Suburgatory meets Indiana Jones…on a farm
Fifteen-year-old Tabitha has had the kind of life that would impress even the greatest adventurers. She’s escaped a croc attack in the Amazon, walked the length of the Great Wall of China, and earned a black belt in taekwondo in Korea. She owes her worldly experience to her mother’s career in archaeology, but when her mother takes on a dangerous new
assignment, Tabitha is devastated to learn she can’t tag along.
Instead, she’s forced to live on a midwestern farm with her grandparents where she’ll have to attend a full year of public school. It’s Tabitha’s greatest nightmare, because despite all her adventures, she has no practical experience with the one thing that frightens her the most – other teenagers.
Her math teacher is her mom’s old high school boyfriend, she can’t tell the friendly girls from the mean ones, and she develops a major crush on a boy she knows she can’t trust. And just when she thinks she’ll never get the hang of this normal teenager thing, an attack brings the danger of her previous life right up to her midwestern porch. Who could have ever guessed getting totally shucked would bring her face-to-face with her most exciting adventure yet?
And now I had to face math too? I prayed for a tornado or anything to whisk me away from this school. Instead, a boy stood in the doorway, blocking my entry to the classroom.
His back to me, all I could see was his stringy blond hair. I had the strangest urge to run my fingers through it – fingers covered with shampoo, that is. I shuddered at the grossness of it. What? Did he just get off the
tractor before heading into school?
“Excuse me.” I nudged him with my knee as I ducked under the outstretched arm of the boy next to him. The other boy moved, maybe about a centimeter, as he turned his head to look down at me. Then I was struck.
Oh, Aphrodite, his eyes alone forced my stomach to plummet down to my toes. Gorgeous, dark brown Asian eyes. Who was this boy and what planet did he come from?He looked unlike every other midwestern homegrown pod person in this high school. My jaw dropped. My brain scrambled.
“Annyong hashimnikka.” I wanted to hit myself on the head with a blunt object. Stupid, stupid, stupid,
speaking Korean instead of English.
“Huh?” he asked, a smile spread across his face. Dimples, there were dimples. “Did you just tell me good afternoon in Korean?”
“That’s cool.” He reached down and put his arm around my shoulder. “How’d you know I’m Korean?”
“I lived there for a year,” I stammered, struck by his eyes.
“My parents taught me a little here and there when I was growing up. Too bad there isn’t an opportunity for me to learn more with the Korean adoption groups in Chicago. There isn’t enough free time on the farm for
My knees quivered as he led me over to an empty desk. What was wrong with me? Did my exile to cheerleading turn me into a weak-kneed teenage girl? I dropped my math book on the desk and gazed up at him.
“Long day?” he asked. “You look a little glassy eyed.”
Buddha give me strength. It was obvious. He knew.
“Leave her alone, Alex.” Becky elbowed her way between us. His arm slipped off my shoulders, leaving my
skin hot and tingly. I wasn’t feeling well all of a sudden.
Maybe my vomitingfears were about to come true.
Alex turned around and skulked to the back row. He struck up a conversation with a geek next to him. A girl geek. Jealousy gnawed at my gut. I might need to kill Becky for sending him away.
“Sorry about Alex,” Becky said, rolling her eyes. “He’s such a player.”
“You think he’s a player?” I asked. “Really?”
“He’s dated almost every girl in school.” Becky drew quotes in the air when she said dated.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked, eyeing him again. He leaned over closer to the geeky girl and twirled a bit of her hair around his index finger. She giggled. I reached to my belt for a sword before I realized I wasn’t in taekwondo and that I wasn’t allowed to hurt unarmed geeks.
“He’s a serial dater. He’s different. He’s hot. He knows it. Everyone has fallen for him at one time or another. Anyway, Alex is trouble. Stay away from him.”
Q & A
Q: Why did you decide to write a contemporary YA after spending the last three years writing high fantasy with the Song of Eloh Saga?
A: Shucked has been floating around my brain for close to seven years, but I always wanted to be known as a fantasy author, so I kept pushing Tabitha to the side. In January, she decided to grab a hold of me and not let go.
Q: Why did you set the novel on a farm?
A: I grew up on a farm and have always wanted to write about life there. Shucked gave me a chance to do that. It was a lot of fun writing about some of the thing that were normal to me as a kid that aren’t normal to everyone else. I adore my farming community and loved incorporating that small town spirit into the book.
Q: Where did you come up with the idea for the cover? I love it!
A: It wasn’t easy. I have a fantastic cover designer, Steven Novak (www.novakillustration.com). Usually he designs a cover, I say yes, and we’re done. This time I felt like the concept was a lot harder to nail down. He worked through four or five different version with me. I couldn’t be happier with the cover that you’re seeing now.
Q: Tell me about the title, Shucked.
A: Haha, that was another toughie. From the beginning, the file on my computer for this book was Adventure. It wasn’t until I became serious about publishing it that I realized I needed a unique title. I went through close to a hundred different ideas, but none of them felt right. Eventually I settled on Digging In. I figured it was the best I would come up with. About two weeks before publication, I finally had that stroke of brilliance with Shucked. Not only does it scream farm (shucking corn), it also is representative of what happens to Tabitha during the book (having her emotional layers peeled away), and there’s always the street meaning, which you can look up on Urban Dictionary if you want. Lol
Q: Will you write more contemporary novels?
A: I hope so! Right now I’m working on my next high fantasy, but Tabitha’s still in the back of my mind, begging for a continuation of her story. While Shucked easily works as a stand-alone novel, I think we all know that no one’s story
really ever ends. There’s always tomorrow.
The experts always say, “Write what you know.” That’s a tip I’ve largely ignored during my writing career. I mean, really, who wants to read about the things I know? My life is boring! That’s one of the big reasons I’ve always stuck with writing fantasy.
But Tabitha’s story in Shucked is really a reflection of what I know – because I grew up on a farm and went to school in a tiny farming community. I didn’t live with my grandparents or have a globetrotting archaeologist mom, but the flavor and lifestyle in Shucked is 100% authentic. It’s what I know and what I treasure most from my childhood.
In Shucked I wanted to convey the hilarious realities of farm life while mixing in the toughness that comes with growing up in a place where everyone knows everything about everyone else. There’s little privacy, but there is a whole lot of love.
And speaking of love…I wanted to give Tabitha an unusual, unexpected love interest. In the Midwest, you’ll occasionally find adoptees. They stick out because most people in small farming communities are whiter than bleached underwear. It’s not about prejudice, it’s usually just generations of the same families for hundreds of years. There isn’t much movement, or new blood, trickling into these communities.
Alex stands out to Tabitha. As a Korean adoptee, he looks completely different from every other boy in the school. Yet Tabitha, who grew up traveling around the world with her archaeologist mom, is used to
guys who are exotic. Seeing him the first day school turns her attitude on its ear. She has a lot of expectations for what school will be like, mainly because her only exposure to American teens has been through reality TV. She finds out fast that while some of her expectations are completely wrong, unfortunately a few are true.
Tabitha has a lot to learn about life, American teens, and, especially, herself. Her layers are stripped away one by one as she learns to trust people. It’s not just because she’s new to attending school or hanging out with teens. Every kid goes through this process in one way or another while in high school. It’s part of the
experience. Tabitha just happens to come from a totally different world of experience.Author Links: