By Ilana Manaster

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If Doreen Gray were to take a selfie upon her arrival at the elite Chandler Academy, it would capture a face marked with acne, a head full of frizz, and eyes looking anywhere but at the lens.

What Chandler queen bee Heidi Whelan sees is a desperate hunger for acceptance and the makings of a willing and useful proté. Heidi’s roommate, Biz Gibbons-Brown, works her Photoshop magic to create a stunning profile pic of Doreen — a glossy, digital makeover that Doreen initially rejects . . . only to wake up the next morning transformed as the girl in the picture.

But Doreen quickly becomes accustomed to her newfound power and lives without considering consequences of her actions. Only the picture knows the truth, and she will do anything to protect her secret.

In this sharp, scandal-filled retelling of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, the men of nineteenth-century London become three girls of twenty-first-century New England.


The one that I made and the one that made me.

The charms of late summer seemed a very humdrum topic for an imagination as wild as Heidi Whelan's, but she nonetheless found herself, on the first day of her last year at Chandler Academy, laid across a leather love seat in the sitting room of her suite, eating pistachios and feeling rather satisfied by the green and blue and pink of things as she peered out onto the as-yet unpopulated quad.

"Isn't campus great when nobody's here?" she called to her roommate Biz Gibbons-Brown. Biz was not visible from Heidi's perch on the couch but could be heard shuffling around in their bedroom. "Before the arrival of all those loathsome people."

"Speak for yourself," said Biz, entering the common room wearing the kind of thing that Biz always wore, that is to say, an outfit made of beautiful individual elements—an exquisite white blouse, a perfect navy linen skirt—but thrown together without thought for their overall effect. In this case the blouse was worn open over a T-shirt from last year's pumpkin festival, the skirt was hopelessly wrinkled, and she'd finished the outfit with her beat-up yellow Converse All Stars. "I don't think they're all so very loathsome."

"Oh please," said Heidi. She swung her thick blonde mane behind her as she sat up on the sofa. "You know better than anyone how empty, shallow, mean-spirited—"

"It's a new year, Heidi. Can't we indulge in a little optimism? At least until classes start? Now, where are my glasses?"

"Over by your desk. New shirt?" Heidi asked with forced nonchalance. It had a subtle white-on-white stripe and looked very expensive, even from across the room. Biz slid on her wire frames and looked down at her top as if seeing it for the first time.

"Oh, this? Yeah. You like it?"

If it were Heidi's, the blouse would be among her most prized possessions, but Biz wore it like flannel pajamas. No matter, Heidi thought, relaxing back into the love seat. She had full access to the treasures in Biz's closet. Heidi gazed out at the quad, imagining herself crossing it in that gorgeous top and congratulated herself once again for the good judgment she demonstrated by finding and befriending Elizabeth Gibbons-Brown two years earlier.

"It's lovely. Who makes it?"

"No idea. Mumzy picked it up in Paris, I think. She forced it on me for some party out in the Hamptons."

"Of course she did."

Biz didn't really call her mother "Mumzy." Or she did call her that but only as a way to express her contempt. Gloria Gibbons-Brown was a flitting kind of woman, thin in a way that was only attractive on the young and tall (she was neither). What wasn't brittle on her was bought—dresses made of thick silks, jewels the size of geological events, and a face that had been lifted, folded over, and smoothed by the best surgeons on the planet. She ate nothing and drank much, so evenings at her table often included long, winding stories about salespeople or flight attendants or waiters. Her own role in these anecdotes was always the same: demander of justice, voice of the truth, a superhero for the unbusy and overindulged.

Biz, of course, despised her.

For good reason. Heidi could see Mumzy for what she was: a shallow, unfeeling, insensitive person who seemed to have had children out of a sense of obligation to her bloodline. But Heidi knew, also, that she could learn a lot from Gloria. After all, the woman was the quintessential old-money society maven, comfortable in her position at the top of the food chain, offended by anything common or unrefined. Which is why she'd swept in and replaced every piece of furniture in their dorm room. Instead of standard-issue, Biz and Heidi had mid-century modern chairs, a leather chesterfield sofa, a gorgeous antique rug, a brass-footed onyx coffee table. Curtains had been installed for privacy, and shelves built for books. Heidi had never lived in such sumptuous quarters, and now she could not imagine living any other way.

Only Biz's desk had avoided Mumzy's touch. On that front, Biz was firm. The desk was all hers—evidenced by the stacks of books, the papers, but more than anything, the photographs. The wall behind her desk was loaded with pinned-up photos—her own, as well as the work of others that she found inspiring. She had wires hanging across the ceiling clipped with more photos she changed out in a constant cycle. Images overwhelmed the small space: full-color, black-and-white, landscape, portrait, animals, people, interior spaces, exteriors, abstracts.

