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Darla Decker Shakes the State: Darla Decker Diaries, #3

Darla Decker Shakes the State: Darla Decker Diaries, #3

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Darla Decker Shakes the State: Darla Decker Diaries, #3

313 pages
4 hours
May 30, 2015


Cigarettes, shoplifting, and show choir.... I'm sure it will be a doozy of a 7th grade!

"Between the annoying older brother, mostly supportive parents with their own problems, and all the anxiety of early puberty, Darla reminded me of my earlier teenage years in an almost uncomfortably realistic way (which is a high compliment)." ~ Kimberly Lacey

Seventh grade starts on a hopeful note when Darla Decker and the Fairmount Fifteen are invited to the State Show Choir Competition at Coaster Kingdom. Although she's made a no-dating bet with Nate, she's jealous of her friend Reggie's cell phone, and her parents are constantly at each other's throats, Darla remains determined to make seventh grade the best year ever.

Will the temptation of raising mischief be too strong for Darla? In the race to act like an adult, will she stay on the straight and narrow, or will she convince herself that bad deeds aren't bad if done for the greater good?

EVOLVED PUBLISHING PRESENTS a frank and funny look at the path to adulthood, in the third 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]

"Once again McHugh delivers with this coming of age series. It definitely hits you right in the feels over and over!" ~ Mad Mae


  • 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


May 30, 2015

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 Shakes the State - Jessica McHugh



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Darla Decker Diaries – Book 3

Copyright © 2015 Jessica McHugh


ISBN (EPUB Version): 1622532546

ISBN-13 (EPUB Version): 978-1-62253-254-4


Senior Editor: Lane Diamond

Assistant Editor: Mishael Witty

Cover Artist: Kris Norris

Interior Designer: Lane Diamond



At the end of this novel of approximately 58,409 words, you will find two Special Sneak Previews: 1) DARLA DECKER PLAYS IT STRAIGHT by Jessica McHugh, the next installment (Book 4) in this Darla Decker Diaries series of YA Coming-of-Age tales, and; 2) DOWN TO DIRT by Kevin Killiany, the critically-acclaimed first book in his Dirt and Stars series of Young Adult Sci-Fi adventures. 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 PLAYS IT STRAIGHT, the next installment (Book 4) 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 Chapters 1-3 of Kevin Killiany’s DOWN TO DIRT, the critically-acclaimed first book in his Dirt and Stars series of Young Adult Sci-Fi adventures.



"Down to Dirt is YA hard science fiction with an attitude, full of technical details as engaging as the characters. I was immediately drawn into the story."

~ Kevin J. Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of Eternity’s Mind


"DOWN TO DIRT [is] an entertaining and effortless read... close to perfection. Everything you could want in a YA, coming of age, sci-fi, dystopian world drama is here."

~ Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews




DIRT AND STARS Series at Evolved Publishing

Table of Contents


Books by Jessica McHugh




Chapter 1 – Fake Families

Chapter 2 – Red Badge of Courage

Chapter 3 – The Big News

Chapter 4 – Strange Bedfellows

Chapter 5 – The Last Supper

Chapter 6 – Life on the Trail

Chapter 7 – A Ring of Truth

Chapter 8 – Pranksgiving

Chapter 9 – Smoked Out

Chapter 10 – The Middle

Chapter 11 – The Daring Truth

Chapter 12 – Candy Bandit

Chapter 13 – The Little Businesswoman

Chapter 14 – Festival Fool

Chapter 15 – Aftermath

Chapter 16 – A New Pack

Chapter 17 – Up Late with Nate

Chapter 18 – Recouping Reggie

Chapter 19 – Cat Got Your Tongue

Chapter 20 – Tryouts

Chapter 21 – Coaster Kingdom

Chapter 22 – Show Off

Special Sneak Preview: DARLA DECKER PLAYS IT STRAIGHT by Jessica McHugh


About the Author

More from Jessica McHugh

More from Evolved Publishing

Special Sneak Preview: DOWN TO DIRT by Kevin Killiany


For the Awful Dynnes of the world. Be loud, be proud.

Chapter 1 – Fake Families

I bet you never thought you’d be having my baby. Nate smacked Darla’s belly, and his hand bounced off the pillow stuffed under her shirt.

Hey, you can’t hit a pregnant lady, Reggie said. You’ll give the kid brain damage.

Darla scoffed and patted the pillow. If it’s Nate’s baby, it was brain-damaged already.

Mr. Abbey shuffled over to the trio and stood akimbo. Don’t you have a family of your own, Ms. Faraday?

