Waverly Camdenmar spends her nights running until she can’t even think. Then the sun comes up, life goes on, and Waverly goes back to her perfectly hateful best friend, her perfectly dull classes, and the tiny, nagging suspicion that there’s more to life than student council and GPAs.
Marshall Holt is a loser. He drinks on school nights and gets stoned in the park. He is at risk of not graduating, he does not care, he is no one. He is not even close to being in Waverly’s world.
But then one night Waverly falls asleep and dreams herself into Marshall’s bedroom—and when the sun comes up, nothing in her life can ever be the same. In Waverly’s dreams, the rules have changed. But in her days, she’ll have to decide if it’s worth losing everything for a boy who barely exists.
"Waverly and Marshall burn brightly . . . both refreshingly flawed as they come into their own. Readers will forgo sleep themselves to witness their vibrant, achingly real story unfold. A brilliant romance." —Kirkus Reviews, Starred
"A tightly woven, luminously written novel that captures the uncertain nature of high school and the difficult path of self-discovery." —Booklist, Starred
"Yovanoff offers a multilayered exploration of human connections, particularly those that manifest in unpredictable ways."—Publishers Weekly, Starred
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
There’s something awful about the sun.
It rockets up from the horizon like a hot-air balloon. One minute, you’re looking at the shy, glowing sliver of it. The next, it’s glaring down at you like the wrath of God.
Sometimes, if you spend too many nights staring at the clock, it gets hard to tell what’s real and when you’re only anthropomorphizing.
Every day, I walk myself through the sequence of events, trace my way back through the hours. If one moment logically follows another, that means it’s actually happening.
It is 1:23 in the afternoon. I’m at my desk in Mrs. Denning’s Spanish class, behind Caitie Price and in front of CJ Borsen, because that’s where I sit.
I’m in Spanish because I have officially exceeded the allowable quota of French offered at Henry Morgan and I’m running out of elective options. It was this or home decorating. Sometimes when you show too much initiative, they have trouble knowing where to put you.
We’re demystifying sports and activities, waxing inarticulate about our hobbies. So far, we have five aspiring musicians, three football players, and a handful of ill-motivated boys who enjoy taking apart cars and putting them together again.
My book is open to the chapter on Deportes y Pasatiempos and I know it’s not a dream because the letters don’t slide off the page. I know the answers to the review questions, and when Mrs. Denning calls on me, I know that I will not tell the truth about my recreational activity.
At the front of the room, she’s wringing her hands, trying to figure out how her life went so wrong. “Emily,” she says, looking hopeless, “how about you? What are some of your hobbies?”
There is a fantasy and it is this: during class, Mrs. Denning only speaks to us in Spanish. It couldn’t sustain itself. Like all best-laid plans, it collapsed early, crumbling under the weight of its own ambition.
“Me gusta bailar,” says Emily Orlowski, and then goes back to painting Olivia Tatum’s fingernails with Wite-Out.
Dutifully, I picture them dancing—a savage riot of eyeliner and cleavage.
“Very good,” says Mrs. Denning, in a voice that implies it is not good at all and is, in fact, kind of horrifying.
Using her desk as a barricade, she settles on the back row. “Marshall? Would you like to tell us about your favorite recreational activity?”
Marshall Holt looks up. Then, just as fast, he stares back down at his desk and says in an impeccably accented monotone, “Me gusta jugar a los bolos con mis amigos.”
Mrs. Denning leans forward, sincerely convinced that he is not mocking her. “Bueno. Y a donde juegas a los bolos?”
“En el parque.”
I enjoy bowling with my friends in the park. Brilliant. Marshall Holt, you are a genius. Also, mature.
Around us, people are snickering into their textbooks. Mrs. Denning is still watching Marshall in this sad, hopeful way, like she might eventually see the punch line.
For a second, he almost looks contrite, but the damage is done. She wilts, fidgeting with the plastic cup that holds her pens, searching the room for someone who won’t betray her.
“Waverly, can you tell us another recreational activity?”
