By Isabella Biedenharn
September 03, 2015 at 03:05 PM EDT

If you liked the trippy hallucinations of Black Swan, you’ll be mesmerized by Jacqueline West’s eerie new YA romance, Dreamers Often Lie. After a skiing accident that fractures her skull, Jaye is left with a splitting headache and strong delusions. Jaye must keep these delusions secret from her family, doctors, and everyone at school in order to keep her starring part in the school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream — even though visions of Shakespeare and his characters have been following her around since the hospital.

But her attempts to resume her normal life are thwarted even further when flesh-and-blood Romeo shows up in her anatomy class. Her infatuation gives way to more hallucinations, and increasingly dangerous secret acts. Will she figure out what’s real and what’s pretend before it’s too late?

The book won’t be on sale until April 5, 2016, but EW has the exclusive cover reveal and a riveting excerpt below:

DREAMERS OFTEN LIE by Jacqueline West

Romeo: I dreamt a dream tonight.

Mercutio: And so did I.

Romeo: Well, what was yours?

Mercutio: That dreamers often lie.

Romeo and Juliet, Act I, Scene IV

There was blood on the snow.

White, with a smattering of red. Like petals. 

One petal was stuck to my lips. I could feel it dissolving with my breath, its rusty sweetness coating my tongue.

My cheek hurt. Everything hurt.

And the sun was too bright. It seared through my eyelids, making my whole skull clench. I tried to turn my face away, but I couldn’t. I tested my fingers, my feet. Nothing moved. Maybe it was the cold, or the tight-packed snow, or that I felt only halfway inside of myself, like my body was a costume I hadn’t finished putting on. I just kept still, watching as the roses bloomed through the whiteness around me, their red petals growing larger.

I don’t know how long I’d been lying there when someone lifted my hand.

I squinted up.

Flares of sun erased his edges. I could make out a pair of pale eyes. Tangled black hair. The brightness made my head pound.

What’s going on? I tried to ask. How did we get here? Why is half of my face on fire? But all that came out was a groan.

“She speaks!” His voice was deep and warm. “Oh, speak again, bright angel!”

No one with blue eyes and tousled black hair had ever called me an angel.

Wait—I knew that line. Was this a play? Were we rehearsing something?

He was still holding my hand.

I blinked up at him as he raised my hand to his lips and kissed the back of my wrist.

That’s nice, I thought. Old-fashioned. A little dramatic. But nice. And there was something familiar about it. We must have practiced this before.

The world went diamond-bright and silent. My cue. What was my line? I scrambled after the thread of it. Stay— Stay— Something about hands. Something about light.

My arm settled back into the snow.

Too late. He was already gone.

Scene over.

The smell of roses grew stronger. The ground sagged, the whiteness sinking until the hole around me was so deep that it took a whole crowd to hoist me out.

Jaye, said a new voice. Stay with me.

Lots of hands lifted me. Lots of hands laid me down.

The place where they put me was thin and hard and narrow. It rattled as they rushed it over the snow. What scene was this? What was I supposed to do now?

A metal door slammed.

The white sun switched off and a red light switched on. It spun like a spoon in a glass full of blood.

Jaye. Come on, Jaye. Stay with me.

A knot of people twisted around me, faces looming closer, disappearing. The ground beneath me roared. Something in my head roared with it. 

Hang on, Jaye. Stay with me.

But the cold had snipped and sliced at me until there was nothing left to feel it.

The petals rained over me, red and weightless.

I closed my eyes.

They buried me.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *

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, I was 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?”