When Madison and her friends win front-row tickets to see their favorite pop singer, Nikki, in concert, they can’t believe their luck. Nikki just seems so perfect! All the magazines say so. Going to the mall to find the right outfit for the big night should be fun, but Madison’s friend Aimee just doesn’t seem like herself these days. She’s not eating, and she’s grumpy all the time. Getting zits and wearing the coolest outfit doesn’t seem important when Aimee’s health is at risk. Can Madison remind her friend that feeling good on the inside is what makes you look that way on the outside?
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Read an Excerpt
From the Files of Madison Finn, Book 8
By Laura Dower
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2002 Laura Dower
All rights reserved.
"You have the new issue of Blast!" Madison said, grabbing the teen magazine off her friend Fiona Waters's bed. On the cover was Nikki, the most popular pop star all over Far Hills Junior High—and across the globe.
"Oh my God! Isn't she beeee-yootiful?" Madison's other friend Aimee Gillespie said, reaching for the magazine from Madison. "I wish I looked just like this."
In the cover photo, Nikki was wearing an off-the-shoulder striped top, shorts, and glitter makeup. Neon blue streaks striped her hair, and she had on three-inch platform shoes.
"Sure, Aim," Madison said, laughing. "I can just see you painting your hair that color. And those shoes would look good in ballet class."
Fiona giggled. "Read the article, you two. It says that she's dating one of the guys from Jimmy J."
"That's a lie!" Aimee said. "Let me see."
The three friends plopped down onto the carpeted floor in Fiona's bedroom and flipped to the cover story: "Meet Nikki Up Close!" There was a photographic spread with Nikki in different costumes, including some shots from her last concert.
"I love that outfit," Fiona said, pointing to a cropped silver shirt.
"She has a ring on every finger. Just like me," Madison said.
"Nikki was born near Far Hills?" Aimee said, reading the text of the article aloud. "Wow. She is like us. Did you know she lived near here?"
Fiona nodded. "Of course I knew that."
"How could you not have known that?" Madison asked Aimee.
"I don't know," Aimee shrugged. "I'm not a Nikki expert or anything."
"Nikki has the perfect life," Fiona mused. "She's visited something like fifty countries. How cool is that?"
Madison nodded. "She has a movie coming out, too, I think."
"She really has perfect hair," Aimee moaned.
"Come on, you have hair like Nikki's, Aimee," Fiona said.
"Nah, mine isn't as blond as hers. She has a better haircut. And look at her stomach. It is soooo flat."
"You can say that again," Madison said. "I wish I had her stomach. I wish I had her whole body."
"What?" Fiona asked. "What's wrong with your body, Maddie?"
"You mean besides my butt?" Madison chuckled.
"What are you talking about?" Fiona said.
Madison sighed. "Come on, Fiona. Nikki is perfect and ... well ... I'm not exactly ..."
"Maddie!" Fiona cried. "You guys need a reality check. She is not perfect. My dad told me that there are artists who airbrush pictures of celebrities like Nikki so that they look perfect. No one is that perfect."
"I thought you liked her," Madison said.
"I do," Fiona said. "I like her clothes and her songs and her cool life—"
"Come on, Fiona," Aimee grumbled. "We're all just jealous. Admit it."
"Whatever!" Fiona threw her arms into the air and got up off the floor. "I'm going to get something to drink. Does anyone else want a snack?"
"Um, did your mom make any cookies today?" Madison asked coyly.
Fiona's mother, Mrs. Waters, was the Cookie Queen. She baked baskets of gingersnaps and sugar wafers when Fiona and her twin brother Chet had friends over to visit.
"Maddie!" Aimee nudged Madison with her elbow. "How can you eat cookies? You just said you wished you were more like Nikki. Do you think she eats cookies all day? You can't eat that stuff if you want people to notice you."
"What are you talking about? What people?" Madison said.
"People at school," Aimee said. "You know. Guys. Everyone."