Reggie scrunched her nose and clasped her hands in prayer. Can’t I be in Darla and Nate’s family? They could adopt me.

Darla wrapped her arm around her friends’ waists. Please, Mr. Abbey? I promise we’ll be the best pioneers in Frontierland.

This isn’t Disney World, Ms. Decker. Please try to take this seriously.

She tightened her bonnet and squished her belly. How could she take anything seriously while wearing a pillow? She understood the event was about experiencing history, but as she gazed across the classroom, she thought history sure made people do silly things. All the girls wore long skirts and bonnets, and the boys had suspenders holding up their trousers. The outside observer would surely think they’d all gone crazy over the course of the last hour, as they now bundled up blankets and built covered wagons out of rusted Radio Flyers.

She wouldn’t fight it, though. Like most kids, she preferred Pioneer Day prep to a normal day of social studies. The real event, when Teams Four and Five of Fairmount Middle’s seventh grade class combined to travel a makeshift Oregon Trail, would be much more fun. Probably not as fun as it sounded—they were, after all, dressing up in pioneer gear and panning for gold—but she appreciated the break from the school’s usual monotony.

She didn’t feel that way about Language Arts class; Mr. Harvey was never monotonous. The brief thought gave rise to a daydream, and she grinned. He hardly ever wore a shirt in her fantasies, and his muscles flexed magnificently during his arm-flailing delivery of a scene between Kakofonous A. Dischord and the Awful Dynne from The Phantom Tollbooth.


For a moment, everything was quiet as Milo, Tock, and the Humbug looked intently at the bottle, wondering what Dr. Dischord would do next. Mr. Harvey crouched slightly, one hand waving through the air as if casting a spell. Then, very faintly at first, they heard a low rumbling that sounded miles away. It grew louder and louder and louder and closer and closer and closer, until it became a deafening, ear-splitting roar that seemed to be coming from inside the tiny bottle.

Mr. Harvey danced around the classroom in Darla’s mind, his movements whimsical but undeniably masculine as he trumpeted her favorite part of the chapter.

Then, from the bottle, a thick bluish smog spiraled to the ceiling, spread out, and gradually assumed the shape of a thick bluish smog with hands, feet, bright yellow eyes, and a large frowning mouth. As soon as the smog had gotten completely out of the bottle, it grasped the beaker of liquid, tilted back what would have been its head, if it really had one, and drank it all in three gulps.

The Dynne’s description was amusing enough, but Mr. Harvey never neglected to show off a book’s illustrations. The Dynne resembled a squiggly man with a goofy grin. It always made her laugh because she recognized something of herself in that figure—a bulgy mess of noisy, colliding thoughts.


Fantasy and reality continued to collide in Darla’s brain as Mr. Abbey pointed Reggie back to her family, and she deflated with a huff.

Darla sympathized with her friend’s disappointment at her Pioneer Day group.

Even in late September, Reggie still received the new girl treatment from Queen Bee-otches Heather Monroe and Kayla Pitts. Having to play their mother didn’t help, but as much as they bugged her, she despised resident Team Four bad boy Kenny O’Toole more. When he slipped his freckled arm around Reggie, she shuddered and hurried back to her fake family.

Kenny’s sneer exposed a crooked incisor. Was it something I said?

Nate waved his hand in front of his nose. More like a smell.

Mr. Abbey, Nate’s being an abusive father, he whined. He just called his own son stinky.

Mr. Abbey shrugged. Parents these days.

Kenny glared at him and walked away.

Darla gazed across the room in the same direction, but she wasn’t watching Kenny. Jason Bollinger’s defined dimples crinkled his face as he laughed with Reggie, and Darla couldn’t help smiling herself. He’d seemed a little off this year—not as happy as usual. Maybe it was just middle school malaise or having to suffer his Pioneer Day daughters, but Reggie lifted his spirits, even as Heather and Kayla tossed paper balls at them.

Darla blew the bangs out of her eyes and turned back to her family. She wished Jason was her assigned husband, but when Nate tossed a shawl over her shoulders and cinched it with a smile, her knees weakened in a wonderful way.

Not that Nate Young was the worst husband in the world. Jason was so cute, though, and they never had their chance at a real relationship. Even if she had a history of kissing Nate, and he’d gotten much hotter over the summer, she’d dreamt about dating Jason for so long. Could she just forget that?

She squeezed her eyes shut and remembered the bet she’d made with Nate at Camp Wakonda. As much as she liked Jason, as much as she liked Nate, and as much as she liked Mr. Harvey—should he become an option—she’d vowed not to date anyone all year.

