Say It Out Loud – Allison Varnes
The gum sinks into Ben Hooper’s red hair with a wet thwack, and the entire bus falls silent. Well, okay, everyone except for Tristan and Josh, who laugh and high-five each other a few seats back. Maddie gasps next to me. I can’t believe they actually did it. Tristan and Josh were mean in elementary school, but they’re even worse as sixth graders. Middle school might as well be another planet, and it’s only week two. Everything is bigger now—the school, the classes, and especially the kids. But not Ben, who’s exactly the same size as he was last year. He reaches behind his pale, freckled neck and pulls the gob forward, stretching long, pink strings across his shoulder. “What is this?” he cries, turning in his seat. The country radio station crackles over the speakers.