Dreamers Often Lie
(yes I used a Westworld-relevant quote)
I've been neglectful of posting book reviews lately, though ironically, I'm reading more books than ever! As a judge for the Cybils Award, I am actually reading more than I can keep up with! But, now that things are wrapping up, I will try and bring you the highlights.
Jacqueline West's Dreamers Often Lie began as a front-and-center favorite for me. The protagonist's involvement in the theatre and love of Shakespeare were immediately appealing to me. Plus, the trippy and disjointed narrative from an unreliable narrator (a la Girl on the Train) peppered with hallucinatory interactions with Shakespearean characters was completely memorizing. However, it didn't make my shortlist- and I'll do my best to explain why without too many spoilers.
Jaye wakes up in the hospital after sustaining a serious head injury. Determined to get back to school so she can reclaim her starring role in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Jaye lies to her doctors, her mother, and her sister and insists that she is fine- despite the fact that she is having full-on hallucinations of Shakespearean characters. As a compromise, Jaye is allowed to continue the play but under the strict eye of her childhood friend (super hotty) Pierce, the Oberon to her Titania. Though they've grown apart over the years, Pierce begins to make it clear that he is interested in being more than friends. Cue the new kid (bad boy-cum-Romeo) Rob who is just too good to be real.... so, is he?
West nails Jaye's disjointed stream-of-consciousness narrative and her attempts to decipher truth from hallucination. And speaking of hallucinations- her Shakespearean interactions are spot-freaking-on. Ophelia dripping water onto her hospital bed as she waxes crazy or Puck messing with her or Hamlet whining morosely- all of it is intricately incorporated with Jaye's world in a way that is all too real for her. Aside from the hallucinations, Jaye also misses entire chucks of time and her perceptions of people's actions are often ungrounded and utterly confusing. For example, Pierce vacillates from knight in shining armor to over-controlling jock with anger issues. Jaye (and through her, the reader) is never certain which representation is reality due to her head trauma. All of the perception, flashbacks, and hallucinations work to create a flimsy web of reality, which makes for some good reading!
I loved the WTF-ery of the movie Black Swan. What was real? What was imagination? Did she die? Was that a dream? Can Winona Ryder just stop? Dreamers Often Lie seems to try and replicate the head scratching confusion that made Black Swan so appealing, but came off rather... lazy. I think that West intended a cliffhanger, but the ending was just a sloppy continuation of Jaye's frantic slip into delirium with no closure or direction at all. It seemed like a lot of work went in to creating powerfully complex characters just to end the story before they can be realized. I kind of left the book thinking "what was the point?!"
I dunno. I definitely think it was worth a read- especially for fans of Shakespeare. And if you want to feel like you're drunk while reading a book sober- then this is the tome for you.