Heidi could not look at the collage for long without feeling dizzy. She agreed with Mumzy that the tumult took away from the clean lines of the rest of the room, but secretly she also admired Biz's dedication and talent. It must be nice to produce something tangible with one's gifts.

"This one's new, right? Is it from this summer?" Heidi walked over to a photo clipped to one of the wires. Biz's mother sat at a dressing table. She was turned toward the camera with a sponge in her hand, her mouth open as if she was talking, her expression annoyed. She looked exhausted, like someone who would rather stay home, but the evening gown was in the background, hung on the back of the closet, and the makeup would go on the face. Somehow, she would have to pull it together and find the right pose. It was like a behind-the-scenes photo, but the stage was this woman's entire life.

"What? Oh. Yeah. Not bad, right? Anyway, do you have anything you need to do today? I mean, could you scram for a little while? I need some quiet."

Biz seemed nervous, shuffling little things around her desk as if trying to tidy up, an activity she did rarely and only when pressed. And now this mysterious request for privacy? Clearly the girl was withholding information.

"Why don't you cut the crap, Biz, and tell me what's going on. Are you having an affair?"

"Don't be ridiculous."

"You little she-wolf! And I bet I know who it is, too. That teacher! What's his name, from your photography class. Mr.—"

"Mr. Cameron?"

"No doubt! With the late nights poring over nudie shots."

"You're insane."

Heidi giggled. Of course, she had been a willing participant in a number of seedy little scenes herself, but the idea of Biz's promiscuity seemed so uncharacteristic, so utterly unacademic that Heidi found herself positively thrilled.

"Elizabeth Gibbons-Brown in love. I, for one, never imagined that the day would come!"

"I'm not in love, Heidi. Can you just drop it?"

"In lust, then. Even better! Even less likely! Oh, Biz, to think that you might make space in that determined little brain of yours for thoughts of the dirty variety, it's just so, I mean, I'm floored. I'm flabbergasted. Of course, I knew that Mr. Carson—"


"Oh. Pardonnez-moi! I didn't mean any disrespect. That Mr. Cameron was after more than an extra set of hands. Or maybe that was exactly what he was after."


"It's just so delicious! Am I glowing? You certainly are."

"That's enough! Now look, she's going to be here soon."

"She!?" The pitch of Heidi's voice approached a squeal. She felt the impulse to applaud.

Biz collapsed into the tobacco-brown Italian leather club chair. "Listen, it's not what you think. Her name is Doreen. She's my cousin."

"Your cousin?!"

"Don't be gross, okay? For once? Look, do you remember me telling you about Mumzy's brother, Roland?"

Heidi froze.

"Uh, Heidi?"

"Oh, sorry. You were saying? You have an uncle? How interesting!" She pulled at the end of her ponytail and looked out the window. Surely anyone could see the blush in her face! Heidi told herself to calm down, breathe.

"Yes. My mother's brother, Roland Gibbons—he used to be married and have a daughter. Well, I guess he still has a daughter, but I haven't seen her since I was a little kid. Her name's Doreen, and when her mom was married to Uncle Roland she was the only cousin my age. So we were always together. Doreen and Elizabeth. I remember we planted a garden out behind the compound in Amagansett. We spent hours and hours digging holes with our little fingers and weeding. I don't think we got a single sprout to grow that whole summer, though." Biz laughed. "Of course, Uncle Roland had to go and ruin everything."

"Oh!" said Heidi, too loud, too eager. Pull it together, you sow! "Oh, ha ha. Yes, I remember him now. His wife is foreign, right? Didn't you say he married a European lady? Is that this cousin's mother?" She wound a strand of hair around a finger. Tight.

"What? Why are you talking like that? I can barely understand you. Anyway, that's his second wife, Constantina. They got divorced, too, but their kids are little. Doreen's our age, like I said, and she's transferring to Chandler. She'll be a junior. After the divorce she and her mother moved to the Midwest somewhere. Illinois? I can't remember. I haven't seen her since that summer when we were kids."

Heidi stood up. She couldn't believe what she'd just been told. "Your uncle Roland has a daughter our age, and she is coming to Chandler Academy."

"Yes. To our room, actually. Any minute now."

Heidi whirred to life. "Oh, I wish I'd known, I would have prepared something. Biz, you should have told me. We will have to make this work somehow." She raced around the common room, fluffing up pillows and tossing pistachio shells into the trash. She picked up shoes from under the sofa and threw them into their bedroom.

"Wait. Heidi, stop! Just cool your jets for a second, will you please? There's something else. Sit down."

