Genre: YA paranormal/horror
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Date of Publication: October 24, 2014
Word Count: 91K
Cover Artist: Sour Cherry Designs
Internet followers, beauty, power. It all sounded good.
Until it transformed into a terrifying reality Dorianna couldn’t stop
Dorianna is a dark twist for the Internet generation on A Picture of Dorian Gray.
When her father is jailed, her mother ships lonely, plain Dorianna to her aunt’s. There, Dorianna yearns to build a new identity, but the popular Lacey bullies her—mostly for getting attention from her ex, Ander.
Ander takes Dorianna to Coney Island where Wilson, a videographer, creates a stunning compilation of her. She dreams of being an online sensation, as she’s never even had a birthday party, and vows she’d give anything to go viral. Wilson claims he’s the Prince of Darkness and warns her the pledge has downsides.
Dorianna thinks he’s joking. She has no idea of how dire the consequences might be.
After mere minutes, Wilson turns to me. His eyes burn with a manic intensity. “Ready for your debut, Dorianna?”
Are you kidding? I’ve only been waiting for it my whole life.
His finger, with its dash of black polish, presses play.
Onscreen, my video likeness emerges with outstretched arms through a glory of sun. I’m me but not me. I’m brighter, bigger, glowing. As I shimmy, the sun settles itself into my palms. And then, in a beach-goddess bestowal of gifts, from my open palms I release a psychedelic explosion of plastic daisies, clouds, sand pails, and seagulls. They float out and up, and morph into arching sunrays. The sunrays dance around my cascading hair, and kiss my sickly white cheeks into candy-cane pink.
“I, I can’t believe this!” I rasp.
“You’re like an Indian deity,” Ander exclaims. “You know, the ones with a zillion hands, offering up the entire earth.”
“You’re the Coney Island Queen,” Wilson says. “Presiding proudly over toxic starfish, mermaids with piercings, and sideshow freaks.”
Ander and I exchange looks of shocked pleasure. No wonder Ander’s friends with this guy. He’s a conjuring genius. I swing back to Wilson’s screen, where his impish conjuring is still unfolding.
This time, I’m framed by playful waves and children’s grinning faces, and then by sandcastles and undulating fish in jewel tones. I’m dancing my heart out to the sound of a spacey lyre. Inside, I’m leaping and dancing, too. “How’d you do it?” I gasp.
“Software called Final Cut Pro . . . plus enchantment. What else do you expect from an agent of the devil?”
“Lay off, Warren. You’ll scare the girl. Really, though, it’s incredible.”
Now the cups of lemonade are soaring around. My onscreen image catches one and offers it to the viewer. As I do, the cup distorts to huge, juicy proportions.
“You like?” Wilson presses pause.
“Wait! Don’t stop!” I cry. My cheeks are on fire. My chest is heaving. I want to suck in more and more. “Oh, my god,” I say breathlessly, and then shiver, remembering the harsh reality. “But . . . it’s not exactly me.”
“It’s a new and improved you,” Ander says reasonably.
Wilson touches my arm again. This time it’s not slithery. It startles me into something deep, unidentifiable. It’s as if he wants me to confess something, but I don’t know what. I gaze at him behind a sudden prick of tears. “If I could look like that, I’d. . .”
Abruptly, horrid memories rush in: the old nicknames, the beady, nauseating stares. When I was fourteen a friend of Len’s said I was too buck-toothed to get a boyfriend, and that if I ever wanted one, I better get braces fast because my wonky front teeth cut a red line into my bottom lip.
And that final humiliation. When my dad was on trial, my classmates didn’t even bother to blurt out nicknames. Instead, they passed me unblinking, the same way Lacey and her gang have done every morning and will continue to do, day after depressing day.
Nothing will be different here. Nothing can.
Through my haze of pain, Ander’s saying, “Strange! You don’t even look like the same girl. If Wilson puts this on YouTube, you could be the next big thing.” Ander’s voice has intense heat for the first time today. “People would follow your every move.”
“They used to call them ‘It Girls’,” Wilson informs us.
It Girl, and not simply It? “Oh, my God. I’d give—” Ander’s hungry stare at the beach rushes into my memory. If I was that beautiful all of the time, he’d gaze at me like that every day . . . be drawn to me.
“Give what?” Wilson’s stare is a wrestler’s grip, tightening around my chest.
“I told you, lay off,” Ander snaps.
“Sure, sure,” Wilson drones, and then, “I have some brownies in the kitchen. They’d go well with the lemonade. Might sweeten your mood. They’re on the counter.”
“Trying to get rid of me?” Ander grouses, but ducks out anyway.
Wilson turns back to me with a charismatic grin. “So, what were you saying?”
I just met this guy. I shouldn’t blurt out personal stuff. He’s scaring me, but I want acceptance so, so badly. It’s so much easier to admit that without Ander in the room. Wilson must sense this. “If I could be really popular,” I start, “I’d give my next six months of checks from my mom to charity.”
“You’d what?” Wilson hisses. “Never mind. I thought you cared.”
I gasp for air. This feels like some creep-show pledge. But I don’t believe in Hell, or the devil, or any superstitious junk. I don’t know what I believe, except that I’m cynical about religion, after that mess with my father’s church, and finding his list. So, it doesn’t matter what I say to Wilson. It’s only a torrent of words. How much sway do words have in the real world, anyway?
Wilson taps impatiently on the keypad. “You want beauty and youth forever? I can give you that. Power over those mean girls, Ava and Lacey. Power over a lot of people. It’s yours for a price. Just say it.”
“How do you know about them? I, I never told you.” Wilson doesn’t answer, just keeps on grinning. His eyes are golden and black and red all at once. Like unearthly spears, piercing me. I’m dizzy. I need fresh air, now. But I want this promise more than anything. Ever. “What’s the price?” I rasp.
Wilson’s stare burns into me. “Can’t say, exactly.” He takes a long breath. “But there always is.”
About the Author:
Catherine Stine’s novels span the range from science fiction to paranormal to contemporary. Her futuristic thriller, Fireseed One won finalist spots in YA and Sci-Fi in the 2013 USA News International Book Awards and an Indie Reader Approved notable seal. Its companion novel, Ruby’s Fire was a finalist in the 2014 Next Generation Indie Awards. Her paranormal YA, Dorianna launches with Evernight Teen in October. She also writes new adult fiction as Kitsy Clare. Her new adult Art of Love series includes Model Position and Private Internship. She loves all things spooky, exotic and edgy, including travel to unusual locations. She also loves hearing from readers.
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