I am the bright, shining face she fixes on so she doesn’t feel like she’s drowning. So full of promise, so full of hope. Waverly will tell you the square root of any perfect number and how to conjugate the verb quemar. Yes, Waverly knows all about immolation. What is the significance of Bastille Day and who can list three thematic elements of The Metamorphosis?
Waverly will never tell you that her primary hobby is getting stoned in the play tunnel at Basset Park on a weeknight.
Waverly is a good, good girl.
Waverly is so virtuous it makes you want to die.
I keep my hands folded on my desk. People are looking at me now, looking at my helpful expression, my neat hair, thinking how good, how sweet, how nice. How fucking perfect. Thinking, who does she think she is?
When I answer, my voice sounds thin and almost doubtful. “Me gusta correr.”
Wrong, says the girl in my head. Incorrect. Woefully inaccurate. I run, but not because it pleases me. What gives me pleasure doesn’t enter into it. I run because the nights are long, and because I can’t not run.
When the lights go out and the moon goes down, I slip out the french doors and through the gate. Down Breaker Street and along the median. I turn onto Buehler and let out my stride. From Buehler, I head for that one unreachable point on the horizon. Sometimes I run for miles.
Behind her desk, Mrs. Denning smiles. “Gracias, Waverly.”
I make up a little postulate and write it down. Theorem of Perfection. The effectiveness of your persona is inversely proportional to what people know about you. I provide an illustrated example: two diverging trajectories, racing away from each other on the graph.
There are two Waverlys. One is well groomed, academically unparalleled, reasonably attractive, and runs the cross-country course at Basset in under eighteen minutes. Sixteen point five on a good day.
The other is a secret.
Secret Waverly is the one who never sleeps.
Maribeth Whitman is my best friend in the whole world, forever and ever, if you believe in that kind of thing.
The Watson to my Crick, the Donner to my Blitzen. We’ve taken all the same AP classes, joined all the same clubs, know all the same corollaries and equations and scandals. We have been making bracelets out of rainbow-colored string since kindergarten.
When I fight my way down the language arts hall and into our locker bay, she throws herself at me, arms flung wide, and even though the bay is full of roughly half the junior class and I hate being touchy-feely where people can see it, I reach back and let myself lean into her.
Maribeth knows how to arrange all her features to maximum effect. Her face is so sweet that if you look at her for too long, your teeth decay in spongy black patches, like time-lapse photography. Her hair is the kind of blond that makes you picture halos made out of kittens.
“God,” she says, tucking my bangs behind my ear. “Your smile’s malfunctioning again. Have you even been sleeping at all?”
I adjust my mouth to look pleasant and spin my combination lock. “Some.” Which is the literal truth. I’ve been averaging roughly three hours a night.
She fishes a pencil from her bag and starts flipping through her notebook for a clean page. “Better get that sorted out if you don’t want to look like the walking dead for homecoming. So, you’ll be at the thing tonight, right?”
“Unless someone from cross-country sets practice on fire. No, wait—that’s Huns. Yeah, I’ll be there.”
Her forehead wrinkles as she adds my name to her list, pencil scraping diligently across the page, and it’s remarkable how well I know her—how she’ll always make her notes in pencil, not because she ever needs to erase anything, but because pencils can be sharpened to a very fine point, and when she says thing, she means the dance-planning meeting. Just like she knows that I don’t always sleep and I think siege jokes are funny even when no one else does. That my natural habitat is so deep inside my own head I don’t always remember what expression I should be wearing.
With a conspiratorial smile, she leans so that her cheek is almost touching mine. “I think I’m making headway on the dance committee—for real, this time. You’re going to be so proud of me.”
This is the fascinating territory where Maribeth and I overlap. My greatest utility is my understanding of patterns and hierarchies. Hers is her relentless commitment to winning.
She taps the notebook. “I got Loring’s minions to agree to have the meeting at my house instead of hers, and possession is nine-tenths of the law. Now, tell me I’m good.”
