Can a middle school gossip queen change her ways, or will she lose her BFF for good? Find out in this M!X original novel.
Maddie Evans prides herself on being the gossip queen of Troy Middle School. She is the first person her classmates go to when they need the latest news on the ins-and-outs of TMS—and Maddie never disappoints.
Her best friend since birth, Vi, isn’t crazy about Maddie’s penchant for passing on rumors, but it’s never been an issue in their friendship. Until the day Maddie lets slip who Vi is crushing on—in front of her crush.
Vi is furious, and she confronts Maddie with an ultimatum: no gossip for 30 days, or twelve years of sisterhood goes down the drain.
Maddie agrees, but only a week into the challenge, she gets one of the juiciest pieces of gossip EVER—something that could affect the future of the school. Will she be able to keep her mouth shut and tame her ways? Or will she be left standing alone with no one to hear her stories?
Stephanie Faris knew she wanted to be an author from a very young age. In fact, her mother often told her to stop reading so much and go outside and play with the other kids. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University she somehow found herself working in information technology. But she never stopped writing. When she isn’t crafting fiction, Stephanie is indulging her gadget geek side by writing for online technology sites. She lives in Nashville with her husband.
The key to being a good gossip is timing. You have to get the story before anyone else and tell everyone you can before it becomes news.
I’m always the girl who knows first. As editor of The Troy Tattler, Troy Middle School’s unofficial gossip newsletter, I consider it my job. I get the scoop, write it up, and hand it out in front of the cafeteria before school. My BFF Vi—short for Vivienne—thinks I’m just asking for trouble. She prefers to stay to herself. But I can’t help but notice she always sticks around whenever I have news to report.
“Kelsey is mad,” I said at lunch. Sydney and Jessica were hanging on my every word. Vi was spooning applesauce into her mouth while pretending not to listen. “Kelsey told Emma in secret that she likes Aiden, but now everyone knows.”
“Wait,” Jessica said, setting down her roll. It landed on her tray with a thunk. “Who likes Aiden?”
“Emma,” Sydney interjected. She rolled her eyes and turned back to me. “Go on.”
“Actually, Kelsey likes Aiden,” I continued. “Emma told everyone. That’s why Kelsey’s mad.”
I didn’t add the words ‘keep up’ because that would be rude, but sheesh. Did I have to draw a road map for these people?
Ooh, what a great idea! I grabbed my pen, opened my notebook and hastily jotted an idea for a cute drawing in the next issue of The Troy Tattler. Maybe it could even become a regular thing. A gossip cycle. I could draw arrows and cartoon stick people to illustrate the whole ‘Kelsey likes Aiden who likes Sarah who likes Trevor’ thing. I wasn’t a very good artist so I might need to get someone to help—
That was Sydney, calling me back to earth. I slapped my notebook shut, set my pen on top, and turned my attention back to my tuna sandwich. We were only allowed thirty-five minutes for lunch so I had to make it count. That meant I had to squeeze at least one piece of gossip in between each bite of sandwich.
Today I’d have to take smaller bites.
“So what’s the deal with the field trip?” Sydney prompted.
Oh, that. I chewed as quickly as I could and swallowed. I needed a drink of water but I had to get this one little piece of info out first.
“It’s still on, but Kelsey’s sitting at the back of the bus.”
Vi shook her head. I saw it out of the corner of my eye. She had to do that, though. It was her job. I gossiped and she played the disapproving best friend. It had been like that since elementary school.
That, in a nutshell, was why Vi and I were so good together. Our moms were in the same room at the hospital when we were being born and we ended up in bassinets next to each other in the nursery. I guess the whole thing bonded our moms to each other because they became BFFs in the way moms become BFFs, which basically means they get together every weekend and talk about mom stuff while telling us to go outside and play so we can’t hear what they’re saying.
Anyway, Vi and I ended up being like sisters. So even though she’s quiet and shy and not at all into being part of the whole gossip thing, she’s still the best friend I’ve ever had. Besides, being friends with me means she gets to hear everything that’s going on before anyone else.
“How on earth do you find out all this stuff?” Jessica asked. I could hear the awe in her voice.
I shrugged. “I’m good” was all I said. That’s all they needed to know.
The truth was, all I did was listen. You’d be amazed what you can find out just by watching and listening. Most of the time, people were surprisingly unguarded about what they said, especially when they were upset. I could stand at my locker and overhear six juicy conversations without even trying.
