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Darla Decker Plays It Straight: Darla Decker Diaries, #4

Darla Decker Plays It Straight: Darla Decker Diaries, #4

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Darla Decker Plays It Straight: Darla Decker Diaries, #4

307 pages
4 hours
Mar 25, 2016


This year, the secrets are coming out. Ooh, 8th grade is gonna be so juicy!

"What I like about this series is the personal way it relates the female coming-of-age experience, something of a mystery for male readers, but worth looking into for any guy who wants a closer understanding of the women in their life." ~ Ron Edison

Darla Decker is still shaking from a rough year of seventh grade. Her parents barely speak to each other, her best friend Reggie is dating her lifelong crush, and Nate Young is acting like he's allergic to the word "boyfriend."

Troubles aside, Darla is resolved to be on her best behavior and kick off eighth grade with a smile... but even the straightest paths have obstacles.

Darla's about to learn that the people she knows best can hide the most mind-blowing secrets. Will she show maturity in the face of turmoil? Can she accept the changes rippling through her life? Only time and Darla's final days in Fairmount Middle School will tell.

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

"If you are looking for an entertaining read, this is the one. If you haven't read the rest of the series, you should go back and start with book one because for me, it has been a pleasure to watch these characters grow up and I am certainly looking forward to more installments. Trust me, this is the kind of book where, if you had access to a time machine you would want to take the books back in time and give them to the childhood version of yourself. Then, many years later, when they start making Darla Decker movies, you can tell everyone about how you've been hanging out with Darla since you were a kid yourself." ~ C. Clark, Author


  • 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


Mar 25, 2016

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 Diaries – Book 4

Copyright © 2016 Jessica McHugh


ISBN (EPUB Version): 1622532562

ISBN-13 (EPUB Version): 978-1-62253-256-8


Editor: Whitney Smyth

Cover Artist: Kris Norris

Interior Designer: Lane Diamond



At the end of this novel of approximately 60,310 words, you will find two Special Sneak Previews: 1) DARLA DECKER BREAKS THE CASE by Jessica McHugh, the next installment (Book 5) in this Darla Decker Diaries series of YA Coming-of-Age tales, and; 2) HEIR OF THUNDER by Karissa Laurel, the first book in the critically-acclaimed Stormbourne Chronicles series of steampunk fantasy 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 BREAKS THE CASE, the next installment (Book 5) 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 2 Chapters of Karissa Laurel‘s critically-acclaimed HEIR OF THUNDER, the first book in the extraordinary Stormbourne Chronicles series.





STORMBOURNE CHRONICLES Series at Evolved Publishing

Table of Contents


Books by Jessica McHugh




Chapter 1 – A White Wedding

Chapter 2 – Are You My Anything?

Chapter 3 – Camp Under Fire

Chapter 4 – Wake and Cake

Chapter 5 – Night in Shining Armor

Chapter 6 – Prison Cell

Chapter 7 – Let’s Try This Again

Chapter 8 – Peep Show

Chapter 9 – Game of Groans

Chapter 10 – Crazy Eights

Chapter 11 – Rookies

Chapter 12 – Party Up

Chapter 13 – High and Dry

Chapter 14 – You Still Have Your Health

Chapter 15 – I.O.U.

Chapter 16 – Countdown

Chapter 17 – The Whole Truth

Chapter 18 – Did You Think I’d Crumble?

Chapter 19 – Snow Business

Chapter 20 – Collage Bound

Chapter 21 – Shall We Dance?

Chapter 22 – Roll Out the Red Carpet

Chapter 23 – To the Victor

Chapter 24 – Herding Cats

Special Sneak Preview: DARLA DECKER BREAKS THE CASE by Jessica McHugh


About the Author

More from Jessica McHugh

More from Evolved Publishing

Special Sneak Preview: HEIR OF THUNDER by Karissa Laurel


For Dave, the most patient human being alive.

Chapter 1 – A White Wedding

Darla slapped her hands over her soaking wet boobs and cursed herself for wearing white to Rec Time.

Matt Faraday lowered his water blaster and winced. Sorry about that, Darla. I didn’t see you. His gaze fell to her chest, and his tense expression crinkled into a devilish smile. But, boy oh boy, am I glad to see you now.

He laughed, and Darla chopped at his leg with her foot. She examined her sopping T-shirt—nearly every inch transparent and glued to her body. Even her training bra felt like a used tissue that might tear when the breeze prickled her skin. The shiver wasn’t entirely unwelcome on the balmy day at Camp Wakonda, but with her shirt resembling melting wax paper, Darla had to hug herself tighter.

