Gabi is a high school senior and the story deals with lots of things high schoolers deal with...sex, school, relationships, looks...but Gabi is overweight (the book doesn't say how overweight she is but Gabi considers herself to be fat). She thinks about and talks a lot about food and it's this relationship that I found so relatable - although I think the way Gabi is brought up believing that even thinking about sex makes her a bad girl is probably relatable to many.
The first line that struck a chord with me was:
" My baby brother is different. He doesn't say much, but he feels a lot of anger and sadness, and he can't scream it out loud or eat through it like I do."My "little" brother is really tall and super skinny and can't gain weight if he tries. He doesn't eat his feelings (he eats tons but not to drown feelings...he has other unhealthy ways of doing that) like I'm prone to do.
Gabi often turns to food to deal with her feelings:
"I tried not to cry. And was able to wait until I got into my room and shut the door. I pulled some Kit-Kats from my underwear drawer and chewed my heartache away."And she gets excited about food:
"However, I did say something like, "Oh my God, Martin! It'd be cool to work on poetry with someone else. And I have some really good beef jerky we can snack on!" Which now that I think about it, sounds pretty awkward and creepy. Who gets excited about snacking on beef jerky, no matter how good it is? Me, that's who. And only me."Being a vegetarian, I don't get excited about beef jerky but I do completely understand being super excited about a food item which, to most, would not be something about which to get super excited.
Anyone who struggles with using food to deal with feelings will relate to this one:
"I have to do something to feel better. Right now though, this box of Thin Mints will have to do."And Thin Mints are vegan!! Not that there aren't many, many, many reasons not to eat them but...
Like many people to struggle with weight and body image issues, Gabi seems to think that her weight dictates parts of her life that really have nothing to do with the number on the scale. Like her intelligence. As if fat girls aren't just as smart as skinny ones:
"Me. The Mexican fat girl. Accepted to Berkeley!"
Almost anyone who truly enjoys food has felt something similar to this about some food item...be it really good dark chocolate or tacos or, if you're one of those people, roasted Brussel sprouts :)
"Tacos are like what the voices of a hundred angels singing Bob Dylan while sitting on rainbows and playing banjos would taste like if that sound were edible."
Moderation is not something everyone is good at (whether your vice is food or alcohol or running or whatever it might be):
"Not only did I have seconds but also thirds, they were so good. I immediately regretted eating all of that gordita goodness after I spoke with Cindy on the phone. She called to see if I wanted to go prom-dress shopping with her this weekend because it was getting close, and she didn't have any idea what she would be wearing. How am I supposed to fit into any sort of non-muumuu dress after all that food? Ugh!"
I love her description of clothing sizes. Most of us don't fit the exact standards to which clothes are designed. Some of us are super short but not super slim while others are exactly as tall as a size 10 jeans but have chunky legs or extra booty or whatever it is. Clothes shopping is super frustrating for almost everyone I know.
"None of the dresses I liked were available in plus sizes: they only came in "I-limit-myself-to-only-one-gordita" or "I-only-eat-lettuce" sizes. That's the main reason I hate shopping."
Even when we try to do what we know is "better" for us, sometimes our old comfort habits are still what make us feel the best:
"Went for a run, but the ice cram I ate afterwards helped a lot more."
I don't consider myself to be the "fat girl." I carry a few more pounds than I would like but regardless, YES to this...yes, yes, yes:
"Never ask the fat girl if she is hungry. She's always hungry. Even if she's not, she is, because food is safe and controllable and soothing and salty and sweet, and it doesn't scream at you or make you feel bad unless you are trying on clothes."
So many people struggle with the enemy of the mirror thanks to society's constant bombardment of "perfect" images and what we need to do to be "perfect" and why we're failing at being "perfect." Ever left the house thinking everything was good and then caught a glimpse of yourself in a mirror or window and had an avalanche of terribly self-negative thoughts crash into your head?
"How would that be. I don't think I want him to see me naked, I mean, eww gross. Sometimes I don't want to see myself naked. Sometimes the mirror is my enemy."
Ahhh....if only we all felt this way most, if not all, of the time! If only we felt like it was okay to be happy being ourselves. If only we didn't feel like we always have to be striving for that impossible perfect.
"At that moment I wasn't too fat, I wasn't too white, I wasn't bad, I was just me."
I absolutely LOVE that she wants her brain's vacation to include eating pizza!!
"This is the thing with me: as soon as I start thinking about something, I can't let it go. It's exhausting. I wish I could just turn my brain off and let it take a small vacation - near the beach, drinking lemonade and eating pizza."
A world without cheese...
"The thing about being a fat girl is that bathing suits are at the top of your list of nightmares--along with diabetes, too-small leggings, pants that give you camel toe, underwires in a bra and a world without cheese."
Body image issues can overwhelm a person...sometimes to the point of them not leaving the house or always sitting on the sidelines watching everyone else enjoy themselves. If I wear pants I'll be uncomfortable because it's too hot. If I wear shorts I'll be uncomfortable because my thighs rub together. Being comfortable should not be difficult.
Maybe you won't get in the pool with your kids because you don't want to wear a bathing suit and listen to people call you Olive Oil and ask if your boyfriend likes spinach.
Or maybe you don't fly to your sister's wedding in Hawaii because you don't want the embarrassment of asking for the seat belt extender.
Perhaps you just had a baby and feel like you haven't lost enough of the baby weight and none of your clothes fit right.
It might be that your finances don't allow you to buy new clothes and you don't want to be judged for wearing outdated fashions.
Could be that you tried giving yourself a new hair color and it turned out all wrong and you can't stand the thought of anyone seeing it.
There are so many reasons why we judge ourselves and assume others are judging us. It's often difficult to feel comfortable in our own skin. It can be hard not to watch our coworker eat French fries every day and be jealous of the fact that she stays so slim without working out. Or to see someone walk into a store, buy a pair of pants off the rack and have them fit perfectly without having to pay an extra $8 per pair to get them hemmed shorter. For my brother, it's frustrating for him when people pick on him for being so skinny that his ribs and hip bones stick out.
"The other thing about being fat is that you spend too much damn time worrying about being fat and that takes time away from having fun."I'm working on getting out there and having fun and without worrying about whether I have on the right outfit (I probably don't but I rarely go shopping (because I hate it) and don't think I have much of a fashion-sense anyway) or feeling like I should be foregoing the gelato or the chocolate or the pasta or whatever it is. I need to be me, as I am right now; not as I think I "should" be.
This book dealt with a lot of things that weren't food-related and I think a lot of people (it's a YA book but I believe adults can connect with it as I did) will have things in common with Gabi. It's a really fast read and I think Quintero did a great job making Gabi such a relatable character with real flaws and real struggles and even if the ending was a tiny bit cheesy (of course they both got accepted and will go together even though chances are they won't stay together long because it's college and people change a lot) I loved the book and it will probably end up being one of the few books I read over and over and over.