Google+ YA Romantics: Just Finished Reading ... Butter AND Skinny

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Just Finished Reading ... Butter AND Skinny

Butter by Erin Jade Lange and Skinny by Donna Cooner  -- each book is about a morbidly obese teen with musical talent. Each of these characters faces bullying, self-hatred, and some very difficult choices.

Butter
by Erin Jade Lange
Published by Bloomsbury Children's
on September 18, 2012

Source: e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. See my FTC disclosure here.





My summary: Butter is a gifted saxophone player. He has a crush on Anna, a girl at his school. He also weighs 423 pounds. Anticipating Anna's rejection, he carries on an internet relationship with her disguised as a private school kid named JP. He fears he'll never be able to lose weight or have the life he wants, so he creates a website devoted to his plan to eat himself to death on New Year's Eve. The popular kids at school get wind of his plan and, unsure if he's serious or just trying to get attention, they begin to cheer him on.

My take:  Like this book's premise, Butter is both horrifying and fascinating.

The thing I liked most about this book was its moral complexity. There's a lot of subtle commentary here about modern technology, about the uneasy relationship between voyeurism and entertainment, about the fine line between a supportive relationship and an undermining one.

To me,  Butter was not a book with obvious heroes and villains. Butter's online relationship with Anna is sad but also cuts two ways.Yes, Butter is totally and completely delusional to think that a gorgeous, popular girl would ever give him the time of day in real life. On the other hand, why is gorgeous, popular Anna in a relationship with a guy who will never meet up with her, never talk to her on the phone, never fully reveal himself to her? Clearly, Anna has her own issues. Although I would have loved to have seen these explored a bit more in the book, this is really Butter's story.

Given reality TV and the fact that so much of teens' social lives takes place on the internet, Butter's website to chronicle his own suicide is both ghoulish and apt. At first, I wasn't sure whether his site was a cry for attention or a cry for help. Until the very end of this book, I wasn't sure how things were going to turn out.

Butter is way more than just a book about a kid with weight issues -- this is a thought-provoking book that still has me pondering the way technology influences our self-image and our relationships with others.



Skinny
by Donna Cooner
To be published by Point/Scholastic
on October 1, 2012

Source: received an ARC from the publisher at BEA (Book Expo America.) Link to FTC statement above.




My summary:  Ever, a talented singer, is certain that she'll never play the lead in the school musical, never get asked out on a date, never have the life she dreams about. Ever weighs over 300 pounds. After she makes the decision to undergo bariatric surgery, Ever begins a new stage in her life.

My take: I had the impression that this book was about an overweight girl struggling with "Skinny," a voice inside her head that undermines her self-esteem and self-image. I was intrigued -- I mean, what girl or woman doesn't have that voice, the one that tells her she's not smart enough, not pretty enough, not good enough? That voice is part of this book, but Skinny is mainly a book about one girl's experience with gastric bypass surgery.

Ever's decision to have surgery felt a little rushed to me. Yes, Ever seems to have a genetic predisposition to be overweight. But Ever also watched her mother die of cancer, then gained fifty pounds in a short period of time. When she goes to the doctor to discuss the possibility of surgery, he asks fifteen year-old Ever how many calories are in a Big Mac, lectures her father on the dangers of obesity, then hands over the consent forms -- which her father signs. Done. I was a little surprised that the issue of therapy never seemed to come up -- at least in the ARC version of this book.

That aside, while Butter presents a guy's experience of being overweight, Skinny does an excellent job of portraying female characters' insecurities. Skinny does acknowledge the fact that normal weight women have issues too. Ever's stepsister Briella is deeply hurt by the fact that her father doesn't make time to have a relationship with her.

While I liked Skinny, at times I felt that the book's many Cinderella themes (Ever's name, her stepmother and stepsisters, the fact that her school is putting on a production of Cinderella, Ever's big makeover for a school dance) felt heavy-handed. Ever has the surgery, gets whisked off to the mall for a haircut and some new clothes, and suddenly, all her dreams start coming true.  It's great to be healthy, but losing weight isn't like the wave of a fairy godmother's wand -- it doesn't magically fix every problem.

