Butter by Erin Jade Lange, 2012, ISBN: 9781599907802
Plot Summary: Butter is tired of being fat. He is tired of being coddled by his mother, ignored by his father, and teased and pitied by all of his classmates. He is tired of being called Butter, in reference to an incident that happened many years ago. So he decides to go out with a bang; by eating himself to death in front of a live web feed. It gets a response he wasn’t expecting. His classmates are cheering him on, suggesting items to eat for his last meal, but weirder still, some of them seem to want to be friends with him now. Butter can’t really tell what’s sincere or not, or what the response would be if he didn’t go through with it. The date of his last meal is fast approaching; what will he decide to do?
Critical Evaluation: I think the strongest literary element of Butter is the plot. The protagonist could be any overweight teen who is teased by his classmates and ignored by the girl he loves. It plays off of the universality of his feelings, and forces readers to consider how they would act in a similar situation. The sense of place is strong; students in this area are mostly affluent, but they are better able to cross clique boundaries than others that I’ve read so far. Some elements of the book seem a little far-fetched, or exaggerated for the story’s sake, like how quickly Butter finds himself surrounded by friends, or his interactions with his love interest. However, I think the story is intended to read that way, so that readers think more about their impressions and interactions with overweight people, or really anyone they might look down on. Overall, it was an engrossing and enjoyable read, and one that has a very timely subject.
Reader’s Annotation: Life isn’t going well for the overweight teen known to all his classmates as Butter. So he decides to pull one last, attention grabbing stunt: he’ll eat himself to death on a live, Internet feed.
Information about the author: Erin Jade Lange is a journalist who is “inspired by current events and real-world issues and uses her writing to explore how those issues impact teenagers” (from the book jacket). She grew up in northern Illinois and now lives in Arizona.
Her second novel, also for young adults, will come out in September 2013. Of Butter, School Library Journal says, “Using current, hot-button topics–cyberbullying, obesity, and teen suicide–the author weaves a compelling tale sure to draw teens in.”
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Curriculum ties, if any: This could be an interesting book to use in a health class, to discuss self-esteem, body image, healthy eating, or for general discussions about popularity.
Booktalking Ideas: This book references a lot of hot button issues such as obesity, cyberbullying and suicide. Somewhat uniquely, the book shows both the bullied and bullies perspectives, which could be interesting to discuss. There are obvious connections to “Fat Kid Rules the World,” another book about an overweight teen who contemplates suicide, but experiences popularity in the process. I think in a booktalk, I would emphasize the climax of the story: does he or doesn’t he?
Reading Level/Interest Age: The main character is a junior in high school. There is a somewhat detailed description of a suicide attempt, making this a better choice for older high school students. School Library Journal and Booklist recommend this book for readers in grades 9 and up.
- First, I would want to be familiar with book. As I’ve read this book, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of a book I had not read, I would want to have access to reviews.
- Then I would put together a rationale for why this book is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
- Bibliographic Citation of the book.
- A description of who the book is best suited for.
- A summary of the book and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
- My justification for including the book. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
- Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
- ALA Library Bill of Rights
- Good and bad reviews of the book
- Alternative works a student could read
- Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
- When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
- If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.
I do think that this is an important story to be available because it represents a character that many can relate to, and perhaps more importantly, a story that might help readers to think more about how they treat others. I think the treatment of suicide is well done, and accurately shows how devastating that can be.
Why did you include this book? : I heard a lot of good buzz for this book and was intrigued by the premise. It also provides a different point of view from many of the other books I’ve read so far.
Pierce, Diana (2012, December). “Lange, Erin Jade. Butter.” School Library Journal, 122. Biography In Context Online. Retrieved from ic.galegroup.com