Conflicting feelings slam-danced in her brain, even after she opened her eyes. Jeez. She really was the Awful Dynne.

Nate flapped a blanket. Hey, Darla Dreamer, want to give me a hand?

Not really.

He pouted, and she grabbed the other end of the blanket. They laid it on top of the framework he’d constructed out of Popsicle sticks and secured the loose corners. She’d doubted his construction’s authenticity, but with the blanket on top she had to admit it resembled an old-timey covered wagon. Maybe Nate was the perfect husband for her. Kenny, on the other hand, put little to no effort into their Pioneer Day Prep.

Still, she preferred her fake family to her real family these days. Her parents’ fights had gotten so loud they often woke her, and between the noise and wondering what had caused the arguments, falling back asleep was virtually impossible. When she did manage to drift off again, her dreams frequently morphed into courtroom nightmares in which her parents battled over who’d get custody of Darla and Brian. Sometimes, neither Mom nor Dad chose her.

Nate had tried to make her feel better by claiming his parents were yellers too, but she knew better. She didn’t know the details, but she was pretty sure his mom’s condition prevented her from yelling. She liked thinking she wasn’t alone on those noisy nights, though—or on the tired mornings. With her parents either arguing with or avoiding each other, and her dad’s forthcoming business trip to New Mexico, she wondered how long the overwrought Decker family could survive before the D-Bomb dropped.

She assumed her parents’ problems affected her brother, too. It made sense, considering how much he pestered her lately. He’d instructed his friends, Tim and Jeff, to spam her Facebook page with so many mean comments and obscene pictures she’d all but given up on social media. It wasn’t worth it anyway, especially when her most important post in months had gone unnoticed.

Darla had been the first person to wish Lisa Fordham a happy birthday on Facebook, so she understood if the post had gotten buried beneath others. But even after tagging Lisa in a comment, she received no response—a far cry from her birthday the year before. Sometimes Darla could barely believe how much life had changed. She’d thought Lisa would be in her Pioneer Day family—that they’d be closer than ever in seventh grade. She was grateful for her close friendships with Nate and Reggie, but her heart still ached for the friend she’d lost. And she couldn’t believe how easily that relationship had dissolved.

As Nate counted their stash of silver and gold coins, Kenny sat on his butt, picking the rubber off the bottom of his sneakers.

She stood over him with her hands on her hips. Are you going to help at all?

He didn’t look up. Hadn’t planned on it.

You know we’re being graded on this, right?

He flicked a chunk of rubber across the carpet and stared up at her. Oh, thanks for the heads-up, because I care so much about grades and other useless shit.

"I meant we get a grade based on everyone in the group. If you don’t participate, you’re going to drag me and Nate down with you."

He swung his head from side to side and spoke in a dopey voice. Blah, blah, blah, I’m Darla Decker. I think people care about what grade I get.

Nate laughed. That’s a pretty good impression.

She glared at him.

He straightened his expression. Forget about him. Mr. Abbey knows he’s worthless. He won’t hold it against us.

"Maybe you’re worthless," Kenny spat.

No, I’m actually doing stuff. So unless you think you can fix this wobbly wagon wheel, you’re just going to have to accept that you’re worthless.

When Kenny sighed and crawled closer to the wagon, Nate gave Darla a sly wink.

Kenny rubbed his freckled chin as he inspected the wheel, and then stood and marched for the door.

Hey, where are you going? Nate asked.

To the bathroom. I’d rather take a dump than fall for stupid mind games.

Mr. Abbey slipped between him and the exit and crossed his arms over his chest. Kenny, do you have a pass?

Did you give me one?

The teacher pointed him back to Darla and Nate, and Kenny rolled his head with a growl. Mr. Abbey then faced the class. We have about ten minutes before the bell rings, so those of you who have to change clothes, go ahead and go to the restroom.

Kenny’s eyes gaped as he huffed. "I can’t have a bathroom pass, but now everyone in the class is allowed to go? That’s racist."

Mr. Abbey shook his head and slumped behind his desk.

Heather scoffed at Kenny as she removed her bonnet. That doesn’t make sense. You’re both white, dummy.

He sneered at her. "You don’t know that. Just because I’m light-skinned doesn’t mean I’m white. Besides, I meant it’s racist ‘cause I’m a human, and he’s from some alien dickweed planet."

Heather scoffed, and Darla giggled. Kenny was a master at aggravating people into retreat—Darla included—but she loved it when he harassed Heather. He crinkled his nose at her before he returned to his desk, revealing a cuteness that rarely graced his rosy face.

