Butter by Erin Jade Lange

It's another day, and "Butter" (or at least that's what everyone calls him - including himself) is surrounded by his normal snacks: M&Ms, ice cream, Doritos, and a meatball sub, to name a few. He hears the story of a woman who looks to weigh about 90 pounds telling the reporter self-righteously that she thinks it's perfectly fair for overweight people to have to pay for two tickets on planes. "Why should the rest of us have to share the seats we paid for with people who can't lay off the snacks before dinner?" (Lange pg. 4, 2012).

At 16 years old, he is over 400 pounds. Ostracized at school, tiptoed around at home, depressed, isolated..the only thing that brings him any solace is his saxaphone. And Anna. He logs on to chat, and there she is: but he knows even that isn't all true. He told her he goes to private school, and refuses to send her a picture or meet up with her.  Anna goes to his school, and if she knew who "J.P." really was, she wouldn't give him the time of day.

It's all too much. He decides to end it all. He creates a webpage: butterslastmeal.com. On New Year's Eve, he's going to eat himself to death, live via webcam. That's what they all want anyway, right? It started as almost a joke, but the next day the comments just keep coming and coming. At school, people come up to him asking if he's for real. The popular kids adopt his cause. He creates a password for the site, and they spread the rumor that it's all a joke. Pretty soon he's sitting at the table with the jocks. They're all discussing what he'll be eating, making bets and almost acting like he's one of the guys. Almost...

As the day approaches, Butter visits his doctor. He needs to find out if eating himself to death is even possible. His diabetes is definitely a factor, and his allergy to strawberries. The doc unwittingly gives him some tips. The days pass and no one tells a teacher, no one tries to stop him, no one asks him if he really wants to go through with it. It's a new form of bullying: egging on the self harm.

His family won't really care. His dad quit talking to him long ago, and his mom only know how to communicate through food. This is better for everyone. He's going to do it. He's made up his mind. Everyone at school has made it clear they aren't going to stop him. Can he really go through with it?

This is a disturbing look at peer pressure, and the lengths we go to fit in. In our media saturated society, our youth are being raised in a world where the internet is the norm. Aesthetics are given a high priority, and in Butter's case, sometimes over a life. Lange writes a believable narrative about a boy in pain, just trying to fit in, and the lengths he's willing to go to do it.

*Library Link*
"My chest went hot. Didn't these guys realize I was going to kill myself? This wasn't a game.
Then it occured to me; maybe they did think it was a game. Maybe they couldn't wrap their brains around the fact that the big kid they'd befriended was actually going to go away. Maybe they thought the whole thing was a joke to begin with, but a crazy enough joke that they admired it and wanted to be friends with the prankster who was pulling it off. Mayber they were just playing along, with menu items and bets and bucket lists, because ButtersLastMeal.com was still the hot topic for everyone who mattered at Scottsdale High.
Maybe," (Lange, pg. 136, 2012).
If you liked this, check out:

Skinny by Donna Cooner
Break by Hannah Moskowitz
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher

Lange, Erin J. (2012). Butter. New York: Bloomsbury.

Boy21 by Matthew Quick

Finley has been playing basketball for as long as he can remember. It's his escape from all the violence and drama going on around him: the gangs, the drugs, the Irish mob. It's even how he met his girl. Most of all, it's his ticket out of this place. He's the starting point guard, and this is his senior year. He may not be NBA material, but he's pretty sure he can at least get a scholarship to a community college. This is his year.

That is until Coach takes him aside and tells him there's something he needs him to do. There's a new boy, Russ, and his parents were killed. He's apparently a hot shot player, scouted by the top schools in the country, and almost certainly bound for a career with the pros. Coach tries to prepare Finley for how things are going to be when they meet, tells him that Russ is taking things pretty hard and he thinks Finley could be a good influence, maybe even a friend. He tells him that Russ likes to be called Boy21.

