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Literature / The Saga of Tuck

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Take your average group of teenagers in any high school drama - you've got the cliques, the bratty cheerleaders, the testosterone-crazed jocks, the outsiders who are too normal to be cool, the geeks who are too far out for even the normals, the freshmen who want to fit in, the recently-transferred students who want to do the same... and then you have Tuck and his friends. He's the high-school nerd who's particularly skilled in various manners of weaponry and martial arts through necessity, whose family is equally so, who alternates between roleplaying, computers, and going out on week-long hiking trips with friends, not to mention skilled enough to take care of a number of computer jobs, but still runs up against the aforementioned cliques and jocks on a far too regular basis.

Oh, and lest it seem still rather ordinary, it turns out that his girlfriend has a few quirks, and when she decides to Mind Screw the entire campus with him on Halloween, he seems far too good at being female... and that's just the start.


The Saga of Tuck is a long-running, generally-acclaimed work of fiction by Ellen Hayes, exploring just how a teen would react if suddenly his life, and gender, were turned upside down in so many ways. Published periodically online since 1997 (which is when the storyline is set; a little over a year of story time has elapsed in a dozen years), it's an excellent look at how normal - and yet how very strange - a teenager's life can become. The 'Valentine's Day' episodes are a continuation of the main story after a two-and-a-half-month (as of #142) Time Skip, while 'Tuck Season' is an Alternate Continuity story set in the 'Seasons of Change' shared universe.


