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Saturday, September 01, 2012

Term "Dying to Fit In" Takes On A Whole New Meaning in New YA Novel

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

At 423 lbs., "Butter" can barely move without fighting for breath.  Waddling down the hallways of his ritzy Scottsdale, Arizona, high school is just plain torture—not because his classmates tease him, but because they don't.  Even the bullies feel sorry for him now.  He's too pathetic to warrant a glance from them, let alone from a thin, beautiful girl like Anna McGinn.  Sure, Butter can pour his heart out to her online (as long as Anna continues to believe he's the cool, confident "SaxMan," anyway), but in real life?  Not a chance.  She'd probably throw up if she knew that Butter, the blob who sits behind her in English class, has the hots for her.

Butter has tried to slim down, he really has.  He's gone on special diets, attended fat camp every summer, even starved himself to lose the weight.  Nothing works.  After he humiliates himself at school one day, he's officially ready to give up—not just on dieting, but on life.  Butter creates a blog, announcing to the world that he's planning to eat himself to death on December 31st.  And he's going to do it live on the Internet.  He's prepared to tell anyone who asks that it's all just a big joke, even though the thought of dying sounds more tantalizing by the day.  Then, something weird happens:  the in-crowd at Scottsdale High starts swarming around Butter.  They're not there to talk him out of his impending suicide, they're clamoring for all the macabre details of Butter's death plan.  Suddenly, bizarrely, he's the most popular guy on campus.  And, just as suddenly, he's not so sure about the suicide thing.  He knows that wimping out of his big plan will cost him all of his new-found friends, but, then again, how can he kill himself when he's just discovering what it feels like to truly live?  With everyone gleefully counting down the days until his death, Butter must make the biggest decision he's ever faced in his 16 years on planet Earth—live or die.  

With a premise as shocking as that one, you just know Butter (available September 18, 2012), a debut novel by Arizona journalist Erin Jade Lange, is going to be one of those disturbing, no-holds-barred kind of stories.  And it is.  It's also sensitive, thought-provoking and, ultimately, empowering.  Anyone who's ever struggled to accept themselves as they are (and, really, who hasn't?) will sympathize with Butter.  He's funny, talented and self-deprecating—the kind of person everyone would love, if only they could look past the extra pounds to see the kid beneath the fat.  The fact that our hero is contemplating suicide (an act I find unforgivably selfish) does diminish him as a character for me, especially since the decision to kill himself seems to pop up out of nowhere.  Still, I devoured Butter's story, as anxious as anyone to find out what he'd do in the end.  I had a few issues with the novel (of course I did).  Overall, though, I enjoyed this modern take on the old dying-to-fit-in story.  It offers a little something different—and I like that.       

(Readalikes:  a little bit like Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Grade:  B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  R for strong language and depictions of underrage drinking

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Butter from the generous folks at Bloomsbury Children's Books via Netgalley.  Thank you!


  1. Sounds like a challenging and thought-provoking read.

  2. I've seen this one around but I just can't decide whether to give it a try.


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