Liar meets Romeo and Juliet in this Shakespeare-inspired young adult novel about trusting yourself when everyone is telling you your instincts are wrong.
Jaye wakes up in the hospital, disoriented and beset by a slippery morphing of reality into something else. She repeatedly sees a boy who she feels like she knows-but that's impossible. Determined to get back to school and back to A Midsummer Night's Dream, in which she's starring, she lies to her sister, her mom, and her doctors-she's fine, she says. She's fine, she's fine, she's fine. But then on her first day back, she takes a seat in class next to the mysterious boy. Queasy with anxiety ("I can't see you," she hisses at him, "because you're not really here"), Jaye realizes this boy is, in fact, real. And he has no idea what she's talking about.
Caught between this fascinating, empathetic new kid and her childhood friend turned recent love interest, Jaye begins to notice unnerving similarities between her circumstances and those of some of Shakespeare's most famous plays. Tingling banter and clandestine meet-ups give way to darker, muddier incidents. As things escalate to a frightening pitch, how much of what's happening is real, how much is in Jaye's head, and how much does it matter as she's hurtling toward a fateful end over which she seems to have no control?
|Publisher:||Penguin Young Readers Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)|
|Age Range:||12 Years|
About the Author
Jacqueline West, a two-time Pushcart nominee for poetry, is also the author of the kid- and critic-beloved middle-grade Books of Elsewhere series. Jacqueline lives amid the bluffs of Red Wing, Minnesota, with her husband, son, and their dog, Brom Bones.
Kyla Garcia is an AudioFile Earphones Award-winning narrator. Born and raised in Hoboken, New Jersey, she discovered acting at the age of eight when she played Lady Macbeth in a children's adaptation of Shakespeare's tragedy. She made her off-Broadway debut at fifteen when she played Dorothy in Oz: A Twisted Musical. Eleven years after she discovered her passion for acting, she would go on to play Lady Macbeth once again in London at the Globe Theatre, where she studied Shakespeare during her third year at Mason Gross School of the Arts. She received her BFA in acting from Rutgers University.
Read an Excerpt
My eyes started to open without my permission.
I fought to keep them shut. The second I opened them, I’d be sucked up into the tooth-brushing, clothes-finding rush to school, searching for my algebra textbook, remembering the assignment I’d skipped when I got caught up in the Hitchcock marathon on AMC. By the time I staggered downstairs, everyone else would be dressed, flushed and glowing from their early-morning runs and showers, and I’d still have pillow creases on my face and a flat spot in my hair.
I tried to wriggle down into my rumpled purple quilt.
But this morning, the quilt was tucked with weird severity across my chest. And someone—probably Mom—had already come into my room and opened the thick velvet curtains I’d made with scraps from the costume shop.
Mom must have turned on the lights too, which meant I’d really overslept. The glow that fell over me wasn’t the chilly blue of dawn. It wasn’t even the paler blue that meant I’d already hit snooze twice. This light was yellow and electric and ugly, and it was prying at my eyelids like a butter knife.
I flung out a hand and groped for the alarm.
But the alarm hadn’t buzzed.
And my arm didn’t move.
I opened my eyes.
This was definitely not my bedroom.
This room was spotless. Its tile floor gleamed. Its windows sparkled behind half-closed blinds. The walls were bare. No theater posters, no doodles, no collages of ticket stubs and quotes from Ibsen and Tennessee Williams. The sheets around me were as clean as printer paper. Everything was coated with that ugly yellow light.
That light. And that smell.
I knew that smell.
Liquid soap. Rubbing alcohol. Bodies.
Bodies that leaked and sweated and bled things that should have been kept sealed inside.
The hospital smell.
My throat constricted.
In the usual nightmare, I’d be running through the maze of hospital halls, veering around corners, looking desperately for the right room. Sometimes, just as I spotted the door, a blockade of nurses would appear and tell me that only family was allowed inside, and when I said I was family, no one would believe me. Sometimes I never found the door at all. I always woke from these dreams with my legs cramped and tired, my heart pounding.