These two books presented different and interesting viewpoints on teen obesity. I think Butter and Ever are characters that a lot of us can relate to -- people who just wish that others could see and appreciate them as they really are.

36 comments:

  1. I keep seeing Butter everywhere, but I'm still not sure whether I want to read it or not...
    The whole idea of eating yourself to death is just so morbid.

    And I'm not a huge fan of retellings, but Skinny sounds interesting.

    Thanks for the great reviews! :)

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    1. I hadn't thought of Skinny as a Cinderella retelling, but you know, it sort of is!
      I can't figure out how to comment on your blog -- do you allow comments? Anyway, I did stop by :)

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  2. I was so freaked out by the idea of Butter eating himself to death that I skipped past that book when I saw it up on Netgalley. I can't wrap my mind around that concept.

    Skinny sounds more to my taste, given my deep adoration of Cinderella retellings although I'm not thrilled about some of the points you brought up (like how losing the weight seems to magically make everything better).

    Great idea to contrast these two reads!

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    1. It did seem like a perfect match-up. I really liked Butter -- the eating part wasn't the main part of the story.

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  3. WOW, that is crazy! This sounds like a really good book! I can't believe this guy plans to eat himself to death, I may have to pick this book up I'm really curious. Great review!

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    1. It's a really interesting book. Let me know what you think!!

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  4. Great reviews, Jen! These two books are high on my wishlist! I cannot wait to read them. And what a great idea to include them both together -- hopefully you read something light afterwords. These are definitely heavy topics!

    Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hope you enjoy them -- let me know what you think!

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  5. Awesome reviews!! My review for Butter went up today too. I have noticed how most people who have read the book are surprised at the depth of the book. I know I was. I haven't read Skinny, but it sounds really good too.

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  6. Wow awesome reviews Jen and these two books hit on some tough subjects...I am excited about the depth these tales offer.

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  7. I have Skinny but, I still haven't read it. I definitely think it's a tough subject but, I also think it's an important one, with the issue of obesity in the U.S. I think that it will really give teens that read them someone to relate to and maybe even help them which I think is an amazing thing for a book to do, can't wait to read Skinny, really great review of both!

    Kristin @ Young Adult Book Haven

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    1. I agree -- I think a lot of people will be able to relate to these characters!

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  8. Both books seem like stories a opt very relevant and important social issues. Skinny does seem a bit far-fetched, at least the rush to surgery, and I'm not sure about all the Cinderella aspects. Butter seems like a very hard-hitting story that I would enjoy.
    Thanks for the great reviews!

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    1. After that part of Skinny, the book did a great job of showing what life is like after surgery -- the special diet, etc. I learned a lot!

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  9. Loved your a review, but I have to say the concept of Butter sort of grosses me out. I'm not quite sure I'd be able to read it. It does sound good though.

    I'm not quite sure how I feel about Skinny. I know someone who's had gastric bypass surgery and it definitely wasn't like waving a magic wand for him. I do like the idea of showing the character's insecurities though. Everyone has insecurities. Fat, skinny, rich, poor. So it's nice that Skinny talks about it.

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    1. Try Butter -- there's really not that much time spent on that aspect of the book. It's really more about the character and his struggles.

      As for Skinny, it did show the physical and dietary difficulties that the character faced after surgery, which was very interesting.

      And I agree -- everyone has insecurities!

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  10. Interesting and insightful, as both books seem to be two sides of the same coin. Honestly, I'd enjoy reading them both. Although, that said, I think Butter would be the more powerful, impacting book (and sad).

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    1. I loved that -- the books were a great pairing. I really enjoyed them!

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  11. Both of these books sound pretty interesting to me, possibly because they could be true. Butter sounds kind of scary, having somene eat themselves to death? *shudder* I'm very curious about the ending to that..

