Butter by Erin Jade Lange

It’s been way too long since I’ve read a book of fiction, so when I got Butter, I devoured it (hah) in one evening.  This was not just because of my fiction-fast, but because the book is really good.  I loved the themes of popularity desperation, the nuanced portrayal of bullying, and the dissection of eating disorders and obesity.

I don’t know if I’ve ever read a YA book from the perspective of an obese teenager.  I liked that Butter was a typical teenage boy in a lot of ways – crushing on the cute girl, making friends at summer camp, desperate for attention.  I also liked that he’s a saxophone player (like I was!), and that his musical talent is central to the plot.  Butter’s relationship with the kids at school is where the big drama is, but we also get to see the way his obesity affects his family, his teachers, and his doctors.  Lange doesn’t blame Butter for his weight, but she also doesn’t hold back from showing the consequences of being young and overweight.

I can see this book being hugely influential for those who read it.  There has been an uptick in discussion on fat shaming culturally, and I hope books like Butter encourage readers to be empathetic toward overweight people.  And I hope it encourages readers who are overweight, that they will feel understood, validated, and inspired.   Continue reading

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I Was Here by Gayle Forman

WOW.  What a necessary book.  I feel like there is decent representation of depressed and suicidal teens in YA books, but there are not very many novels that deal with the affects of suicide on others.  Cody’s grief over losing her best friend Meg is palpable–the anger at her friend for killing herself, the blame she places on herself for not seeing it coming, and the slow hope of moving forward by finding her own strength.  I thought I Was Here did a wonderful job of honoring the mental illness and pain of those who commit suicide without ever glorifying or justifying the action.

There’s really not much to say about this book other than Read It.  It handles a difficult topic with delicacy, is full of memorable characters (and kittens!), and creates a vivid picture of a part of the country I’ve never experienced (rural Washington).  Most of all, it is a hopeful story.  It is about a girl who loses what she loves the most…and continues to live.  It is about the brave task of living one day at a time.  I adored it.  Continue reading