Mama Diaries

Friday, May 15, 2020

Guest Author, Stephanie Faris and The Popularity Code

Today I have a special guest, Stephanie Faris at my place talking about her new release, The Popularity Code.

Hi, Stephanie! Welcome to my pad! 

Tell us about your latest book, The Popularity Code.

The Popularity Code focuses on an app called SlamBook, which allows students to anonymously post comments about each other online. Many of the comments are mean, which puts the main character, Faith, in a tough position. She figures out how to hack into the app and see who’s posting what, but she doesn’t know what to do with the information.

Online bullying is such a relevant topic for toady’s middle-grade kids. What do you hope they’ll take away after reading your book?

We seem to think that bad-mouthing others is a way to bond with others and win over friends. But those words have consequences. I would hope that readers would see that even when they’re posting anonymously, there’s someone at the other end of those messages, and words have consequences.

Without giving away too much of the story, tell us who your favorite character in the book is and your least favorite and why.

My favorite is always my main character. In this case, I really admire Faith’s determination to become a successful computer programmer. My least favorite is Janelle, the popular best friend. I started out rooting for her, but in the end, she’s half the person Faith is.

What challenges, if any, did you encounter when writing The Popularity Code?

That’s easy! The biggest challenge was writing a story where most of the action happens online. I had no idea how challenging that would be. I had to find ways to describe what was happening through the characters’ reactions, rather than just showing what was on the screen.

Do you have any advice for authors who write middle-grade stories?

So much of a person’s life at that age is tied into friendships. The way we all navigate those relationships at that age sets the stage for how we’ll handle relationships later in life, I think. Most of the best middle-grade books have friendship at their core.

Are you working on anything else?

I have three books in various stages of development right now: a spooky chapter book series and two middle-grade books. Fingers crossed on all three! 

Mean Girls meets The Clique in this relatable M!X novel that tackles the effects of online bullying.
Faith Taylor is popular by association, thanks to her BFFs, Adria and Janelle. When a new website called SlamBook targets her school’s popular kids, Faith gets sucked in. And when she discovers her own page on the site, she finds herself obsessing over the comments people are posting about her. Some are good, some are…not so good. Faith becomes determined to match the negative comments to the people and begins to retaliate by posting negative comments of her own.
Soon, Faith finds that people are talking about the comments she’s leaving. Even though she does feel guilty, it’s just so easy to be mean behind the anonymity of her laptop. But when her comments go too far, she realizes she must figure out a way to make things right before it’s too late.

My Review:
When a new website called Slambook starts up at Faith Taylor's school, kids become obsessed about seeing what others write about them on their pages. Under anonymity, they can write things about other students too. What starts off as a place to share sweet comments about each other, soon turns to ugly bullying. So ugly that it sends one person into a serious state of depression. Faith needs to use her coding skills to figure out who is behind all the nasty comments and change things for the better.

The Popularity Code addresses a real problem middle-school kids face: Cyber-bullying. This book sheds light on the problem and shows how harmful hurtful comments can be. Perhaps those reading it will think twice before "slamming" someone when they realize how serious the consequences can be.

This is a well-written book with a topic that's very relevant to middle-school kids. 5 Stars.


Stephanie Faris is the author of the middle-grade books 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses, as well as the Piper Morgan chapter book series. When she isn't writing books for children, she writes technology, finance, and business content for a variety of websites. She currently lives in her hometown, just north of Nashville. Visit her online at

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  1. Thank you so much for hosting me today!

  2. Saying bad things online or anywhere is never good. An app like that would only encourage people to be less human.
    Congratulations, Stephanie! Miss you in the blogging world.

    1. People think it's okay to hide behind the screen. But it's not. Words hurt either way.

  3. Hi, Sherry & Stephanie!

    Stephanie, you and I have had contact on several occasions over the years, and it's nice to reconnect with you. Sherry, thanks for the review of this new book by Stephanie, The Popularity Code.

    It always makes me sad to read about the devastating effects of bullying in all its forms, with cyber bullying being the most sinister because the bully can remain cloaked in anonymity. Stephanie's story about unmasking the students behind the mean comments and trying to decide what to do about them is compelling. This is not only a topic that would be of interest to middle-grade youth. It's for everyone. If people would find out how good it feels to leave an anonymous positive comment, to give encouragement and support and spread a little joy and caring instead of injecting venom with "hit and run" style nasty comments, they would think twice before they went negative, and the bullying epidemic would ease.

    Stephanie, a friend of mine has family in your vicinity. I know the area was heavily damage by a tornado earlier in the season. I hope your family escaped its wrath.

    Thank you, Sherry, and have a safe and happy weekend!

  4. Congratulations, Stephanie. Sounds like an interesting book that could help people realize there are consequences for saying hurtful things whether you sign your name or not.

  5. A year or so ago, an app just like this swept through a local high school. The school clamped down on it, but it was brutal. Every generation does this same thing, just in a different form. Sigh.

    1. True. I never could understand the whole thing about being mean to others and picking on them because they're different. I guess since I was the one picked on, I'm sensitive to that.

  6. Congratulations, Stephanie! Sounds like a needed book.

  7. Congrats to Stephanie on her new book.

  8. Bullying, in whatever form, is ever-present, sadly, and starts at a very young age.

    1. So true! I wish whatever gene turns on to make people like that would go away!

  9. I have heard about online apps like this- and they sound like they would be hard to be a part of for me. Sounds like an interesting book and Faith sounds like she has some tough decisions. Excited to see Stephanie here. Wishing her all the best with this new release!

  10. Congtats to Stephaine and thanks Sherry for a wonderful post. Sorry for the lateness.....been off line a few days.
    May you and your family remain safe and healthly.


  11. Thank you for both the introduction to Stephanie and her work. Its sad that bullying is such a relevant thing but given that it is its great that there are books like this out there.

    1. I've seen quite a few of them for middle school kids. It's such a relevant topic.


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  13. Hi, Stephanie!
    Congratulations on the release of The Popularity Code. A book tackling this subject of online bullying is so timely.

    1. Unfortunately, there's a lot of bullying involving social media.

  14. Congratulations to Stephanie! Looks an interesting take on bullying.

  15. It is definitely a necessary story.