I was afraid to read Butter by Erin Jade Lange. I have a hard time reading stories where a child is bullied to the point of considering suicide. I am glad I put that fear aside and read this. It was so compelling that I read it in less than 24 hours, which is very fast for me. Butter is a morbidly obese teen, weighing in at over 400 pounds. He is a wonderful person, a talented musician and a great student. Butter does not have any friends. The other students in the beginning of the book are not outwardly mean to him. But when he sees an internet list that has him as most likely to die of a heart attack, he decides to do something drastic. He creates a website and invites students to watch him eat himself to death. What happens with his fellow students and his new found popularity is very disturbing. The popular kids invite him to be part of the in crowd, with the knowledge that he will be dead in a month. They become macabre cheerleaders, urging Butter to end his life and suggesting ways he should do it. Butter got his nickname after a cruel incident years ago with one of the boys and his older brother. Butter has a secret. He is in love with a girl from his school who he has an online anonymous relationship with. The girl has no idea who he really is and is falling for him too. The outcome of that is potentially painful for both teens. Lange has a great gauge on how monstrous bullying can be. This book is relevant for the time, especially when teens are killing themselves while others egg them on with cyberbullying. I highly recommend this book for all teens and am thrilled that is in a Teens Top Ten Pick for YALSA.
Some ideas for discussing with teens:
Why do you think Butter’s parents did not push him to lose weight?
Do you think Jeremy and Trent should be prosecuted for their role in Butter’s plan?
Discuss this passage on page 29, “When she kissed me on the head and hummed her way out of the kitchen, I dropped my fork at last. The food didn’t taste as good without an audience. If I had to be the one to carry the weight, it was only fair that they be forced to watch.”
Discuss how much the online relationship mean to Anna? How she wanted a boy to like her without knowing what she looked like.
Talk about the day after Butter created the website when he said, “I understood now why the sun had not hidden behind clouds that morning; because it was not a day for gloom. It was a day for seeing more clearly than ever. (page 86)
Discuss this passage on page 116, “The two faces of my fellow students were so different, I genuinely convinced myself those vultures online were not the same people as the kids suddenly being so nice to me at school, and they couldn’t possibly be the same people who invited me to go bowling on Friday.”
Talk about how Butter’s life improved once he posted the website and how it got worse.
Discuss the statement where “[bullying] sometimes comes in the form of encouragement.” (page 227)
Butter and The Professor discuss how a person’s looks can determine if someone wants to listen to their music. Think about the artists you listen to. Does that mean anything to you?