Then, he picked his nose and wiped it on a worksheet.

Chapter 2 – Red Badge of Courage

Darla had worn her normal clothes under her pioneer outfit, but she wasn’t about to miss the opportunity to leave social studies ten minutes early. She and Reggie galloped to the bathroom. The stalls were filled, so they stood in front of the mirrors to change. Back in her belted shirtdress and neon tights, Darla watched in amusement as her friend struggled to remove her patchwork skirt.

Reggie grunted as she pulled on the knotted sash. Damn, this stupid thing is stuck! Darla, can you get it?

Darla pinched the fabric and pulled from several angles but couldn’t untie the knot. She readjusted her grip and tugged harder.

Ouch! Watch it!

Sorry, it’s really tight. Can you slide it off?

Reggie pulled down on the skirt, but it wouldn’t budge. Pulling it up proved more successful—until it reached her chest. Even with Darla’s help, the cinched skirt wouldn’t wriggle over Reggie’s boobs.

Darla supposed not getting stuck in old-timey clothing was one good thing about being flat-chested.

Reggie smacked the skirt and whined. I can’t go to basketball practice like this.

You might not be as good at layups, but the other team might get so distracted you can sneak in a few points.

Reggie tapped her chin in contemplation, then spun in place, and the skirt flew up and floated for a moment before she pantomimed dunking a basketball.

See? You’ll be the most ladylike jock on the team!

Reggie flounced her skirt. Too bad I’m still on the bench. I’m not even officially on the team, but the coach is being nice—letting me get some practice in. The next official tryouts aren’t until March.

You just have to show them how good you are, Darla said. They won’t have any choice but to let you play.

Reggie tugged on her skirt again. I don’t think that’ll happen today.

Darla combed her fingers through her hair, and Reggie tightened her ponytail while Heather and Kayla emerged from the handicapped stall, their thumbs clacking against their cell phones.

Kayla looked up and laughed.

Aww, you’re gonna look so pretty warming the bench in that skirt, Reg. Maybe you can churn some butter while members of the actual team show you how to score a basket.

Heather snickered. Maybe you should consider changing back into your skirt, Darla. Anything’s gotta be better than those hideous tights.

I like these tights, thank you.

I figured. Either that or it’s some kind of social experiment to see how long people can look at you before stabbing their eyes out.

Kristen Chaconas emerged from a stall and grumbled, Shut up, Heather, as she bent over the sink to wash her hands.

Was anyone talking to you, Kristen? No, I don’t think so. So you can keep your mouth shut like normal, Kayla hissed. No one had been talking to her, either, but that didn’t matter.

Kristen dried her hands quickly and dodged the terrible twosome as she sped to the exit.

They spun around. "Did you have something to say, Darla?"

While she remained stuck in pre-puberty, Heather and Kayla had both hit growth spurts over the summer, so instead of facing their icy glares, she now faced their B-cups. Nope. Nothing to say. We’re cool.

"Well, we’re cool. Heather pointed to Kayla and herself. You’re just not getting beat up today."

The two girls laughed as they headed for the door.

Darla knew beat up didn’t mean they’d give her a black eye or bloody lip. Their punishments typically consisted of embarrassing pictures or disgusting gossip. Without even a hint of truth behind it, one of Heather’s rumors could spread like wildfire. It wasn’t worth it.

Kayla turned back to face them. Oh, I nearly forgot! Catch! She hurled an object in Darla’s direction.

She instinctively cradled her hands and caught it. The plastic wrapper hit her palm first, followed by the wetness of the used tampon inside. She shrieked and dropped it.

Kayla and Heather howled with laughter as they left the bathroom.

Darla pumped out a fistful of soap and scrubbed her hands. She used a paper towel to throw away the tampon.

You okay? Reggie asked.

As long as I don’t catch her Bitchface Disease, I’ll be fine. Her hands looked clean, but she scoured them with another paper towel. I guess it was too much to ask that the first period blood I ever touched would be my own.

Reggie opened the bathroom door and they stepped into the hall. I probably would’ve smacked you with my first tampon anyway.


Hey, you’re the one who started talking about period blood.

A locker slammed, and Darla and Reggie spun to see Mark Rickman running his hand through his hair. Man, I hate having a locker next to the girls’ bathroom. He grunted and trudged away.

Chapter 3 – Big News

Reggie dug a pair of nail clippers out of her locker and handed them to Darla. Free me, please.

Snip by snip, Darla cut the knot. With a tug, the sash ripped off and the skirt loosened and fell to the floor around Reggie’s tennis shoes.

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