reading-clipart-6Since I’m reviewing young adult novels, I need to mention this one. You can tell from the first chapter that this guy Butter is in trouble. He’s obese, allergic, diabetic and conducting an online romance with a little gal at school named Anna who doesn’t know who he is – he’s lying to her, of course. When his life slides downhill, he makes an announcement that he plans to stream a live webcast where he eats himself to death. Oddly, this results in popularity. None of the kids at school mention anything about it to an adult, and Butter makes serious plans. When the deadline arrives, there’s a comeuppance for everybody involved.

This story struck me as profound. Butter is smart, funny, talented, everything his online girlfriend wants in a man. Because of his weight, he’s been bullied. He’s got serious emotional problems. Because of his size, no one takes him seriously until he comes up with this suicide plan. The novel investigates obesity, of course, and how obese kids struggle, but it also questions the wisdom of lying about yourself to others and the crueler aspects of celebrity. Isn’t that what everyone wants these days? Just to be glorified by their fans? And what’s any better for that than public suicide?

There’s not much black and white here–all these characters are gray, with both good and bad points–and there’s no good solution to Butter’s suicide plan. If he does go through with it, he’s dead. If he doesn’t, he’s just as dead at school. Not going through with it will provoke such a backlash of contempt that he doesn’t even want to think about it. Even the conclusion is gray, asking us to think about options instead of providing a pat answer. Lange doesn’t pull any punches in her writing.

Highly recommended.