Reggie jogged up to them and ripped the water gun from Matt’s hands.

You doofus. This is exactly why I didn’t want you coming to camp with us. You’ve been nothing but a bratty fatty Matty for the past four days. Reggie sighed heavily at her little brother. But I guess everyone’s good at something. You’re just best at being a jerk.

Darla wrung out her shirt. That, and getting me all wet.

Matt muffled his chuckle, but Reggie laughed unreservedly as she pumped the blaster and fired shafts of water at her brother’s stomach.

He squealed and dashed away, disappearing into the football game in progress on the back field. The teams weren’t taking the match seriously, proven by the speed at which someone passed the football to Matty, who hadn’t even been playing. Serious wasn’t a word the Wakonda campers tossed around much outside of the weekly campfire, and even then, the groups representing Wakonda’s Camp Storybook opted for camaraderie over competition.

Darla and Reggie jogged over to Shia, who was dabbing a spot of Calamine lotion on a bug bite irritating Ben’s arm. Darla tried to be discreet as she observed him, but she feared her hot cheeks betrayed her.

He’d grown a few inches since they’d dated the previous year, and his hair now curled over his ears in a curiously romantic way. The sweaty locks had to itch his ears terribly, but such sexiness was probably worth a tickle or two.

Ben’s chocolate irises flicked to Darla, and she covered her wet shirt even more. They hadn’t spoken much this week—due to his new position as a CIT for the Big Bad Wolves, she hoped—but she didn’t mind. Who needed to talk to a dreamy teenager with reckless curls anyway? Even if his summer tan made his olive skin even more luscious. Even if those lovely ringlets smacked his cheeks like soft kisses when he ran off in apparent slow motion to rejoin the football game.

Nope. Darla definitely didn’t need that beautiful nonsense in her life, especially when the object of her affection waved to her from across the field. Darla reflexively waved back at Nate Young, who burst into giggles and cupped his hands around his mouth.

Hey, Decker, are you feeling nippy? Nate’s holler inspired several campers to look in Darla’s direction.

She grunted and covered herself again. Some boyfriend he was.

Okay, technically, Nate Young wasn’t Darla’s boyfriend. She’d won the no-dating bet, which earned her freedom to fraternize, along with the satisfaction of embarrassing Nate on the first day of camp—except he hadn’t been embarrassed at all. Maybe it was because Darla held his hand as he crossed the knoll in her favorite sparkly tutu, or because Ricky Freeman had joined them at Camp Wakonda this year and strutted the knoll beside his tutu-clad friend. Or—and Darla would never admit this—maybe it was because Nate looked sexier in her skirt than she ever had. It complemented his lean legs more than hers, which intrigued her in all sorts of strange ways.

She couldn’t think about that now, though. Those thoughts were for nights when she was in her own bed, safe to ponder the evocative, hormonal oddities hammering her brain so often these days. Darla gnawed on the inside of her cheek. God, I hope that’s normal.

Shia tucked the calamine lotion in her knapsack and wiped her hands on her shorts. What can I do for you girls?

Darla squeezed more water from her T-shirt. Can I go back to the cabin to change?

Shia wasn’t as much fun as Becky had been as small group leader last year, but Darla preferred being a part of The Last Unicorns to the Big Bad Wolves, for which Shelly served as CIT. Although she’d rather be in a group with Nate instead of Matty, she thought it best to stay as far away from Shelly as possible. The girl hadn’t harassed her nearly as much as last year, but the increasingly frequent arguments between Darla’s parents had taught her that avoidance was sometimes the best offense. It was a skill at which she’d became sadly adept.

The small group leader looked Darla up and down and clapped her hand to her mouth. Oh, you poor girl. Yes, of course.

Reggie tugged the strap of her white tank top. May I go, too? Just in case? I didn’t think boys could be such jerks. She shot a glare at her brother.

"Yes, you may. For the next few years, you might want to assume all boys are going to be jerks," Shia said.

She winked like it was a joke, but Darla figured there was truth behind the advice.

Reggie linked her arm with Darla’s and tugged her across the field, around the side of the Algonquin building, and into the woods. Hurry up, slug feet. I don’t want to miss the relay race, Reggie said.

It was no wonder she wanted to rush back to Rec Time. With a star player of the Fairmount Middle basketball team at the helm, the Gold Spinners were destined to dominate the race. Reggie was an athlete even in the trivial stroll up the paths to the cabins. Her stride spanned several feet of woodland dirt, like a proud, galloping stallion, while Darla’s mincing waddle more closely resembled a penguin.