"But I like cookies," Madison said.
"I like cookies, too, Maddie," Fiona said. "I'll go see if Mom made any."
Fiona disappeared toward the kitchen to get a tray of snacks, leaving Madison and Aimee alone in her bedroom.
Aimee stood up and walked over to Fiona's bulletin board. It was decorated with photographs, postcards, and a row of colored ribbons Fiona had won over the years playing sports. There was a spring soccer schedule tacked up on the board, too, with dates of upcoming matches.
"No wonder Fiona doesn't stress about her stomach," Aimee said. "She's always playing soccer."
"Well," Madison said. "You do ballet every day."
"Almost every day," Aimee said. "It's not the same."
Madison dropped onto Fiona's bed and bounced lightly. "Let's put on some tunes," she said. Fiona's iPod was in the dock on her nightstand but Aimee clicked on the clock radio instead.
Aimee surfed for a popular local station. The girls often tuned in because the station would give away movie tickets and song downloads to listeners.
A high-pitched voice sang a familiar melody.
And I know
Yes, I do
From the moment we met
Yes, us two
"Oh-em-gee!" Aimee squealed. "It's NIKKI!"
"Turn it up," Madison yelled. The two girls bounced on and off the edge of Fiona's bed, singing every lyric along with the radio.
I wanna be closer still
There's a place in my heart that you fill
I could be what you want
I know this is true
Aimee leaped up and twirled around, striking a pose as if she were singing into a microphone.
Madison fell backward onto the bed, laughing.
"What are you guys doing?" Fiona asked, walking back into the room with a tray of juice boxes and chocolate-chip cookies.
"Nikki's on the radio!" Aimee said, still dancing.
I could be sugar-sweet like you
Fiona smiled. She put the tray down on her night-stand, and the three friends joined together in a circle.
"SUGAR-SWEET!" they squealed as the last chorus ended and Nikki's voice faded away.
"This is Stevie Steves and you're listening to WKBM KABOOM! Far Hills radio," the announcer's voice roared across the airwaves once the song had finished. "And that was sugar-sweet superstar Nikki performing her number-one smash hit 'Sugar Sweet Like You.'"
"I LOVE that song!" Madison said.
The announcer continued. "But that's not all, listeners. Get this! Nikki is coming to Far Hills. Stay tuned for details...."
Madison, Aimee, and Fiona stopped short, jaws open.
"Did he just say—?" Madison gasped.
"Oh-em-gee!" Aimee said.
Fiona sat down on the edge of her bed near the radio. "Shh! Shh! Let's listen and hear what they have to say!"
As the radio commercial finished, Stevie Steves came back onto the radio. "Tune in to win tickets to Nikki right here!"
"SHE'S COMING TO FAR HILLS?" Aimee screeched. "WE CAN WIN?"
"Shh!" Fiona hushed. "My mom will hear us."
Aimee couldn't contain her excitement. She continued to jump around the room.
The three friends looked at each other, sure that Mrs. Waters had heard. Fiona went to open the door, but Chet poked his head inside before she could get there.
"Keep it down in there!" Chet barked. "Quit screaming."
"Get out of my room, dork!" Fiona snapped back, throwing a shoe at the door.
"You're the dork!" Chet shot back, slamming the door behind him.
Madison and Aimee just laughed.
"I'm glad I don't have a brother," Madison said, grabbing a cookie.
Aimee put her hands on her hips. "Yeah, and I have three. Lucky me."
Fiona stuffed a cookie in her mouth too, but Aimee said she didn't want one. "How can you guys eat at a time like this? We have a chance to win tickets to a Nikki concert!"
Madison took another bite. "Mmmmmmm?"
"What does that have to do with anything, Aim?" Fiona said.
The radio announcer came back on with all the contest details. "To win, all you need to do is to call us here at WKBM KABOOM! And if you're the lucky random caller, you may be chosen as a super Nikki ticket winner. That means four tickets for you and your closet friends—plus a special trip backstage to meet Nikki up close!"