This serial novel provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Afraid of Needles: Justified in that Tuck just loathes anything conclusively medical.
  • Alternate Continuity: Seasons is a shorter (in comparison to the main story) story of Tuck's summer vacation where instead of babysitting as Valerie the whole summer, Tuck goes to a stereotypical (in transgender fiction) petticoat discipline boot camp. Hilarity Ensues as Tuck is not even close as how characters behave in other petticoat discipline stories.
  • Ambiguous Gender: Even when Tuck tries hard not to be.
  • Attractive Bent-Gender: The titular character, natch, though a few others may qualify later.
  • Badass Bookworm: Tuck, his best friend, several others who are just a BIT more skilled than they might seem...
  • Beautiful All Along: Jill
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Most of the characters are the nicest folks you'll ever meet...until you threaten one.
  • Blood Brothers: Tuck and Mike (Euromutt- and Chinese-American) describe themselves as brothers; literally, they performed a blood ritual and have some kind of psychic link. Tuck even says he cannot die unless his brother lets him go.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The series began with a relatively light, comic tone, though there had always been a more serious undercurrent. This took a much darker turn after Tuck mysteriously begins developing breasts; while it grew lighter again for a time, later events took the series into some very deep and murky territory indeed, and many fans stopped reading - while the quality of the series remained high, it was too different for some who preferred the lighter stories. Currently, the series is on an upward swing, following the grave events set in September and October 1997.
  • Cliffhanger: Rarely, usually when the main character is in serious trouble.
    • Or, earlier during the publication history, to solicit fan mail.
  • Code Emergency: goes along with the Crazy-Prepared, like beans and rice.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: The main character and his friends wind up pulling off many of these, but the best ones eventually got their former school principal to commit assault and battery. And remove himself from the job.
  • Coming-Out Story: Averted. Or, the entire story to date could be seen as partially one loooooooong coming out story... including Tuck coming out to himself. But this is arguable. And argued.
  • Convenient Coma
    • Arguable... could be that he was merely sleeping off the last few months.
  • The Cracker: Faceless and nameless, but every time they try, they butt heads with Tuck and his family. Bad Idea.
    • Never described as the same person or group.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Tuck's family: they seem to be suitably geared and capable of warding off whatever trouble they might run into, up to and including a nuclear war. At least, when on their own terms.
  • Minored In Ass Kicking: Tuck, possibly Mike.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Tuck's karma winds up with him surrounded by a dozen cute girls at a moment's notice, capable of masking himself as female, and able to hold a job he excels at without even trying...
  • Dean Bitterman: Principal Nickerson, also a Sadist Teacher - hard to figure which fits best.
  • Different for Girls: Initially...and lampshaded later.
  • Door Stopper: 7 megabytes and over a million words.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Just about everyone has something hanging around, though it doesn't show most of the time.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Subverted: In fact, in at least one case a character needs to manually go over the information by hand.
  • First Law of Tragicomedies
  • Five-Man Band: Averted. There is a five man band, but it's a musical (rock) band and plays music in clubs.
    • And they have shown absolutely no predilection for having adventures or solving mysteries.
  • Hermaphrodite: After all that gender-bending work, Tuck discovers that xie is actually a chimera, with both XX and XY chromosomes in hir body and ovotestes.
  • High-School Hustler: while several of them have moments like this, Debbie is the one who fits the trope most closely.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: mostly averted. Travis is attracted to Valerie, but it's revealed that he thinks she's a transsexual, either post-op or on her way, which would make him straight but unprejudiced (so far as he knows). Later on, Jill, then Pam, try to date Tuck/Valerie, but Jill is only interested in Tuck.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: though Tuck's idea of "normal" is not, erm, what the majority of people would call normal.
  • Kick the Dog: Principal Nickerson, who tends to put students in detention or completely suspend them for mental breakdowns.
    • tended. Heh.
  • Mama Bear: Tuck's mother, when Tuck is in that Convenient Coma, scares everyone except possibly her husband.
  • Meaningful Name Yeah, Tuck means something in the transgender and transvestite communities. It's a verb.
  • Mind Rape: Extremely hard, extremely fast. Thankfully, not permanent, though.
  • Muggles: At one point Tuck refers to a group of female underclassmen as a separate species "Homo Mundanus". Tuck and his (male) friends are extremely contemptuous of the majority of the people that surround them at school.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted at least once, though not in any spectacular way.
  • Noodle Incident: just what did Travis do as a favor for Lisa?
    • Also possibly the previous babysitting job/incident Mike had with Tuck; it's mentioned a few times.
    • Averted other times, perhaps, as the author likes coming up with them. Examples are the panties found under Brian's desk; the shocking of a parent, the refrigerator painting, the missing air compressor (never explained, but then nobody who mentioned it knows what happened either)
  • No Periods, Period: Averted
  • Not a Date
  • Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught: The primary rule of Tuck's family and friends...but they're exceedingly good at it.
  • Not What It Looks Like
  • Of Corsets Sexy: at least two separate people known. Not counting Pam as Xena during Halloween, either.
    • And just why does Debbie have one or more corsets to begin with?
  • One Degree of Separation: not really.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted, including a number of minor mix-ups over people with the same first name.
  • Playboy Bunny: Once - or, perhaps, twice - and not who you think it is. And not why you think it is either.
  • Police Are Useless: The belief of Tuck's family - who like to take matters into their own hands, except when they don't.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Depending on who you ask.
  • Punny Name: Also Meaningful Name, really. A crossdresser named Tuck? Get it? Get it?
    • Every chapter title is a Punny Name.
      • Only the ones written from Tuck's POV; the other ones are named after Pink Floyd songs.
      • One hundred and twenty six titles. All (we hope) at least subtly different.
      • There's at least one repeated title.
  • Recursive Crossdressing: Lampshaded. "If I have to do this one more time today, I'm gonna kill myself." #24
  • Sadist Teacher: Principal Nickerson, as well as Mrs. Vangormer, though the latter hasn't been explored.
  • Scylla and Charybdis: Made all the worse by the fact that the main character has to choose between two aspects of himself.
  • Secret Identity: He may not be a superhero, but Tuck vs. Valerie may well qualify.
  • Shown Their Work: On technology, on gender issues, on virtually EVERYTHING related to the series. The author knows her stuff, has done the research, and this shows strongly.
  • Shur Fine Guns: Averted; whenever the Tuckerspawn are practising on a shooting range one of their activities involves clearing jammed guns.
  • Signed Language: Tuck is fluent in ASL because he had communication problems when he was a child, so his family and Mike learned it as well. Comes very handly to secretly talk in plain sight without listeners and to befriend a deaf girl in Seasons.
  • Slice of Life
  • Slumber Party
  • Sorkin Relationship Moment
  • Stuffed into a Locker: In the worst possible way.
    • And once into a trash can, which ought to count too.
  • Sympathetic P.O.V.: Jody Martin, eventually.
  • Talking in Bed
  • The Mafia: If you screw with Tuck or members of his groups, you do not come out smelling like roses. Lampshaded in various uses of the term "Omerta", meaning roughly, 'you don't go to the cops, you come to us'.
    • Meaning exactly, "Whoever appeals to the law against his fellow man is either a fool or a coward. Whoever cannot take care of himself without police protection is both. It is as cowardly to betray an offender to justice, even though his offences be against yourself, as it is not to avenge an injury by violence. It is dastardly and contemptible in a wounded man to betray the name of his assailant, because if he recovers, he must naturally expect to take vengeance himself."
  • Transvestite: One character's father runs a support group.
  • True Companions: possibly the Pack, but definitely Da Boyz.
  • Unreliable Narrator: almost all the story is written from the first-person limited viewpoint of Tucker himself. And Tucker doesn't understand a great deal about human-human communication protocols.
  • Wacky Homeroom: to a degree, though both the previous year's and this year's homeroom teachers try (and partially succeed) at keeping things stiffly unwacky.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser
  • Wild Teen Party: Both subverted and played straight.
  • You Are Grounded!: Played straight.