Butter by Erin Lange is a really emotional book to read. It's the story of Butter, a teenage boy who weighs over 400 pounds. Because of his size, Butter isolates himself from the other students at school. Nobody really knows him, nobody even knows his real name after a case of extreme bullying lands Butter with his unfortunate nickname.
He's pretty isolated at school, sitting alone in the cafeteria, the butt of jokes and speculation about his eating habits. His only friends in the world are the Professor, a teacher at school who is after Butter to join the school band; Tucker, a friend from fat camp that he mostly interacts with over the summer; and an online friendship that Butter has with Anna, a popular girl at his school who doesn't know she's talking to him.
But all of that changes after Butter has a rough few days and in response to the arguments that he has with his friends and family, and being humiliated yet again in front of everybody at school, Butter takes drastic action and creates a new website - butterslastmeal.com A website dedicated to the fact that Butter has made this pledge to give the people what they seem to want. He's going to eat himself to death live on the Internet on New Year's Eve. And suddenly, Butter is the talk of the school, he's being adopted by two of the most popular guys in school, Parker and Trent, and Butter's finally getting a taste of what it means to be popular and have friends. But are these people surrounding him really his friends? At times, it feels natural to be around these other people, laughing and messing about. But everything seems to come back to Butter's website.
It was quite sad, this entire story, especially because Butter is quite funny, has a great personality and plays a mean saxophone. And nobody really sees that about him or appreciates it. All most people see of Butter is his size or the fact that he's doing this huge and talk-worthy thing. The issue of being overweight is something else I found really interesting. His enjoyment of food and eating is one thing, but there's also his mother's encouragement to eat more and more as means of showing how much she cares. There's Butter's father's indifference to him which causes Butter to eat as a way of coping with the emotional stress. And all of it together made my heart break for this boy dealing with some tough situations.
I found it hugely interesting that things aren't so cut and dry with Butter's circumstances. At times there seems to be a real jovial atmosphere when it comes to bullying Butter. Like 'haha, it's all just fun and games, isn't it?' Butter's new friends seem okay most of the time: including Butter, laughing with him instead of at him for a change. But how much of it is about Butter and how much of it is about his plans on New Year's Eve?
At times because of the light tone of the book and because we're viewing this from Butter's perspective even I wondered sometimes about Butter's state of mind. I wondered if he'd really go through with the things he's said he'll do. It isn't until the last third of the book that everything felt more real and more serious to me. And that's when everything crashed down around me and I fully understood where Butter was coming from.
Butter is an interesting book. Emotional and thought-provoking.