But this time, Iwas the one in the bed.
This time, the needle was in my arm. The machines beeped along to my own pulse.
This was wrong. This made no sense.
Might as well sink deeper and start again.
The darkness lashed out. It wound around me, tightening, pulling. I felt the bed tilt, my head rising, feet falling, until I slid straight out of the sheets into something covered in prickly upholstery.
When I looked up again, a long, empty stage stretched in front of me. Its red velvet curtains were bleached by the beam of a spotlight.
This was where I was meant to be. In the high school auditorium, waiting for rehearsal to start.
The panic of the dream flowed out of me. Happiness gushed into its place, bringing everything else with it. The sight of the cast list. TITANIA, the FAIRY QUEEN—Jaye Stuart printed there in big black letters, and still I had to read it six times to believe it.The sensation of the battered paperback script in my hands, all my gorgeous lines highlighted in ribbons of green ink.
I bounced in the creaky seat.
Where was everybody?
Tom and Nikki almost always beat me to the auditorium. By the time I got here, they’d be deep in some project, sketching makeup designs, arguing over the pronunciation of the word zounds. Crew members came even earlier, opening the curtains, flipping on the work lights. But now there was no one.
I craned around. Behind me, rows of empty seats dwindled upward into shadows. Except for that single burning spotlight, the entire house was dark. I was about to get up for a better look around when there was a soft creak to my left.
I turned, expecting to see Nikki or Tom. Maybe Anders or Hannah. Some other friend. Not Pierce Caplan, I told myself, before the beating in my chest could get too hopeful. Don’t even think about Pierce Caplan.
But the person in the next seat wasn’t anyone I knew.
I recognized him anyway.
He had sunken cheeks, and a sharp, stubbly jaw. His hair looked like it had been through several nights of bad sleep. He was dressed all in black, so every part of him but his head and his hands seemed to seep into the surrounding dimness. There was a prop human skull in his lap.
He stared straight at me.
“Hello,” I said slowly.
“Hello.” Hamlet’s voice was low and polite. “Are you here for the play?”
“For rehearsal? Yes. But we’re doing A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” I glanced down at the yellowish skull. “I think you’re waiting for the wrong show.”
He shook his head. “I’m only here to watch.”
“Oh.” I pulled my eyes away from the skull. “Well, we’re just getting started, so there won’t be much to see. Unless you really love high school drama.” I smiled. “The offstage kind, I mean.”
Hamlet didn’t smile back. “How so?”
“The usual stupidness. Someone likes someone who doesn’t like them back. Somebody gets a part that somebody else wanted. A bunch of the senior girls are mad that a junior—meaning me—gets to play Titania. A bunch of the theater kids are mad that a guy who’s never done a play before gets to be Oberon . . .”
“But you are not mad.”
“Me?” I turned to face him head-on. Hamlet’s eyes were like cracked ice. “Not really. No.”
“No.” Now Hamlet began to smile. It was a knowing, lopsided smile. It made the skin of my arms prickle. “Why should Titania cross her Oberon?”
I’ve honed a giant repertoire of expressions in my bedroom mirror. Morose. Effervescent. Smitten. Terrified. I can leap from one end of the spectrum to the other, pull off layers of strange combinations. It’s like having a thousand disguises that I can take with me anywhere. Now I smoothed my face into my innocent/nonchalant expression, the expression that said I didn’t care that Pierce Caplan—perfect, golden, untouchable Pierce—was playing my husband in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
“We should really be getting started,” I said. “I wonder where everybody is . . .”
I craned around to search the house again. I could still feel Hamlet’s cracked-ice stare numbing my skin. I didn’t think he had blinked yet.
“God has given you one face, and you make yourself another,” he said at last, so softly that I wasn’t sure I’d actually heard him. When I glanced back, he was spinning the skull in a slow circle in his lap.
I put a little more space between us.