“So,” Vi broke in, drawing everyone’s attention to her end of the table. “Is everyone ready for the math midterm?”
Midterms. The very subject I didn’t want to talk about right now. It was the biggest exam so far that year and I’d done my best to study. But I’d also been working on the Tattler, which meant splitting my attention between studying and writing gossip. So, the answer was no. I wasn’t ready.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Sydney said. “I want to know what Kelsey thinks sitting at the back of the bus on the way to Four Cedars Park will do. Aiden will be in the front with Sarah—”
“And Emma,” I broke in to say.
“But Aiden likes Sarah,” Sydney corrected.
Vi was the one who said that. We all turned to look at her.
She sighed and set her sandwich down. “Sarah’s going out with Trevor Finn.” She looked at me. “Remember?”
Of course, I remembered. It was the first piece of gossip I’d delivered to the school at large. It was the very thing that had given me the ‘queen of gossip’ title for which I was now unofficially known.
I’d found out about Sarah and Trevor the same way I found out about everything: I paid attention. It was at the spring social, where everyone was more interested in what kind of ice cream was being handed out than what was going on in the bleachers just a few feet away. But I was watching.
Toward the back of the bleachers, I saw Sarah and Trevor talking and holding hands when they thought no one was looking. By the next morning, thanks to me, Sarah Dooley and Trevor Finn were officially a couple.
I consider it a favor, really.
“Can we get back to the exam?” Vi asked, even though she had to know none of us would want to talk about math when the subject of Trevor Finn, the number one cutest guy in seventh grade, was so much more interesting.
“I say we get on the bus before Trevor does and get a seat near him,” Jessica suggested.
“How can we do that?” Sydney asked. “He’s not on there yet, so we won’t know where he’ll sit. Right?”
She looked at me for that last word. I should have an answer for that. They’d expect me to know some dirt on Trevor at this point. I didn’t have anything on him. I made a mental note to try to catch up with him after fifth period to see if I could overhear anything.
“Easy,” Vi said.
Again, we all turned to look at her. She was chattier than usual today. I figured this time she’d start talking about math again.
“Maddie and I have been riding the bus with him since first grade,” Vi began, frowning at her sandwich before setting it down, folding her hands in front of her, and looking at us. “Based on his past behavior, he’ll sit in the front two rows. We’ll be safe by staying in the third row. The second row would be too far forward.”
After a long, awkward silence, Jessica took a deep breath and continued. “So what’s the deal with Travis Fisher?”
That loud gulp we all heard came from Vi’s direction. Jess and Syd turned to look at her, but I kept my gaze firmly planted on the two of them. They weren’t supposed to know Vi liked Travis. It was the one secret I’d been pinky-sworn to since third grade, when he’d rescued her lunch sack from the hands of a couple of bullies and become her real-life superhero. I had a feeling Jessica and Sydney had figured it out, though. The way Vi was always staring at him all moony-eyed when he passed, they’d have to be blind not to have noticed.
“I don’t know anything about Travis Fisher.”
They both turned and looked at me. Hey, at least I’d taken their attention from Vi. Now I had to scramble to come up with something else to say.
“I heard he might be kicked off the football team.” Jessica shrugged. “He has to pick his grades up in history or he’s…”
“History,” Sydney added. They both giggled.
I glanced over at Vi. She was good at disguising what she was thinking, which was completely the opposite of me.
People could read my thoughts right on my face. Kimberly Browning had told me that about Travis in first period, but I’d been keeping it to myself. My goal had been to tell Vi at the right time, but I guess it was too late now. Jessica and Sydney had delivered the bad news in their own cutesy way.
At the end of lunch, Jessica and Sydney took off ahead of us out of the cafeteria, giving me a few much-needed minutes alone with Vi. I had to get a feel for how she was feeling before I rushed off to my next class, otherwise it would be bugging me for the next hour.
“You okay?” I asked as we tossed our trash into the nearby garbage and wove our way through the exiting crowd.
She broke out into a smile and nodded.
I stopped walking and turned to stare at her. “Wait, you’re happy?”
She nodded again, this time even more enthusiastically. Maybe there was some other piece of news I’d missed. I waited for her to clarify. In typical Vi style, though, she just kept walking with that big cheesecake-eating grin on her face. I’d have to dig it out of her.
I chased after her, following her through the cafeteria doors and out into the hallway. If there was one thing I could do well, it was dig information out of people. But Vi wasn’t like ordinary people. Vi was secretive.
