Butter by Erin Jade Lange
Faber, 2013. ISBN 9780571294404.
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Obesity. Bullying. Suicide. YALSA 2013 Teens' Top Ten titles, Telegraph's Top 10 YA books 2013. Butter is a lonely, extremely overweight boy who is ignored at school. Although he is a very talented saxophone player, Butter refuses to join the school band and efforts to control his weight have failed. Desperate for recognition, he sets up a website, ButterLastMeal.com, where he announces that he will eat himself to death on New Year's Eve. To his surprise, some of his classmates become morbidly interested in his plan, betting on what he will eat for his last meal and closing off access to the website to only people who can be trusted not to report what is going on.
This is a riveting read; I was totally engrossed as Butter describes how he got his nickname, his mother's futile fluttering about his eating, while enabling it, his father's seemingly indifference to his son and his heart-breaking anonymous online correspondence with Anna, one of the popular girls at school. Lange vividly describes Butter's feelings as he suddenly becomes popular with the in crowd at school. They invite him to go bowling, to parties and to sit with them in the canteen. Their perverse interest in his impending suicide and their attempts to ensure that news of it doesn't reach the authorities are all overlooked by Butter as for the first time he feels that he belongs.
This story delves into the heart and mind of a young man whose obesity governs everything that he does. The reader learns about his feelings, his struggles and his overwhelming need to belong. The bullying, both physical and online is told in a straight forward manner, and none of the characters are black or white, all have flaws and strengths. As a reader I was kept on the edge of my seat as I wondered how Butter would cope when his deadline approached.
This is a book that is a worthy addition to a library, not only because of its themes of obesity and bullying, but because of the way that it grabs the reader's attention.