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“I always had this idea that love was choosing to take care of someone—not just family, but friends, too,” Tally Martin. —Everything I Know About You
Everything I Know About You
by Barbara Dee
Thirteen-year-old Talia “Tally” Martin, along with her class and her friends Sonnet and Caleb “Spider,” is going to Washington, D.C. for a class trip. Only there’s one catch: the teachers are assigning rooms, and Tally, Sonnet, and Spider end up rooming with their least favorite classmates. This means that Tally and popular girl Ava are roommates, and neither is happy about the situation.
As Ava and Tally are forced to spend time together, Tally notices Ava’s strange habits—working out all the time and at weird hours of the night, rarely eating, and her scribbling in a notebook. When Tally confronts Ava about her odd behavior, Ava threatens to blackmail Tally. Tally struggles to decide if being a good friend means telling a secret she promised to keep.
Everything I Know About You deals with topics such as body image, eating disorders, and what it means to be a good friend. Tally is unflinchingly honest, and her straightforward view of the world sometimes clashes with the people around her. Although Tally is a deeply loyal friend, she is also jealous when Sonnet and Spider befriend their roommates, who they once hated. Despite her flaws, Tally grows as a person, and through her experiences and interactions with her roommate, Ava, Tally gains a more nuanced understanding of the people around her and her deepening friendships.
The main event hovering around the edges of the book is Ava’s eating disorder, although Tally doesn’t articulate it as such in the beginning. However, Ava’s struggles are present throughout, and Barbara Dee does a good job presenting the issue through Tally’s eyes as well as the eyes of the other students and Ava’s mom. Although Tally doesn’t make any connections between Ava’s eating disorder and Ava’s mother’s obsession with public image and weight, Dee added these elements to give more context to Ava’s life. In addition, the supporting characters—Ava’s mom, Spider, Sonnet, and Ava herself—are interesting and complex. The strengths of Everything I Know About You are the subtle details that Tally glosses over but that the reader can still recognize, like the details about Ava’s mom, or the fact that another boy on the trip, Marco, clearly has a crush on Tally, even if Tally herself doesn’t notice it initially.
Everything I Know About You is an intelligent book that addresses eating disorders. Tally and her classmates have other struggles and strengths, which make the discussions about eating disorders and body image more nuanced. Everything I Know About You captures a multi-faceted slice of the middle school experience, and young preteens and teens will learn the importance of loving yourself, including your flaws.
- According to Tally, “some dumb relative told [Spider’s mom] that if [Spider] kept hanging around with me, he’d ‘turn gay,’ like you could catch it from being friends with girls.”
- Sonnet thinks that another student, Marco, likes Tally. Tally responds with, “Don’t be preposterous.”
- Sonnet later asks Tally if Tally thinks Marco is cute. Tally responds with, “Maybe a little,” but she is still angry that Marco bullied Spider so badly the previous year. It is also clear from her constantly asking that Sonnet might also think that Marco is cute.
- Marco seems to like Tally, though Tally has no idea. He often blushes when speaking to her, and one time she “saw Marco staring at [her] hair, as if bun-making were a complicated math problem he wanted to watch me solve.”
- Tally starts to have a crush on Marco. Now, like Marco, her “cheeks flush” when she sees him. She admits that he’s “preposterously cute.”
- Sonnet passes cookies to Trey and Marco, two bullies sitting in the bus seats behind Sonnet and Tally. Tally “kicked [Sonnet] in the shin” as a response.
- The previous school year, Tally’s friend Spider “was bullied so much he had panic attacks.”
- Spider and Tally have been friends since childhood, and other kids would often bully Spider and take his toys. Tally recounts that “I’d have to get [Spider’s things] back for him. Even if it meant punching the kid.”
- Tally spends half of a chapter describing the harassment that Spider endured. For instance, two of the bullies often left Spider “gifts” of dead spiders, causing Spider to have panic attacks, and he’d “start gasping and wheezing.”
- One day, Tally “punched Trey in the mouth” because she caught him and Marco bullying Spider. Tally received a two-day suspension, but she “didn’t care. The bullying had stopped, and Marco even apologized, for Trey and for himself.”
- At the buffet, Trey says that he’s going to eat until it’s “coming out of [his] eyeballs.” Another student then slaps his arm and tells him not to be disgusting.
- Trey suggests that they leave Spider at the hotel. Then Marco “punched [Trey’s] arm and told him to shut up.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- In lieu of swearing, Tally prefers to say, “Oh, bleep” as a stand-in phrase.
- Tally refers to a group of popular girls in her grade as “clonegirls.”
- Ava tells Tally that the rest of the grade cares about spirit day, to which Tally responds, “The rest of you can stuff it.”
- Mean language is used often. Language includes suck, dumb, weird, omigod, stupid, idiot, jerk, ignorant, and freak.
- Tally calls a rom-com that her classmates want to watch “ultra-insipid.”
- Tally says that “this whole ‘class unity’ thing is a pile of dog poop.”
- Tally is unusually tall for her age, recalling how she stood at “five foot eight” in sixth grade. As there is intense discussion of body image and eating disorders in this book, it is important to note that even Tally acknowledges her tall size often and that Ava makes fun of her for it. Tally notes that “Mom told me I was ‘big-boned,’ but I was muscly, too, with a squishy belly and a big butt.”
- Ava tells Tally that she doesn’t eat sweets because there are too many carbs, and Tally laughs and calls her a “stick.”
- Spider’s mom, Mrs. Nevins, makes comments about Tally’s body to Tally’s mom when they think Tally isn’t in the room. Mrs. Nevins says, “Some of the cute styles the girls are wearing must look so wrong on her. You know, with her body type.” This comment infuriates both Tally’s mom and Tally.
- While at dinner, the clonegirls spend the majority of dinner talking about how “fat” they’ll get eventually and the food that they’re eating. For instance, Haley says, “Seriously, you guys, I’m just squish. My arms are balloons, my hips bulge out, and my belly is, like, disgusting. This summer I had to throw out all my favorite skinny pants.” This conversation lasts for several pages.
- Ava tells Tally that Nadia is “pre-fat” This term is never clarified, but it seems to refer to Nadia as not being fat yet.
- Ava has an eating disorder. This is detailed throughout the book, with her eating very little at dinner one night, working out compulsively, and Tally even describes Ava as “emaciated.” Tally doesn’t have the vocabulary initially to describe what she and her classmates are seeing, but Ava’s eating disorder is clearly lined out in the book’s details.
- Tally says that she’s not feeling well enough to go to a baseball game, and Trey says, “What’s wrong with you, Tally? You got your period?” Marco then tells Trey to “shut up.”
- Tally calls Trey a “microbe” because of his period joke.
by Alli Kestler