"Meet Nikki!" Aimee squealed.
"We could all go!" Madison said.
"This is so exciting!" Fiona cried. "Okay, I'm totally going to call."
Fiona turned down the volume dial on the radio and picked up the phone receiver.
Fiona had her very own phone right there in her bedroom. It was the coolest shade of grape-purple, and Madison loved the rainbow stickers she'd used to decorate the handle.
"Call NOW!" Stevie Steves said.
Fiona dialed the number for WKBM.
"Oh, it's busy," Fiona growled, hanging up and dialing again. Luckily, her phone had a redial button.
But it was still busy.
"Keep trying," Aimee insisted. "Keep trying."
Chet poked his head in the door.
"What do you want?" Fiona yelled.
"Are you on the phone or what? I want to use it," Chet said. "You can't hog it all the time."
Fiona put her hands on her hips. "You have to wait. I'm using it right now."
Madison and Aimee giggled.
"What are you dorks laughing about?" Chet asked, glaring at them.
"GET OUT OF MY ROOM, CHET!" Fiona screeched again.
"If you're not off the phone soon, I'm telling Mom," Chet threatened.
Fiona snarled. "Fine," as Chet walked out in a huff, slamming the door behind him.
Without missing a beat, Fiona picked up the phone and dialed the radio station once again. Still busy. She tried for at least five minutes as Madison and Aimee watched. After hitting redial about a hundred times more, Fiona's eyes grew wide.
"It's ringing!" she squealed, pressing her ear to the receiver. "It's ringing!"
Madison and Aimee leaned in close to see what would happen.
"Did they answer?" Aimee asked.
"Shhh!" Fiona said. Her eyes got even wider. "Hello?"
Madison could hear soft voices on the radio in the background, so she went over to listen. Stevie Steves was about to talk to his tenth random ticket winner of the day.
Aimee covered her mouth with her palms so she wouldn't scream.
"Hello?" Fiona said again. "Yes, I was calling to win Nikki tickets."
She looked like she was about to faint.
"What are they saying? What are they saying?" Aimee asked. She started bouncing on the bed again.
"I WON?" Fiona screeched. "Oh, sorry about that," she apologized to the person on the other end of the phone. "I didn't mean to scream, but did I really and truly win tickets to the concert?"
Fiona listened closely, cheeks flushed. She gave the phone operator her name and then they put her on hold.
"They want me to wait," Fiona blurted to Madison and Aimee. "They said I'm gonna be on the radio in a few minutes. With Stevie Steves!"
The three friends let out an enormous squeal. Fiona almost dropped the phone.
Madison couldn't turn up the radio to hear because that would cause feedback, so she and Aimee leaned in close while Fiona talked on the phone on the other side of the bedroom.
"This is Stevie Steves back again with the winner of the hour," the announcer said. "We have Fiona on the line. Fiona, are you there?"
Fiona froze. She said nothing.
"Fiona, are you there?" Stevie Steves asked again.
Madison and Aimee shot a look in Fiona's direction, which snapped Fiona out of her overexcited trance.
"I'm here," she blurted. "Did I win?"
"You betcha," Stevie Steves said. "So tell me, are you a Nikki fan?"
Before Fiona could even answer, Aimee let out another squeak. Madison did too. Fiona joined in. The announcer heard it all.
"So, you're there with friends?" the announcer asked, chuckling to himself. "Either that or we've got some very large mice in the background there."
"We're all the hugest fans of Nikki in the whole world," Fiona gushed. "Thehugest. Absolutely."
"Well, you and your friends have won tickets to Nikki's exclusive Far Hills concert in two weeks. Stay on the line and our operator will get all your information," he explained. "And listeners, you should stay tuned to WKBM for more great music in the coming hour."
Fiona gave the switchboard at the station her information and hung up the phone. They would have to call back and confirm the win with a parent, since Fiona was under sixteen.
