himself to death live via webcam on New Years Eve. He announces his plan on his website and is startled to find his classmates embrace the idea and encourage him with comments, invitations to parties, last meal suggestions, and friendship. But if they are his friends, how can they let Butter go through with his plans?
The premise is so morbid that I was worried I’d be able to get through this one. But the writing is so compelling I had to keep reading to see how it all turns out. It’s hard to read about Butter’s depression and his treatment at school, but there have been stories similar to Butter’s on the news unfortunately. Though many of them make mistakes along the way, the adults and kids in the story are not all good or all bad and makes you think about how you’d handle the situation if it happened to you.
One thing that makes this read a little easier to digest is that Butter has a great sense of humor. He wants people to see past his appearance and get to know the real him. He’s a nice guy, clever and talented – he’s a gifted saxophone player and the band teacher really wants him to join their music group, but he doesn’t want to put himself out there that way. One person who does like him (personality-wise) is a girl he chats with online anonymously. She is a popular girl at school named Anna and doesn’t give him the time of day there. But, she falls for him online and wants to meet face to face, something Butter of course is reluctant to do.
The subject matter is intense and hard to read at times and brings feelings of anger at the people in Butter’s life and at Butter himself too for letting the situation get so out of control. The whole situation really makes you think and would make for a great book club discussion. The bullying, depression and eating disorder topics are relevant to today and should resonate well with readers of realistic fiction. Erin Jade Lang writes a powerful book with strong characters and a great message.