Everything I Know About You is the perfect title for Barbara Dee’s story of an unlikely friendship that must first survive the misguided first-impressions that middle schoolers assign each other. Tally, a headstrong “mother bear” of her friends, has always been bigger than the other kids. Therefore, she has felt an obligation to protect those she cares about, especially her best friends, Spider and Sonnet. Following Tally’s lead, the trio of friends actively avoids contact with the “clonegirls” and two boys who bullied Spider years ago.
When the class sets off on their special seventh-grade field trip to Washington D.C., Tally quickly realizes that the roommate pairings are strategic—the teachers grouped kids who hadn’t previously gotten along, including Tally and her own roommate, Ava. And nothing in D.C. is as it was at home; Sonnet is enjoying the company of the clonegirls, Spider is getting closer to one of the boys who had once teased him, and Tally’s roommate, clonegirl-supreme Ava Seely, apparently doesn’t come by her natural style and petite figure easily. Tally finds Ava’s mother to be overbearing, but at least she too has noticed that her daughter isn’t eating very much at meals. Tally sets out to find the truth and help Ava, but she also might find out things she never knew about herself either.
Dee’s story of friendship and family confronts some of the most complicated lessons a middle schooler must learn, including the knowledge that people can change and our peers are more complicated than the stereotypes we assign to them. Everything you know about someone might only scratch the surface of who they really are.
I loved some of the lessons from Everything I Know About You. While so many contemporary narratives are content to leave stereotypical characters frustratingly simple, Dee’s book tells the story of a girl who discovers that the students she’d been despising weren’t so different from herself. The plot was full of action and turning-points, such as the hair-dye incident or the backstage tour, that made the book a short read (I read it in less than two days). But while there is a fair amount of excitement, the storyline is cohesive, and the emotions and actions of the protagonist feel realistic for a seventh-grader. Tally confronts the very real problem of Ava’s anorexia and learns that some secrets are meant to be told. Because the impulsive decisions Tally makes frustrate me as a high-school-age reader, I would recommend this book for only middle-schoolers, who will relate to the characters better anyway. I would give this book five out of five stars for the original plot, growing characters, and important lessons of friendship and life.