Rating: 3/5 stars
Number of Pages: 352
A boy everyone calls “Butter” is about to make Scottsdale High history. He’s going to eat himself to death live on the Internet – and everyone will watch.
He announces his deadly plan to an army of peers and expects pity, insults or even indifference. Instead, he finds morbid encouragement. When that encouragement tips the scales into popularity, Butter has a reason to live. But if he doesn’t go through with his plan, he’ll lose everything.
You think I eat a lot now? That’s nothing. Tune in December 31st, when I will stream a live webcast of my last meal. I can’t take another year in this fat suit, but I can end this year with a bang. If you can stomach it, you’re invited to watch…as I eat myself to death.
Body image. Self confidence. Weight issues. Ring any bells?
For me, those phrases ring the bells of the young generation of modern society. My generation, to be frank, along with people younger and older than I. The introduction of the internet has led to the idea that everyone everywhere is judging you and only you. We all feel devastated when we get fewer likes on our profile picture than someone else, and all have a spring in our step when someone compliments our Instagram aesthetic. It is this idea – the idea that social media can control our emotions in previously unheard of way – that Erin Lange explores through Butter, and I’m endlessly happy that she did.
The book opens with a nameless boy, identifiable only by his derogatory nickname Butter. Personally, I thought ‘Butter’ was a term people adopted for him, due to his weight, and link between body fat and cooking fat. However, his musical companion known as The Professor argues otherwise; he is called Butter, because he plays the saxophone smooth like butter. Butter himself, however, buries the truth of his name deep down, blaming said truth for his current weight predicament. The withholding of information here really engaged me, and enticed me to find out why Butter is called what he is – could it really be so bad that he now tips the scales at 400 lbs because of it?
Next, comes Butter’s realisation that life is no longer worth living; he feels he is too fat to recover, cannot survive another year in this ‘fat-suit’, and doesn’t want to live in a world where severely overweight people are forced to pay for 2 seats on aeroplanes. As a reader, one understands and empathizes with his reasoning. One doesn’t, however, believe he will go through with it. That is until peer-pressure comes along, and Butter is met with another predicament:
Butter publishes his wishes on a website, quickly found by fellow students of the high school he hates so much. But, instead of grief, he is met with congratulations, and morbid encouragement, many people vowing to watch his deadly suicide meal on New Year Eve. This leads to a new-found popularity for Butter, one he doesn’t want to give up in aid of killing himself. Yet, if he doesn’t kill himself like he said he would, he is the cowardly kid who pulled a sickening prank, pretending he would kill himself. But if he does, who knows what will happen? Who knows what lies after death? What about his loving mother and not-so-loving father? But more importantly, what about his popularity status?
That’s a real dilemma…so what to do? Well, Erin Lange keeps the options open until the very end. One wishes Butter won’t go through with it, yet is ‘friends’ wish otherwise.
And that’s the basics of the story, one that keeps you guessing from the very start, right up until the very end. So, you’re perhaps wondering, why only 3 stars if you think the plot line was so brilliant? Well, Reader, I will tell you: the writing is lacking, as is the character development.
Because it’s a modern YA contemporary, it’s acceptable that this book is written colloquially, making it an easy read, and also feeling as though one can connect with the protagonist a little more. However, the writing is at no point exciting or particularly funny or particularly shocking. Many things are glossed over, just as many things are rushed through – hours can pass in a paragraph, yet those hours are important to the story, and I was really annoyed to be left behind by this story that seemed on a mission to run away with the wind. Had the pace been a little more controlled, I feel the book would have benefited drastically.
In terms of characters, Butter – in my opinion – isn’t likeable. He feels as though he’s entitled everything he wants, and acts cocky, on some occasions, to get it. I didn’t like reading from his perspective, because it felt like I was the bad guy for not being 400 lbs or more. However, this did help to build on the purpose of the story, and allowed me to understand the extent of Butter’s suicidal tendencies a lot more.
On another note, I felt as though Butter was very transparent, and didn’t have his morals in the right place; he fell for popularity so easily, despite hating the ‘popular kids’. Granted, I can understand how popularity gets its hooks into a person, yet it wan’t like Butter was universally popular, nor was he popular for the right reason, and nor was he intended to have this popularity forever. Frankly, his 15 minutes of fame were intended for the final 15 minutes of his life, a fact Butter was too naive to see, despite not being naive at all. In my opinion, these tropes combined didn’t work to build Butter as the poignant character he was probably intended to be.
Despite this, the characters the school kids played worked really well. One naively prays that real people are not as despicable as they are in this book. They, however, are, and that is a really striking thing for me in this book; the honesty Lange writes this book with is truly unnerving, yet equally effective.
What’s interesting about this book is the way it addresses modern issues; I never even considered the fact that peer pressure could cause suicides before this book. And now? I’m horrified I didn’t see it before. The kids in this book glamorize suicide, stating the protagonist has ‘Butter Balls’ to even consider it, let alone vow to do it. The encouragement Butter receives doesn’t feel threatening, it doesn’t even feel insulting; in the simplest terms, it is motivating. And motivating someone to commit suicide? Drastic, but unfortunately…realistic.
Overall, I didn’t particularly enjoy this book, but I was hooked on the suspense, and the ultimate outcome. Also, I very much respect the meaning and moral of this book. Thus, I awarded it 3/5 stars.
Thanks for reading!
I tried a bit of a different approach to the review this time, so I hope you enjoyed. Tell me what you think in the comments! 🙂