There are two Maribeths, but unlike second Waverly, second Maribeth reveals herself to certain individuals at certain opportune times. If you are privy to her covert, secret identity, this does not make you lucky or special. The second Maribeth is a flaming bitch.
Her hand is nestled in the crook of my elbow and she smells like permanent markers and vanilla frosting.
Loring has been in charge of every nonathletic extracurricular event for our class since freshman year, and for the exact same span of time, she has always been terrible at it. That and her conspicuous lack of guile make her ripe for supplanting.
“I don’t know if you know this,” Maribeth says, giving my arm an emphatic squeeze. “But we’re about to own every social function from now until graduation.”
There is a single, perfect syllable forming in my mouth, unbidden. Why? Why are we focusing on this? Why is this desirable? Why are you so obsessed with organizing things?
But I don’t have to ask why, because I know.
The dance-planning committee is something you submit to. The payout is another extracurricular activity to go on your Ivy League applications.
Your GPA is not enough. Your intelligence and your commitment are not enough. Cross-country means drive and discipline, the violin means that you do in fact have a soul. The food-drive committee means a devotion to service and community. Formal dance committee means that you are not socially defective.
Maribeth is drawing up her agenda for the meeting, pontificating on how we need to start making posters.
I am not listening.
I’m thinking about Loring and her wide, earnest smile. Her way of focusing intently, trying devotedly, and then failing. About all the ill-fated Lorings before her and the ways that Maribeth dismantles them.
“Come on,” she says, reaching for my arm. “I have to fix my face before Chem so Hunter will ask me to the movies this weekend.”
Machiavelli became enamored with Cesare Borgia because Borgia’s ruthlessness fascinated him.
Maribeth Whitman is the most ruthless girl I know.
In the west hall bathroom, a few underclassmen are clustered around the sinks, but when we shoulder between them, they shuffle dutifully out of the way. They understand the pecking order, and it’s only October.
I watch as Maribeth applies lip gloss in a cheerful rosebud, then digs in her bag for a brush.
She was the one who told me in elementary school that people thought I was weird. Too quiet, too serious. “You should smile more,” she said one day when we were in fifth grade, waiting in line for tetherball during recess.
“Why?” I said. “It’s not like anything’s wrong. I just don’t feel like it.”
And Maribeth had looked at me like I was some kind of new species, her head tipped to one side.
“Well, you don’t have to feel like it,” she said. “Smiling’s on the outside. When you smile, it’s for someone else.”
Which, as revelations went, was kind of mind-blowing. I decided, there on the playground, watching Caitie Price lose her tetherball round to Cynthia Lopez who was a head taller, that maybe this was the whole point of extroverts—they understood how the outside worked.
Maribeth leans close to the mirror and rakes her fingers through her hair. Her gaze is shrewd, her paddle brush poised, but there’s nothing there that needs fixing.
She goes to work on herself anyway while I stand by the paper towel dispensers, studying the collection of highly confessional graffiti that covers the spill wall floor-to-ceiling. This is where people come to tell their secrets. No names, no identifiers, but a wide variety of pens.
Some of the secrets are not secrets (Mr. Cordrey has nose hair). Some are too sad to contemplate and so no one acknowledges or mentions them.
Most are just the hard, ugly things that people feel, but no one says. Things like:
I only like guys who are completely uninterested. If they start to like me back, I crush on someone else. What if I’m alone forever?
I wish I was skinny. If I was, though, I know I’d be a total slut.
I think I lost my virginity on Saturday, but I can’t remember for sure and I don’t want to ask him.
The warning bell rings and Maribeth turns, leaning back against the sink. “I look good, right? I want Hunter to be intractably smitten.”
Her hair is a shining curtain of Nordic genes and ambition. On the wall by the soap dispenser, someone has written in a cascading scrawl:
The first letter of each word is printed in oversized capitals that align vertically to spell out FINE.
At my elbow, Maribeth is squinting at her reflection again, like something about it displeases her, even though she looks fine. Everything is fine.