Hamlet stiffened suddenly. “Shh. Listen.”
“I don’t hear anything.”
He lifted the skull on one palm. Its features glinted in the semidarkness. “Do you know him?”
The skull’s empty eye sockets stared back at me. The crest of its forehead was ridged and uneven, one large crack spidering over the bumps of bone. Its grinning teeth were slightly crooked, some edges worn flat, others tilted inward. Too much detail for a prop.
I swallowed hard. “No. I don’t know him.” The twinge in my neck crept up into my own skull, opening like the petals of a flower. I could feel it pulse behind my right eye.
“He wants to speak to you.” Hamlet’s face was serious. Almost tender. Like he was lifting a puppy or a full bowl of soup, he tilted the skull’s gritted smile to my ear.
I forced myself not to jerk away.
“I don’t hear anything,” I said again, after a second. “Are you going to make it talk, like some creepy puppet?”
“Listen,” Hamlet hissed. The skull’s teeth brushed my earlobe. “He says, ‘Remember me.’”
The pulse behind my eye thumped harder. “‘Remember me’? What am I supposed to remember about Yorick?”
“Not Yorick.” Hamlet frowned like this was obvious. “Your father.”
My whole body went cold. I whirled toward him, making my voice stiff and clear as an icicle. Katharine Hepburn.Maggie Smith. “Don’t talk to me anymore.”
Hamlet leaned toward me again, his cracked-ice eyes wide. “I think I saw him yesternight.”
“Stop it.” I tried to stand up, but my body was fastened to the chair.
He pointed to the stage. “Look where it comes again!”
From behind the curtain, there came the hollow sound of footsteps.
The ache in my head froze. My heart shot up into my throat and stuck there.
The dusty velvet curtains twitched.
Another strangled heartbeat. Then the curtains parted, and a man stepped out onto the lip of the stage.
The dimness smudged his edges, and the spotlight gave him a blurry glow, but I’d seen enough portraits on scripts and books and classroom walls to recognize him. The Renaissance-Elvis pompadour. The heavy-lidded eyes. The gold hoop earring.
In person, Shakespeare looked younger. Sharper. Every motion he made was pared down to fine lines, so he seemed to move with perfect precision, not a flicker of energy wasted.
His eyes were very dark. They speared through the spotlight, straight down into mine.
“Be as thou wast wont to be,” he said, in a quiet, resonant voice. “See as thou wast wont to see.”
“Jaye . . .” said another voice. “Jaye?”
The auditorium collapsed.
The armrests sagged under my elbows. The prickly upholstery flattened into cotton sheets. The ache in my head thawed, pounding back to life.
“Jaye? Are you still awake?”
A face floated above me. I blinked up at it, fighting against the flood of ugly yellow light, while the white ceiling and white walls and white floors rebuilt themselves, and the floating face crystalized into my sister.
Sadie looked a little like me, with all the good parts amplified and the bad parts erased. Her jaw was firm. Her nose was straight. She had a runner’s long, slim body. Her hair was sleek and wavy and shimmery red-brown. I suppose at least my hair might have looked like hers, if I wasn’t always dyeing it. But I needed the things that made me different from Sadie. Comparisons were a bad idea.
Sadie sat on the edge of the bed, wearing a thin green sweater and one of her million scarves. Its fringe brushed my arm as she leaned over me. “Are you okay?”
I didn’t know what expression to put on. I recognized the room, in a hazy way. And Sadie had said “are you still awake.” Terrified confusion didn’t seem appropriate. I struggled for a blank face.
“My head hurts.” My voice came out deep and raspy, like I’d been gargling with gravel.
“I know it hurts.” Sadie leaned back again. “You’ve said so about eight thousand times.”
“My cheek hurts too,” I said, in my new, raspy voice. “Have I said that eight thousand times?”
“Seven thousand.” Sadie’s eyes narrowed slightly, and I knew she was doing that thing where she tries to pry beneath my outer layers, to see past what I’m showing her and peel me down to the truth. “Do you remember where you are?”
