Butter – Erin Lange
Publisher: Bloomsbury (Sept. 4, 2012)
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
Scottsdale High seems a pretty average high school with the usual groups of teens including those who are popular and those who are not. ‘Butter’ is a 16 year old boy who is clever and funny, plays saxophone like a professional Blues musician (Charlie Parker is his idol) and drives a BMW, a not uncommon car choice in his neighbourhood, even for teens. You might think Butter would have no problem fitting in with his peers except for just one small, or not so small, detail. Butter weighs in at over 400 pounds. His obesity is not a focus for active bullying by schoolmates, rather it has the effect of making him almost invisible. He is completely and utterly ignored by all and sundry. Everyone calls him Butter, no one knows his real name or anything about him (to find out why he has that nickname is to realise that dark deeds are possible when people stand by and do ‘ nothing’).
Butter retreats into his own world of his saxophone and the Internet where he is presently engaged in a cyber-flirtation with his dream girl Anna,using a pseudonym. At home he cocoons himself in his room where these two joys sustain him in his loneliness. Butter’s situation is not helped by his parents, of whom Lange paints a fairly critical picture – a helicopter mother whose solution to everything is food and a financially successful father who is revolted by his son’s condition.
Butter’s isolation and depression grow exponentially despite well-meaning efforts from his favourite teacher, the Professor, who endeavours to focus on Butter’s exceptional musical ability and persistently aims to engage Butter in the band group; his friend Tucker, from FabFit (summer fat camps), also attempts to bolster Butter’s frail ego without avail.
With the realisation that the Internet provides not only anonymity for those who crave it but can also invite an audience, Butter decides to put himself into a macabre limelight by setting up his own website and vowing to eat himself to death on New Year’s Eve. In a ghastly parody of social popularity, Butter finds himself the centre of attention from new ‘friends’ and on his way to being a dubious kind of ‘hero’ amongst the ‘Barbies and meat-headed Kens’ of Scottsdale High. However, the closer the date with death comes, the more Butter is forced to analyse his thinking, his decisions and his life – or death – style.
Providing the reader with an intense scrutiny of bullying from another angle and the oft-times detrimental implications of social media fame, Butter is a darkly humorous but confronting must-read for young adults and adults alike,.