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Darla Decker Takes the Cake: Darla Decker Diaries, #2

Darla Decker Takes the Cake: Darla Decker Diaries, #2

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Darla Decker Takes the Cake: Darla Decker Diaries, #2

262 pages
3 hours
Dec 18, 2014


Being a teenager is complicated when you're only eleven, but I am soooooooo ready for the challenge.

"Every now and then you get the chance to connect with a book, to find a story and a group of characters that tickle all the happy, nostalgic parts of your brain and takes you back to places you thought were gone forever." ~ C. Clark, Author

A week at Camp Wakonda is exactly what Darla Decker needs. Having said goodbye to sixth grade and her best childhood friend, she's ready to create new memories and meet new people. Unfortunately, entering summer camp on a whopper of a lie and a fight with a fellow camper isn't the best way to begin.

Aided by her schoolmate Nate, Darla navigates the twists and turns of life at summer camp while pretending to be Wakonda's only "undercover counselor." Despite the lies, older guys, bullies, and breakdowns, Darla discovers the truth about friendship through the mayhem and magic of camp.

EVOLVED PUBLISHING PRESENTS a frank and funny look at the path to adulthood, in the second book of the "Darla Decker Diaries" series, which takes us on a journey of love, loss, and the nitty-gritty of growing up as seen through Darla Decker's eyes. [DRM-Free]

"Oh, camp life. It's humiliating and magical, heady and miserable, all at the same time. You're never really ready to go, but then again, you never really want to leave. Jessica McHugh does a brilliant job of capturing that poignant childhood experience...." ~ Ellie Di Julio


  • Book 1: "Darla Decker Hates to Wait"
  • Book 2: "Darla Decker Takes the Cake"
  • Book 3: "Darla Decker Shakes the State"
  • Book 4: "Darla Decker Plays It Straight"
  • Book 5: "Darla Decker Breaks the Case"


  • The "NorthWatch" Series by Cagey Magee
  • The "Chosen" Series by Jeff Altabef
  • The "Dirt and Stars" Series by Kevin Killiany
  • The "Stormbourne Chronicles" Series by Karissa Laurel
  • The "Essence of Ohr" Series by Parris Sheets


Dec 18, 2014

About the author

Jessica McHugh is an author of speculative fiction that spans genres, from horror and alternate history, to epic fantasy and young adult. A member of the Horror Writers Association and a 2013 Pulp Ark nominee, she has devoted herself to novels, short stories, poetry, and playwriting.

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Darla Decker Takes the Cake - Jessica McHugh



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Darla Decker Diaries – Book 2

Copyright © 2014 Jessica McHugh


ISBN (EPUB Version): 162253252X

ISBN-13 (EPUB Version): 978-1-62253-252-0


Senior Editor: Lane Diamond

Assistant Editor: Mishael Witty

Cover Artist: Kris Norris

Interior Designer: Lane Diamond



At the end of this novel of approximately 50,564 words, you will find two Special Sneak Previews: 1) DARLA DECKER SHAKES THE STATE by Jessica McHugh, the next installment (Book 3) in this Darla Decker Diaries series of YA Coming-of-Age tales, and; 2) WIND CATCHER by Jeff Altabef and Erynn Altabef, the first novel in the Chosen series of young adult fantasy thrillers. We think you’ll enjoy these books, too, and provide these previews as a FREE extra service, which you should in no way consider a part of the price you paid for this book. We hope you will both appreciate and enjoy the opportunity. Thank you.


eBook License Notes:

You may not use, reproduce or transmit in any manner, any part of this book without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations used in critical articles and reviews, or in accordance with federal Fair Use laws. All rights are reserved.

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only; it may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, please return to your eBook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.



This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or the author has used them fictitiously.

Books by Jessica McHugh



Book 1: Darla Decker Hates to Wait

Book 2: Darla Decker Takes the Cake

Book 3: Darla Decker Shakes the State

Book 4: Darla Decker Plays It Straight

Book 5: Darla Decker Breaks the Case


Other Titles

Danny Marble & the Application for Non-Scary Things

From the Herald’s Wearied Eye


Rabbits in the Garden

The Sky: The World

The Tales of Dominhydor


We’re pleased to offer you not one, but two Special Sneak Previews at the end of this book.