“. . . The hospital.”
Sadie waited. So did I.
As usual, she cracked first. “And what are you doing in the hospital?”
I traveled backward through the fragments. The auditorium, Hamlet, the cracked skull. A sparkling white field. Snow. A deep voice. Someone gently lifting my hand.
“I was . . .” I mumbled. “It’s just—flashes.”
Sadie gave a muted sigh. “We were skiing,” she prompted.
“Skiing?” I blinked twice, but this time, the room didn’t change. “You mean—you and Mom and me?”
“I know. Jaye Stuart participating in a sport?” Sadie shook her head. “Blue moons colliding. Snowballs piling up in hell.”
It must have been the grogginess filling my body, because I almost broke the rule. “But we haven’t gone skiing since—”
“I know.” Sadie cut me off just in time. “Mom and I just thought it would be nice. Good memories. You know.”
I had to fight to keep the disbelief off my face.
Good memories? Mom and Sadie shushing happily off on their skis. Me wobbling, stiff and terrified, on the learner’s slope, whining about the cold, my sore ankles, the steepness of the hills. Dad’s teasing smile turning embarrassed. Then tight. Then angry. I remembered one trip—I must have been eight or nine—when he grabbed me by the arm and shoved me down the incline while I screamed and cried and strangers stared at us. At the bottom of the bunny hill, Dad leaned close and hissed at me through clenched teeth, “You’re not even trying,” before gliding away, leaving me alone. I’d spent the rest of that trip—and every ski trip afterward—waddling up and down the grounds near the lodge, trying to look like I had just finished a great run, or like I was just about to head out on another, practicing my lies for Dad. I did the learner’s slope four times, I’d say, hoping my frostbitten cheeks would be enough evidence. I tried. Really.
“I hated those trips,” I told Sadie.
“Well, there may have been bribery involved, but you’ll have to ask Mom about that.”
I scraped the memories away. “So, we were skiing. And then?”
“There was an accident.” Now Sadie looked at my cheek instead of my eyes. “You hit a tree.”
“And that’s why I don’t ski.” My right cheek tingled. In fact, the entire right side of my face felt tender and hot, like it had when we were little and Sadie accidentally bashed me in the eye with a Little League bat. I raised a hand to touch it, but taped tubes and needles jerked my arm back. “Wait.” The sparkling whiteness and fog and bloody roses were piling up again. “I hit a tree?”
“You were unconscious for a while.” Sadie rearranged one of the tubes I’d pulled out of place. “There’s a fracture in your skull. But the doctors don’t think it’s too serious. There’s no bleeding in your brain or anything.”
The words—skull, fracture, bleeding in the brain—seemed to belong to someone else. Someplace else. They slithered out of my reach. I closed my eyes, hoping Sadie wouldn’t see how lost I was.
Her voice had been so bland. So factual. So well-rehearsed.
“Sadie . . .” My throat burned. “Have you told me all of this before?”
“Have I told you?” There was a pause. Too long. “Yes. More than once.”
I kept my eyes closed. “I don’t remember.”
“But this is the first time you’ve asked me if I’ve told you before,” said Sadie. “That’s probably a good sign.”
“I don’t remember any of it.”
“The nurses say that’s totally normal. They say people with head injuries do all kinds of things they don’t remember afterward. Especially when they’re on painkillers. Some of them hit people, some of them shout things, some pull the needles out of their arms and run out of their rooms in their little flapping hospital dresses.” Sadie’s voice changed, and I could tell that she was smiling. “I guess you sat up in bed the other day and recited Juliet’s whole ‘Wherefore art thou Romeo’ speech at the top of your lungs.”
“I did?” I opened my eyes. “I didn’t even know I knew that speech.”
Sadie’s grin widened. “Apparently the entire wing could hear you.”
I laughed. It was just a short laugh, but it made my chest throb like I’d been punched. It took a few seconds before I could speak again. “So . . . how did they say I was?”