Nothing could have prepared Finley for the reality: Boy21 greets him with a question. "You are an Earthling?" His room is decorated with constellations of stars. Russ tells Finley that he is a test model sent to Earth to gather information on emotions, and his parents will soon be back to retrieve him. Finley asks him about basketball, and while Boy21 responds that he has been programmed to excel at the sport, he doubts he will be around long enough to play.

When Russ starts school, he's dropped the space act. He follows Finley around like a puppy, though, and Finley isn't sure how he feels about it. He wants to do what Coach says, he always has before, but there's a thought building in the back of his head. If this kid is as good as everyone's saying, Finley just lost his starting position on the team.

When basketball season comes around, Coach starts getting pretty aggressive with Finley about making sure Russ comes to tryouts. Russ isn't showing any interest in playing, and Finley is a little relieved actually. If Russ wanted to play, if Finley was the one having to face losing his position, would he still be making the effort to be his friend? Still be doing what Coach wants him to do? They're tough questions, and he's not very confident about the answers.

Boy21 is a poignant look at friendship and loss, and how we all deal with grief in our own way, in our own time. It also explores the difficulties of growing up in a low-income area, and the pressures kids face just to keep to themselves. Sports has become an outlet for many youth, and this is a great example of using it to grow and become the person that you want to be.

*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Forgive Me Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach
Ball Don't Lie by Matt de la Pena

Quick, Matthew. (2012). Boy21. New York: Little, Brown and Co.

Slide by Jill Hathaway

Sylvia, or Vee, has a secret. While everyone else thinks she has narcolepsy (like, she falls asleep randomly all the time), she really slides into other people's heads. She can see through their eyes. It's not the same as living through them, she can't hear their thoughts or manipulate their body, only see what they can see...and usually it's something she doesn't want. Obviously she has to keep this on the DL, or everyone will think she's cuckoo.

Vee tried telling her dad when she was younger, and his first reaction was to send her to a shrink. That was the last of that! Since then, a lot has happened: her mom died, her friends turned their backs on her, and she made maybe the best friend she's ever had in Rollins...but she still hasn't shared her secret. How could she risk her only friend?

Life seems to be relatively normal until the day she slides into Sophie, her sister's best friend, or thinks she does...but then she realizes she's above Sophie. All she can see is blood, everywhere. If she isn't inside Sophie, who else is there?! The person is holding a knife in her hand, and is looking down on the scene. It can't be Sophie! When the news comes out the next day, her sister is devastated, thinking their cruel prank led to Sophie's suicide. Only Vee knows the truth.

In the midst of all this horror, she finds solace in the arms of the new boy, Zane. With all the people keeping secrets - her father, her sister, Rollins, and even herself - she needs someone to just be there for her without any pretense. She may not be able to be completely honest with him, but at least she knows her feelings for him are real, and that has to mean something.

The killer could be so many people. How is Sylvia going to discover who it could be? Especially when everyone thinks it was suicide? When another girl is killed, Sylvia begins to fear for her sister. The stakes are so high. Can she find a way to control this power and discover the murderer?

*Library Link*
"Something in my pocket pokes me. I pull it out and smooth it against my jeans. It's the page from the calendar that Sophie taped to our door earlier. I start to feel woozy, like I might slide. Oh no. Not again. My vision pulses, and my knees go out, and I fall deep, deep down, into a hole. 
I'm sitting at a white desk, a pad of fancy stationary angled before me. Words crawl like spiders across the page, flowing from the pen in my gloved hand.
Who am I?
And why am I wearing gloves?
The words I'm writing say: I don't deserve this.As I stand I notice the pink walls and the pictures of ballerinas. Sophie's room," (Hathaway pg. 52, 2012).
If you liked this, check out:
Imposter by Jill Hathaway (Slide, Book 2)
Dark Eyes by William Richter
The Diviners by Libba Bray

Hathaway, Jill. (2012). Slide. New York, NY: Balzer + Bray.