    Skinny sounds equally interesting. I like how you grouped these two books together because they are similar in a way, but not.

    On a side note, I know someone who recently had the gastric bypass surgery and her experience was similar to Ever's. I think when you're willing to pay for it, it's easier to get it done. She has lost over 50lbs and looks great (she also excercises a lot), BUT I also know someone who started weight watchers at the same time who's lost 70lbs through excercise and watching what she eats. So I don't think that going straight to the surgery is the answer all the time.

    Still, it sounds like these books would make you think! Great reviews Jen!

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    1. Losing that much weight is really hard, no matter which path you take, and I think both of these books make that very clear.

      These books both did make me think a lot! I recommend them both :)

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  12. AwESOME review, Jen! I like that you paired these up. I have a copy of Skinny an really wanted to get a copy of Butter, so I'm glad to read your take on the two.

    fave part of your review:

    "I think Butter and Ever are characters that a lot of us can relate to -- people who just wish that others could see and appreciate them as they really are."

    I LOVE books that tackle real life issues like this. Can't wait to read them and weigh in:)

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    1. It was really interesting to read them together. The male/female perspective on being overweight was particularly fascinating. Butter doesn't take much responsibility for his situation, and Ever feels completely responsible.

      Hope you love them both!

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  13. I really want to read Butter! I read Skinny (one of the many, many books I still need to review!), and while I liked it, I didn't think that it focused enough on the drawbacks to weight loss surgery. A lot of it felt glossed over. But I did like the battle with the inner voice, because we all have one, and she's a bitch!

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    1. I'm sure that surgery is the right choice for many people. But since Ever is only 15 and was definitely an emotional eater, I just wished that I'd felt that she and her father had explored all other options first. Maybe they did. (Yes, I'm talking about them like they really exist. I feel that way about book characters.)

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  14. Butter looks so interesting! At first I was a little repulsed by the whole 'eating myself alive' thing, but now I'm really excited to read it! And I'm glad to hear it was thought provoking. :)

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    1. That part is not really graphic nor a huge part of the book. It's more an idea in his head. So give it a try!

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  15. I can't see myself reading either of these. They both sound so depressing to me. I may be very wrong, but they do.

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    1. Well, they're difficult subjects, but honestly, I didn't find them depressing. And I share your feelings about depressing books, I really do!

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  16. I meant to read Skinny already darn it! I was really surprised when Kate told me that she had the gastric bypass surgery. I think when you are only 15 there are lots of other things that should be tried first. I still want to read it though and I hope to get to it soon!

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    1. That part of it did seem a little rushed -- maybe that was changed in the finished copy? I just wish the book had shown her working as much on her inside self as her outside self, you know?

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  17. I am dying to read Butter. I have Skinny, but not sure if it's for me... I've seen a number of people have gastric bypass done and most of them are just as messed up afterwards as they were before. I'm not sure I can get down with this book.

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    1. I do think that feeling good about yourself is important and being healthy is important. But if a person overeats for emotional reasons, surgery doesn't fix that. The book did give a lot of information of what it's like to have the surgery, which I found very interesting!

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  18. Butter sounds sad and weird. I would thin parents and the school would get involved if they knew a student was trying to eat themselves to death on the internet. Okay yes I expected Skinny to be a bit different. More of an internal struggle. And like you said surgery is not something doctors sign over night. My aunt had the surgery and they only agree after you have tried for years to diet and exercise and it is just not working. Then there are a ton of meetings and discussions about how the surgery affects your life forever. It is a huge decision. And if she gained weight after her mom died that does show other issues that need to be addressed. Being skinny does not solve all problems indeed.

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  19. I own Skinny but have yet to read it. Hoping to get to it soon!!! :)


    P.S. I entered your giveaway for books coming out this week, and for the entry where we can comment on a book review, I put The Blessed in, but then realized you hadn't reviewed it. So this is my extra entry instead. Btw, I'm Emily, and I blog as Emily@Emily's Crammed Bookshelf

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