In the first preview, you’ll enjoy the First 2 Chapters of Jessica McHugh’s DARLA DECKER SHAKES THE STATE, the next installment (Book 3) in this Darla Decker Diaries series of YA Coming-of-Age tales.





DARLA DECKER DIARIES Series at Evolved Publishing

In the second preview, you’ll enjoy the First 3 Chapters of Jeff Altabef’s and Erynn Altabef’s critically acclaimed, multiple award-winning WIND CATCHER, the first book in the Chosen series of young adult fantasy thrillers.





The CHOSEN Series at Evolved Publishing

Table of Contents


Books by Jessica McHugh




Chapter 1 – Welcome to Wakonda

Chapter 2 – Into the Woods

Chapter 3 – Ratted Out

Chapter 4 – Spilled Milk

Chapter 5 – Stuck On You

Chapter 6 – Common Ground

Chapter 7 – Day One, Take Two

Chapter 8 – Bitten by the Love Bug

Chapter 9 – Making a Splash

Chapter 10 – Fireworks

Chapter 11 – Nate's Armor

Chapter 12 – Night Moves

Chapter 13 – Predator

Chapter 14 – Prey

Chapter 15 – Birthday Suit

Chapter 16 – The Kiss Heard 'Round the Camp

Chapter 17 – Fire Tender

Chapter 18 – Linger a Little Longer

Chapter 19 – Payback

Chapter 20 – The Magic in Farewell

Chapter 21 – Icing on the Cake

Special Sneak Preview: DARLA DECKER SHAKES THE STATE by Jessica McHugh


About the Author

More from Jessica McHugh

More from Evolved Publishing

Special Sneak Preview: WIND CATCHER by Jeff Altabef & Erynn Altabef


For Hashawha, the memories of which ensure that it’s always summer in my soul.

And for Denise, an eternal example of the camp spirit. We miss you.

Chapter 1 – Welcome to Wakonda

Mom, tell Brian to get his hand out of his pants!

A new stage in Darla Decker’s life had begun—a new place with new people and new experiences—but some things would never change.

Her brother stuck out his tongue as he shoved his other hand down his pants. Even entering high school couldn’t boost his maturity. He acted so silly, Darla sometimes felt like the older sibling.

Stop it, you giant poopbiscuit, she screamed.

Certain situations called for immaturity.

Their mother heaved a sigh and stared at her children in the rearview mirror. Brian, stop antagonizing your sister.

He pulled his hands out of his pants and wiggled his fingers at his sister. Look out, Dorka, wiener fingers!

Nate Young cackled from the back seat of the minivan, and Darla wheeled around with a frown. It’s not funny.

Nate covered his smile, but it crinkled the corners of his eyes. Sorry, Darla.

As she started to face forward, Nate gave her brother a thumbs-up.

Brian rolled his eyes. Are we almost there? I don’t know how much longer I can stand the stench of middle schoolers.

Is it because we smell like your wasted youth? Darla chirped.

He squinted at her with his upper lip curled. You really are a nerd, you know that? A hopeless nerd. He smacked the luggage between them on the seat. Try not to get any nerd germs on my sleeping bag, will ya?

I’m more concerned about yours. I wouldn’t want to catch Buttface-itis. She poked his side. By the way, you better have washed it.

He stuck his chin in the air and crossed his arms. Nope. I actually filled it with farts before I rolled it up.

Darla whined until her mother snapped, Stop it, both of you! Brian, tell your sister you washed the sleeping bag.

Of course I did. I was in the woods all weekend. I had to.

Catching Darla’s gaze in the mirror, Mom said, You see, sweetie? It’s fine.

Darla smiled, but it fell when Brian shook his head at her and mouthed, No, I didn’t.

Nate leaned forward, his arms planted on Darla’s shoulders. I can’t believe it’s actually happening. My first summer without Bible Camp. This is going to be awesome.

You might be surprised. It’s not everything it’s cracked up to be, Brian said. But I’m sure you two will like it, considering how much you love sucky things, like show choir...and each other.

Brian, for the love of— Oh, thank God, we’re here! Their mom trumpeted it as if the sign for Wakonda Environmental Center signaled the entrance to eternal paradise.

Darla felt like trumpeting herself when Welcome to Wakonda appeared in a wooden rainbow framing the camp’s entrance. Darla and Nate gasped and jumped in their seats.