All the way to her locker, I tried to get it out of her. She was still smiling, but not talking. I tried guessing, begging, and reminding her that I was her best friend in the whole wide world. Finally it became clear. I’d have to go for bribery.
“Fine,” I snapped, crossing my arms over my chest and leaning against the locker next to hers. “I’ll help you with your room.”
I knew that would do it. Vi lit up. She turned and looked at me, her eyes all sparkly.
“Really? You’d do that?”
She seemed to realize what she’d have to do to get me to do that and deflated a little. Not completely, though.
Decorating was important to Vi. You could say it was her hobby, like The Troy Tattler is my hobby. She somehow turned decorating into smart stuff, though, carefully calculating every square inch of her bedroom and drawing exactly what she’d be doing with that inch. It meant so much to Vi, helping her with her room would be like her writing a column for the Tattler.
I felt a little stab of guilt that I was only offering to help Vi to get some info out of her. But, seriously. We’re talking weeks of listing to words like “geometric design” and “optimized space.” Compared to other people, I was average, but compared to Vi and her ten-ton brain, I was completely clueless.
“Okay,” she agreed. “I’ll tell you. But you can’t tell anyone.”
There was a reason Vi said things like that. One of the downfalls of being the gossip queen of Troy Middle School was that sometimes I got the feeling people didn’t want to tell me things. Actually, it wasn’t even a feeling. People stopped talking when they saw me walking by and even my friends—the people who were supposed to trust me more than anything—would start to say something, look at me, and clamp their mouths shut.
Which is why I had to be extra-good at eavesdropping.
“I don’t tell anyone anything you tell me,” I told Vi. That wasn’t entirely true and she knew it. I just hoped she wouldn’t point out the time I let it slip that she still slept with her childhood teddy bear in front of everyone in gym class.
Luckily, she was too caught up in her excitement to worry about that. She closed her locker and leaned in close to tell me her secret.
“I figure it’s like this.” Vi‘s voice was barely above a whisper. “Travis is off the football team, right?”
I nodded, even though we weren’t sure about that. Sometimes you just had to go with a rumor.
“If he’s off the team, I might have a chance,” Vi said. From the look on my face, she probably got that I wasn’t following. “He might like me back.”
I looked around. The halls were crowded, reminding me just how hard it was to stand out around here. It didn't help that Vi was so shy. She barely talked to anyone but me. Any friends I had became friends of hers, too.
There was no way Travis would just start noticing her, even if he was off the football team.
Which was silly, because Vi was pretty. Even a popular guy like Travis Fisher would like her. If only he knew she existed.
It was like a light bulb went off inside my head. That was my job. As her friend, it was my duty to get through to Travis for her.
I knew she'd freak out if I told her I planned to say something. But I could already imagine the look on her face when I told her he liked her too. At that point, she'd forgive me for giving her secret away.
Tell us a little about 30 Days of No Gossip. What makes Maddie's story so special?
I think gossip is a topic we all grapple with, no matter how old we are. We think it's something that will end once we reach adulthood, but then we find ourselves gathered around the water cooler at the office, talking about our co-workers or last night's episode of our favorite reality show.
Do you think reading 30 Days will cause young girls to stop and think about what they're saying about others?
I do. During the course of the book, Maddie is forced to face some harsh realities about the things she says about other people--and why she says them. When she has information no one else has, people like her. It makes her more popular. But her best friend gives her a real reality check about the things she's saying about other people.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
After nearly two decades of writing books and trying to get them published, I think I've become the poster child for perseverance! Every writer's journey is different, so I think it's important for a writer to follow her own heart and try not to pay too much attention to what other writers are doing. But it's also important to keep trying, no matter how many rejections pile up or how many editors and agents say, "no." It just takes one "yes!"
What advice do you give young readers who want to write someday?
Read, read, read. I know every writer says that, but it couldn't be more true. I'd tell adult authors the same thing! The more we read, the more we are able to learn the basic elements of a story. When you combine avid reading with daily writing, eventually the process of creating a novel becomes to feel natural.
Did you know you wanted to be a writer from a young age?
I always wanted to become a writer, but I wasn't sure I had the talent. Like acting, singing, or painting, natural talent is part of it. You can hone that talent by working hard, but it's important that the natural ability be there. Looking back, though, I was spending more time reading than doing anything else when I was in elementary school. I also began writing poetry when I was twelve. It was bad poetry, but I can look back now and see the passion behind the words I was writing