Her friend flung open the door to Cabin One with a triumphant warble. Darla duplicated the call and delighted in the echo. There was something exhilarating about being alone in a Wakonda cabin—as long as she didn’t encounter a spider-filled sleeping bag.

The memory made Darla shiver, and she could swear the little buggers were still there, clinging to the blond hair on her legs. She smacked imaginary spiders from her calves and followed Reggie into the bunkroom.

The damp swimsuits in the cubbies made the bunk smell strongly of chlorine, but Darla had inhaled worse stenches in the cabin. The combination of body odor and bug spray produced a surprisingly noxious stink, but even that was nothing compared to the lingering smell of skunk wafting in from the Cabin One deck. April had been lucky the skunk only sprayed her shoes during the morning hike to the seining stream, but now the occupants of Cabin One had to suffer the odor as her sneakers aired out on the deck. Since the cabin had been the designated meeting spot for Rob’s Time Turners, the group temporarily moved to Fire Ring Four, putting them closer to The Last Unicorns in the lower pavilion. The proximity tested both factions throughout their last small group meeting. The resolve eventually crumbled when both groups surrendered to a Huzzah battle that devoured the remainder of campfire prep.

Darla gave in like the rest, but it made her anxious about their songs and skits. She’d felt like a superstar writing a song for the Jellyfish the previous year, but Camp Storybook had proven a challenge theme. Though she’d generated a few alternative unicorn rhymes, doin’ porn was always the first to pop into her head. She had a feeling it wouldn’t be an appropriate suggestion, so she kept it locked away for private amusement.

Reggie peeled off her shirt and tossed it onto her bunk. While Darla shielded her see-through bra and the mosquito bites beneath, Reggie didn’t bother hiding her body. And why should she? Since getting her period last year—along with every other girl in the world except Darla—and snagging a boyfriend Darla had lusted over since realizing boys weren’t completely disgusting, Regina Faraday’s confidence had reached an all-time high.

Or Darla’s had taken a nosedive. She couldn’t tell yet.

Earth to Darla. Reggie tossed a towel at her friend. Your hair’s a little wet, too. Go on, dry off and get cutesy before you kick Nate’s ass in the race.

Darla rolled her eyes and squeezed her bangs with the towel. There’s no way I can beat him. He’s all skinny and springy like a....

A spring? Reggie chirped.

Yup. And I’m just a flat-chested sausage head.

Reggie giggled. That’s dumb. Your head looks way more like a light bulb than a sausage.

Oh thanks. That makes me feel great.

Darla collapsed backward onto her bunk—her stupid bottom bunk. She crinkled her nose at the bed above hers, occupied by Shelly’s pillow, sleeping bag, and industrial makeup kit. She pressed her feet against the wooden underside, alternating kicking and walking as she sighed.

I still feel like such a baby, and I shouldn’t, she said. I’m going to be thirteen soon. Just a few more days, and I’ll be a teenager.

Reggie’s eyes widened in dramatic surprise, and she slapped her hand to her heart.

"You? Thirteen? I had no idea! When is that happening?"

Darla swung her feet to the floor and popped up, her cheeks burning with embarrassment. I guess I’ve been talking about it a lot, huh?

Reggie twisted her lips into a devilish smirk. Maybe a little. She shrugged as she buttoned her plaid shirt. But I don’t blame you, especially after the undercover counselor thing last year. She hung off the bunk bed ladder and winked at Darla through the wooden rungs.

I thought we promised we’d never talk about that again.

Reggie pouted through a smile. No, I don’t think we did.

Guess what I want for my birthday then, Darla said.

Reggie fired a finger-gun at her. You got it. Not another word. Now let’s get back to Rec Time.

Reggie skipped out of the bunkroom, and Darla chased after.

She caught her friend’s arm, stopping her at the door. Darla’s chin was trembling. She clenched her jaw, but it only made the worry more apparent.

Hey, what’s wrong? Reggie asked. I was just kidding about the birthday thing.

Darla nodded and wiped her nose, unable to answer. The truth was that lots of things upset her lately, and her thirteenth birthday was the least of them. As she stared at her best female friend, she suppressed the urge to admit she missed the girl who used to fill that spot.

She loved Reggie and was grateful to have her, but she had loved Lisa Fordham, too. The ease at which that former friend had lifted from her life still made Darla fear for her current friendships. She tried not to think about it, a task complicated by her persistence in sending Lisa the occasional message—most of which went unanswered. They’d exchanged a few comments on Facebook and some favorites on Twitter. Darla told herself that, like her, Lisa wasn’t the biggest fan of social media, but the numerous threads between Lisa and her classmates in Virginia blew that theory out of the water.