Brian just groaned.

She turned to him. What’s your problem? I thought you wanted us out of the car.

I just realized I won’t be able to shut you up about camp for weeks after you get home.

His mother scowled at him in the mirror. Brian, be nice.

He muttered to himself and sunk further in his seat.

Darla and Nate stretched tall, awed by the mammoth wooden building hulking between clusters of oaks and maples. The camp unfolded to them as her mom pulled into the parking lot teeming with dozens of Wakonda attendees. When she pulled to a stop, Darla spotted a cute boy with side-swept hair sliding out of the neighboring car. She bit her lip and squeezed the pillow on her lap.

Nate tapped her shoulder and flashed a knowing smile.

Blushing, she looked down. The smiling faces of the Care Bears on her pillowcase filled her with terror. She hadn’t thought about how people would view her once they saw the babyish characters. There was no way they’d think a girl with a Care Bears pillowcase could be as mature as she’d wanted. She tore it off with a grunt and stuffed it under the seat.

Brian smacked her side. Good call.

As Darla hopped out of the car, she noticed contrasting types of campers: those too excited to wait for their parents, and those too timid to do anything but trail behind. She felt a combination of the two. While she looked forward to diving into the new world, she also stayed close to Nate, grateful to have him along for the ride. She just hoped he didn’t take it as a sign that her feelings for him had changed. Although he’d given Darla her first French kiss during their Kissing Ball game at daycare the previous year, it hadn’t meant anything. He’d scored a basket, so he’d scored a kiss. No big deal. But they’d also joined the middle school show choir together, and now that she’d invited him to camp, maybe he would start looking at her differently.

When she glanced over, he scrunched his face and stuck out his tongue. She laughed and shook off the silly worries, confident they couldn’t be more than friends.

It comforted her. With her best friend Lisa Fordham having recently moved out of state, she needed all the support she could get—even from a dork like Nate Young.

Darla tucked her diary and pen in her back pocket, and clutched her pillow close as she and Nate ran through the parking lot. Ignoring her mother’s struggles with luggage, Darla drank up the towering environment as though she didn’t have a care in the world.

But she did, plenty of them, and they increased as campers with more confidence passed. They marched to the registration tables as though they’d been issued prizes for fearlessness, and it didn’t help that cute boys dominated the crew.

An olive-skinned boy in board shorts walked by, and Nate said, Roll up your tongue, Decker. I think you’re drooling. What would Jason Bollinger say?

He’d probably say I’m free to do whatever I want while he’s knocking his balls around at soccer camp. It’s not like he’s my boyfriend.

Nate scoffed. Yeah, I bet you’d hate that.

She stopped at the middle of a small hill beside a windmill. The rusty squeal of swinging blades made her skin crawl, but she straightened up and poked Nate firmly in the chest. Don’t make me regret inviting you.

He wrapped his hand around her finger and kissed the nail. Don’t make me regret accepting the invitation.

She pulled her hand back and wiped it on her shirt, and smacked him with her pillow. He gasped theatrically and smacked her back, and a few feathery whaps was all it took for the exchange to erupt into a full-blown pillow fight.

Still in the parking lot, Mrs. Decker shouted, Settle down, you two. She dropped a sleeping bag and grunted as she grappled to pick it up with a free finger.

Darla and Nate rushed back to help, but a tall boy with sandy brown hair reached her first. He snapped up the sleeping bag and grabbed the other from her overloaded arms.

Jumping onto the blacktop with her arms open, Darla chirped, I’ll take that.

As the boy handed over one of the bags, Mrs. Decker grumbled, Gee, thanks, sweetie.

Better late than never, he said, dropping the other sleeping bag into Nate’s hands. He gave them a wave and sped across the parking lot.

He looked good from behind, but Darla didn’t want him to escape. Clutching the sleeping bag tight, she pursued him.

After a few seconds, he noticed her on his tail and stopped abruptly.

Although relieved she didn’t slam into his butt, she didn’t think tripping and falling to the ground was much better. He pulled her up, and she blushed while wiping the dirt from her pants.

Can I help you with something? he asked.

Nope, just—you know—following. You know where you’re going, right?

He chuckled. Right now, yeah. I’m one of the small group counselors.

What’s that?

Beaming, he patted her head. All will be explained, young grasshopper. When Darla crinkled her brow, the counselor snorted in amusement. What’s your name?

