423. No, sadly that’s not Fitbit telling you how many steps you have been taken today. That number represents cold hard pounds. It is hard to imagine having to wake up to see that number on the scale, but it’s an everyday occurrence for “Butter,” an overweight teenager who is just trying to fit in while being true to himself. He wants to live a normal life where he can talk to people and play his saxophone without everyone fleeing because of what he looks like, but also can’t seem to give up his favorite foods. The plot of this book is that Butter is going to eat himself to death on New Year’s Eve. He has diabetes and allergies so he plans to kill himself by eating all these terrible things. He makes a website where he’ll broadcast his live death, and that’s how he gains the attention of the popular guys. Overall, the book Butter by Erin Jade Lange taught and changed my feelings about identity and peer pressure. My original understanding of the two was that you just had to be yourself and if people didn’t like that then you could always do something to appear to be different. But the one thing that I failed to understand was that my circumstances aren’t the same as other people’s, and for Butter, he gets bullied worse than I ever knew was possible.
Identity is something that we all have struggled with in the past or even right now. With different “popularity classes,” there sometimes isn’t a choice on what your identity is in other people’s eyes. Even though only we know the most about ourselves, we tend to go along with what other people think. This relates so much to my life and yours too. Think about how many times you straightened up your posture or fixed your hair when someone important walked past today. Even though that slouchy, messy yet comfortable person is who you are, you fixed it thinking to impress someone else’s standards. This is a little different for Butter. He can’t just suck in 423 pounds and pretend it’s nothing. So when he was in the cafeteria and decided to get up and stick up for a girl he liked that was being mistreated, everyone laughed at him. He isn’t seen as someone formidable because his flaws are easy to spot. That’s what got the gears turning in my brain, and opened my eyes to see that sometimes you can’t change who you are and your identity depending on who’s listening. This could take a serious toll on someone because they will feel like they’re not good enough even though everyone else just has the natural habit to conform. This idea of conforming your identity to what the majority believes reminds me of the book Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau. The book revolves around the idea that no matter what you want to do as your field of study, it gets chosen for you and you accept it and move on. In our world, instead of jobs it’s identity. And instead of the government picking who we are, it’s society. The only question I’m left with is why things haven’t changed in our society that much even after inspiring books like Butter are published.
Peer pressure is also a really big part in our society, and is one of the main reasons why people do what they do. When Butter starts hanging out with Trent and Parker and some other popular guys, he slowly realizes that the website about him killing himself has to go through otherwise those guys would make him even more of a laughing stalk. I always thought that if someone pressures you to do something you don’t want to, you can always say no, but if Butter says no he will lose the only friends he has made in a long time. All that hope and acceptance will be gone, leaving Butter back at his original state. All this peer pressure being put on him is making him do things he would never do, but he would do it all for the satisfaction of knowing that he made some friends, even if they’re fake. This really shows me a lot about peer pressure because I didn’t know someone could want someone to be their friend that badly that they would do stupid things like what Butter did.
So there you have it, plain as butter. The book Butter by Erin Jade Lange changed my perspective on what the meaning of identity and peer pressure is. From being what other people want to see, to being unable to change and how that reveals weakness. I hope you liked what you read, and feel free to agree or disagree with what I said by commenting!