“Oh my god.” Sadie threw her head back. “You are such a drama queen.”
Her words worked their way through the fog. The other day, you sat up in bed . . .
“Sadie,” I began, “how long have I been in here?”
Sadie’s smile vanished. She craned back slightly, like she wanted to get out of my reach. “For the record, you’ve never asked me that before either.” She straightened the tubes taped to my arm again, even though they didn’t need straightening. She didn’t look at me when she answered. “It’s been six days.”
“. . . Six days?” Panic flash-froze my insides. “How—what have I been doing here for six days?”
“Resting,” said Sadie flatly.
“But I can’t—” My lungs had crystalized. The words came out with a wheeze. “Six days? I can’t even remember them.”
“That’s because you’ve been resting.”
Oh my god. Six days. Six days. My thoughts ripped apart, flying in all directions. Some flew to my mother. Where is she? Is she all right? Some flew to the play. What have I already missed? Has Mr. Hall given my role away? Has Pierce even noticed that I’m gone? And some flew backward, to that hole in the snow, the whiteness filling up with blood-red roses. Six days. How could I not remember any of it? Would I forget all of this in another few minutes, and only remember to ask again on day twelve? Day twenty? Day four hundred?
“Oh my god, Sadie.” I reached for the bed’s plastic railing. “I have to get out of here.”
“Nobody wants you here. Believe me.”
“No.” I tried to sit up. The bones of my spine seemed to have fused, and the best I could manage was to roll onto my left elbow. The tubes in my other arm pulled. Somewhere nearby, a high-pitched alarm began to beep. “I need to get out of here. Mom must be—”
“Jaye, hang on.” Sadie darted around the bed and gripped my shoulders. “You can’t just—”
I writhed upright. My ribs dug through my chest like spears. A tube in my elbow snapped free. The white walls. The machines. The beeping. “I need to get out of here.”
“Jaye, just let me get the nurse. It’s going to be—”
“No,” I said, in my most forceful voice, even though it made my throat sting. I lurched sideways, managing to swing one leg out of the bed. Sadie tried to push me back. An alarm began to blare. “I’m getting out of here.”
The door flew open. A nurse in blue scrubs strode toward the bed.
Our mother hurried after her.
Something had happened to her face. Mom usually looks a decade younger than she is—she always has that yoga glow, and her face and voice are like raw silk, smooth and soft, with a little natural waver in the fiber. But now she looked twenty years older. I could tell she hadn’t been eating. She hadn’t washed her hair in days, either. Tight lines curved around her mouth, like wires cutting into the skin.
I’d seen her this way once before.
She had to get out of here too.
“Mom—” The nurse pushed me back onto the bed, repeating my name. I tried to shove her hands away. “Mom, I’m fine. I just need to get out.” I fought back the desperation. “Make them let me out.”
Mom grabbed Sadie’s arm. “What happened?” I heard her whisper.
“She was asking how long she’d been here, and when I told her—”
“No. Mom, I’m all right. I swear.” The walls. The smell. The beeping and wheezing machines clustered around Dad’s narrow white bed. My head was going to explode. “Let’s get out of here. Please.”
“Jaye . . .” The nurse adjusted something in my arm. “Hang on, Jaye. Just stay with me . . .”
The room smeared. Shadows climbed the walls like fast-growing vines.
“Jaye, can you hear me?”
In the row of vinyl chairs beneath the window, William Shakespeare sat, staring back at me.
His eyes were deep blue. A slip of yellow light glittered on his hoop earring. Keeping his eyes on me, he placed one finger against his lips.
And then the room turned inside out.
Excerpted from "Dreamers Often Lie"
Copyright © 2016 Jacqueline West.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Young Readers Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Love this. Closest a book has come to feeling like a dream, and I mean that in the best way. The book is ethereal and obviously written by a drama geek. The multitude of quotes from Shakespeare are a treat, and seeing the reflections of several of the bard's plays is an extra layer of fun.