Her face relaxed. She’d been waiting for someone to ask her name since she’d gotten out of the car.

She didn’t usually put much stock in her brother’s advice, but since he’d been to camp a few years before, she’d thought it was better to hear his suggestions instead of going in blind.


I don’t care how hot it is, wear long pants on hikes, he’d said, tying a feathery fly onto his fishing line. I know how stupid you are about boys and stuff. I can just see you being the only one tromping through the woods in a tutu.

I’m not that bad, Darla grumbled.

He set down his fishing rod, his chin protruded and eyebrows raised. Right, you’re the queen of composure. Just imagine ripping a big fat tick out of your leg.

She did a shuddering dance of disgust, shaking her body and brushing invisible bugs off her arms.

See? You’re a mess. Wear long pants, and tuck them into your socks.

Long pants in socks. Got it. What else?

Don’t pee in the pool. He turned back to his tackle box. There’s a weird chemical in there that turns your pee purple.

Gross. I never pee in the pool. She recalled three times she’d peed in a pool recently.

He listed the tips in order, bending a finger back to punctuate each one of them. Drink lots of water, don’t sneak out at night, and be prepared to stand in lots of lines. That’s about it, except....

Darla leaned forward, her brain buzzing.

You should probably choose a nickname before you get there. If you have a cool nickname when you show up, people will assume you have tons of friends back home, and they’ll want to hang out with you.

She sat up straight, her head cocked. Really?

Totally. You just need a good one.

How about ‘rock star’?

Brian snarled and gave it a thumbs-down.

If you think I’m going with ‘Dorka,’ you’re crazy.

His eyes pointed upward, searching his brain for the perfect moniker. No, it has to be something original. Something cool but also kinda cute. Focusing on his sister with a toothy smile, he said, Rat.


Sure! It’s cool, and it’s still cute. You think rats are cute, don’t you? You’ve asked Mom if you could have one.

Yeah, but do other people think rats are cute?

Of course. And anyone who doesn’t think they’re cute thinks they’re badass. He gave her arm a slap of encouragement. Trust me, ‘Rat’ is the perfect name for you.


The phrase echoed through Darla’s brain when the counselor asked her name. Her head held high, she popped a smile onto her face and declared, You can call me Rat.

The guy looked like he’d eaten a rotten strawberry. Rat?

Yeah, pretty cute, huh?

He didn’t answer.

I mean, pretty badass, huh?

Nate caught up, using his pillow to bounce off Darla’s back. It was so springy, he nearly crashed into Mrs. Decker as she ascended the knoll beside the windmill.

Catching Darla’s sleeve, Mom panted. Darla, would you please stay closer?

Better listen to her, the counselor said. The last thing anyone around here wants is an abandoned camper.

I don’t know, a few more minutes and I might pray for it. Her mom sighed. You work here, I assume. Could you tell us where to go?

Sure thing. He pointed. Straight ahead to the tables. They’re divided by last name. If you have any trouble, just ask for me. My name’s Tully.

Before bounding away, he tousled Darla’s hair. She hated when people did that, but she didn’t mind it from Tully. She couldn’t guess his age, but she assumed he was way out of her league. Her shoulders slumped as he walked away. Eleven years old never felt so young.

Nate bumped her side. Something tells me this is going to be a long week.

Chapter 2 – Into the Woods

Darla’s mom, not wanting to give them time to break into another pillow fight, grabbed Darla’s hand, and they shuffled down the hill toward the tables. I’m going to get Nate checked in. Can you handle your own?

No problem. Darla stretched tall, her free arm swinging, and strode to the table marked A-L.

She stepped up to the teenage girl at the table, but a girl with a bouncy ponytail of chestnut curls butted in front before Darla uttered her first word of introduction.

The girl’s mother, a tiny woman with a surprisingly loud voice, intoned her daughter’s name like a royal proclamation. Regina Faraday.

The teenager tugged on her leather nametag. I’m Shia. Nice to meet you, Regina.

It’s Reggie, the girl corrected sharply. Her mother groaned, but Shia smiled.

She searched her clipboard, whispering, Reggie, Reggie... ah, here you are! Okay, you’re in Cabin Three. Michelle will take you there.

A preppy girl with sunburnt cheeks grabbed Reggie’s suitcase and led her down a

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