There was also the little matter of the semi-permanent bed Darla’s dad had made on the living room couch. He never transformed the sofa into a bed until after Darla went to sleep, and it was back to normal before she woke up, until a late night craving for chocolate milk had spilled her father’s secret. Darla had stared at him slumbering in the living the room and chewed anxiously on her straw. It had been the most unsatisfying midnight snack of her life.

The only good part of her home life these days was her brother’s brighter, more positive outlook. She’d noticed an upswing in Brian’s demeanor soon after he started dating Felicia. She figured it wouldn’t last, but here they were nearly a year later, and her big brother remained the agreeable sunshine peeking through a stormy household. After years of apathy and scorn, Brian’s attitude adjustment was still too unnatural for genuine comfort.

Then there was the enormous question mark stamped on her relationship with Nate. Sometimes she didn’t mind her ignorance about his feelings because it provided him the opportunity to surprise her—an event she imagined nearly every night. Like an overblown musical number on Glee, Nate would serenade Darla right out of her seat and twirl her into his arms, his tongue nimbly conquering even the most complicated of lyrics. He had waited so long to tell her, to show her and the whole world just how much he loved her, and he was going to make the wait as worthwhile as possible.

Darla was certain it would be the most magical experience of her life. She just wished he’d hurry up and get magical already.

Figuring she’d bothered Reggie with that predicament enough for a few hours, Darla swallowed her worries and opted for a silly response.

We’re out of seventh grade now, and I never told Mr. Harvey how I feel about him.

Reggie clamped her hand to Darla’s shoulder and wiggled her eyebrows. Trust me. He knows. Besides, it’s not like you’re leaving school yet. There’s plenty of time to confess your undying love. She held open the front door of Cabin One for Darla. You might want to wait until your birthday, though. Maybe thirteen’s his lucky number.

As they marched down the path, Darla’s mind blossomed like a crocus at the first nip of spring. A fantasy bloomed therein, the vision dotted with colorful party balloons and the shimmering gifts kids would bring to her birthday celebration on Sunday. Mr. Harvey was there, too! The crowd of kids parted, chunks of cake teetering on their forks as they watched the Language Arts teacher stride up to the birthday girl. There, in her backyard, on bended knee, Mr. Harvey declared a truth he’d long kept hidden.

I love you, Darla Decker. I love you more than alliteration, more than a properly placed participle. More than Kiryowack and Henry David Throw—whoever those guys are. He kissed her hands and rolled his gaze upward. You are all the poetry I need.

Darla prayed there would never be a time when she couldn’t recall his voice. Even if it uttered phrases in her brain he’d never direct at her, she clung to any consistency she could these days.

Sunlight streamed through the verdant canopy over the cabins and burned away her daydream. It accentuated the Algonquin’s chocolate hue as she emerged from the woods, and illuminated the girl standing in front of the Bee Room with one hand on her hip.

Darla cantered to catch up to Reggie, and they joined hands to fly around the building to the backfield.

From the Curse Breakers and Knights of the Round Table to the Dragon Slayers and the Unfortunate Events, the groups of Camp Storybook lined up across the field for the relay races overseen by the Wakonda elders. The adults intimidated Darla last year, but with Tully and Becky warmly beckoning her and Reggie, she truly regarded them as family.

The girls broke into a sprint, and the directors shouted a decidedly familiar, Walk, please!

The girls slowed to a shuffle that carried them across the basketball court to the field.

Reggie jogged to the Gold Spinners, where Christina stood at the center of her clustered group. She stabbed the air with the silver baton, which glinted like a sword in an epic fantasy film. Even the way the small group leader said, Which of you Gold Spinners will lead us to victory? sounded like a motivational battle cry.

Darla leapt into the Last Unicorns circle with new inspiration.

I’ll start us off, she said, her chest puffed and chin raised high. I shall lead us to victory.

Shia frowned and patted Darla’s shoulder. We’re not doing the relays, Darla. We have dinner KP, remember?

She hadn’t remembered. Knocked out of the battle before she had a chance to swing a sword. Typical.

Darla kicked a dirt clod and hung her head as she followed the Last Unicorns to the cafeteria.

Chapter 2 – Are You My Anything?

Darla hated KP duty. While the rest of the Last Unicorns galloped to the upended cafeteria tables, she made a beeline for the bathroom. She took a deliberately long time peeing and washing her hands, then dawdled as she exited, dancing her fingers over the paintings of tropical fish on the alcove walls.

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