"This is so awesome," Aimee said. "I'm shaking."
"Nobody ever wins tickets," Madison said, hugging Fiona tightly around the waist. "I can't believe you won!"
"We all won," Fiona said, grinning from ear to ear. "And now we're going to our very first concert together."CHAPTER 2
Life is so unfair.
No, Fiona's mother is the one who is sooo unfair.
Today after school, the radio station called Fiona's house to say that YES we'd won the tickets to the. Nikki concert and could we get parental approval? It's some legal thing since we're not sixteen. N e way, Mrs. Waters almost hung up on them! She asked them a zillion dumb questions and Fiona was so embarrassed. We all were. Then Mrs. Waters got madder than mad at Fiona for calling WKBM on the phone so much, especially on a school night. She thought we'd been hanging in Fiona's room doing homework or something.
I think Chet ratted. Geek.
Mrs. Waters thinks we're all too young to go to a concert. THAT IS SO UNFAIR! I really, really hope my mom turns out to be cool about this. WE HAVE TO GO! This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
I hope Aimee has already asked her mom and she is okay w/the idea. If Mrs. Gillespie doesn't think we should go then we're TOTALLY doomed. Mom will probably cave in and do whatever Mrs. Gillespie and the other mothers want to do. Help! I wish there were a way we could convince our parents to let us go.
Rude awakening: Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans. Unfortunately, it's the life that MOMS make up all the rules for.
"Madison! Are you up there?" Mom yelled.
Madison got up from her desk and went to the doorway. "What?" she hollered back.
"I just wanted to tell you that your dad called," Mom said.
"When?" Madison asked.
"About an hour ago. He's still away on business."
Madison let out an enormous sigh. "I was here, Mom. I didn't hear the phone ring. Why didn't you get me?"
"I was on the line with Paul when it beeped," Mom explained, a wide smile growing across her face.
"Oh," Madison said. The lovey-dovey look on Mom's face made Madison squirm.
Mom had just started dating Paul, a coworker from Budge Films. Madison didn't want to hear any of the gory "date" details. It was hard enough getting used to divorced parents on their own, let alone dealing with their brand-new significant others. Dad had been dating Stephanie for a while, and Madison still struggled with the idea of his having a girlfriend. Facing Mom's love life was even worse.
"So how's Paul?" Madison said, trying to be nice.
"He's fine," Mom said. "And he says hello, by the way. Contrary to popular opinion, Paul thinks that you're a good kid. Imagine that?"
"Ha-ha. Very funny. Mom," Madison said, grinning. "Well, say hello back, I guess."
"I will," Mom said, winking. "Now go send your dad an e-mail or something. He said he'd try calling back again later, too."
Madison turned on her heel and headed back to her laptop.
What was the big deal about this film-editor guy anyway? Madison didn't really like the way Paul's name sounded. She also didn't like the fact that Mom kept talking to him when Dad was on the phone.
Everything was SO unfair.
Once upstairs, Madison sat down to send Dad the quick e-mail. Online was the way they communicated best. Dad was the first person who had shown Madison how to use a computer, and he was always finding new Internet tricks and shortcuts to share. He sent her e-mails every other day, too.
Madison logged onto Tweenblurt.com and punched in her password. Then she headed into her e-mailbox, and clicked on NEW.
Date: Thurs 16 May 6:04 PM
Mom said you called but she was on the phone with you-know-who. How are things? I'm sad we couldn't have dinner tonight like we planned, but I understand things come up. You said the meeting might go a day or two longer than you expected so that's cool.
I have a question 4 u: what's your opinion of kids going to concerts? I mean, if I wanted to go to a concert, for example, would you let me go? What if it were a really mellow concert with other kids? I mean, other GOOD kids.
I think you'll say it sounds great, but I wanted to double-check just to be sure.
You would say yes, right?
By the way, I miss you bunches.
Excerpted from Picture-Perfect by Laura Dower. Copyright © 2002 Laura Dower. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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