"What? What is it? Come on, out with it. She'll be here any minute, you said."

"Sit down!"

"Fine! I'm sitting. What is it?"

Biz sighed again. "She was bullied."

"And why would that be remarkable? She went to public school, right? I know you've never been to one of those, but I can tell you from experience that 'bullying' is how most American schoolchildren say howdy-do."

"No. It was bad. Worse than just your regular run-of-the-mill bullying. Okay? Like, her and her mom, they were afraid for her safety. That's why she's coming here. She has the opportunity to have a different kind of experience at Chandler and I want her to feel welcomed." Biz shot Heidi a reproachful look.

"Wait," Heidi protested. "Do you mean to imply that I would be somehow ungracious?"

"Ugh! Would it be so terrible for you to find somewhere to go, just for an hour or two? Give us an opportunity to get reacquainted? Is there any chance I could get you to do that?"

"Certainly not!"

"Don't you have anything better to do, Heidi? Must you be involved in every mini-drama on campus? Can't you just . . . just do something else with your time? Jesus!"

"Excuse me?" Heidi leaned back in the couch and pursed her lips. For a moment she did not say anything.

"Hey, I didn't mean—"

Heidi held up her hand. Her voice was steady and soft. "I wonder if you have any idea at all what I would do to someone who spoke that way to me, say, in the cafeteria. I wonder if you understand the storm of humiliation I could make rain down on a person's head with a few text messages and a wave of my hand."

"Let's not overreact, okay? I was only trying to—"

Heidi snapped open a pistachio. Her cheeks burned. "Do you understand how easy it would be for me to take away the things you love here? The library, your classes, even photography. You think that's all guaranteed to you? Why? Because of tuition? Because of your fancy name? Ha!"

"Heidi," said Biz, "hey, I was only joking, okay? Seriously." Biz seemed more embarrassed than frightened by Heidi's threats. And as she calmed down, Heidi felt embarrassed, too. She'd overreacted. But Biz had insulted her. She had implied that Heidi was some sort of parasite who lived off other people's lives, and not what she was, which was an artist. Maybe she didn't shove a camera in everybody's face, but Heidi did engage in a kind of art practice—the art of manipulation, of gaining and maintaining power.

"Never mind. Let's forget it, okay?" Biz could have laughed at her theatrics, but she'd left Heidi with her dignity, a class act as always. "I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I am going to sit right here and greet your cousin with the warmth and goodwill expected of a Chandler woman. How does that sound?" She flung her hair over the arm of the sofa.

Biz laughed. "Okay, okay. You win. You do realize that girls like you have probably abused Doreen her whole life."

"Not possible, my dear. There are no other girls like me."

"You know what, Heidi? I think you're right about that."

"You betcha," Heidi said with a wink.

A knock sounded.

Heidi could not quite identify what it was about Doreen Gray that produced such a visceral reaction on her part. Certainly she looked terrible. Her skin was simultaneously oily and dried out, with shiny pimples on her forehead and chin and red dry patches on her cheeks and neck. Her hair was a forest of black frizz with curls that seemed to be variously tight and loose, depending on the section of her head from which they originated. Her body was neither trim nor plump but lumpy, and she carried her flesh in a worn-out, army-green jersey dress as if carting home meat from the market.

However, though there was no doubt in Heidi's mind that these physical facts, among others, contributed to the girl's horrendous presentation, they did not account for the whole effect. As Biz and Doreen chatted politely, Heidi sat unusually mum on the couch and studied the girl. Because beneath the bad hair, skin, clothes, etc., there was a kind of beauty to her. Her cheekbones were high and wide, and when she finally looked up from the carpet Heidi saw that her eyes were a remarkable bluish-purple.

They were something else, the peepers on Doreen Gray. Doreen appeared able to take in more light with them, to draw the world into her. Heidi found herself wishing that she, too, would be taken in by those purple eyes, even though they were housed in that mess of a face. But she couldn't capture them, couldn't keep their focus. The eyes darted around the room fretfully, returning over and over again to the ground.

Biz sat at full attention, obviously trying to make her cousin comfortable. "I don't know that I'd even have recognized you, it's been so long. Are you all settled in your dorm?"

"Am I settled? Oh yes, thank you," said Doreen from deep in the armchair where she'd burrowed herself.

"Which dorm is it?" Biz inquired.

"Which dorm? Oh. It's called, um, it's West Hall? Is that bad?"

"No. West Hall isn't bad at all, is it Heidi? We know a ton of people who have lived there. My brother, for example. Addison. Do you remember Addison? He lived there—what? His junior year, wasn't it, Heidi?"


Biz waited for Heidi to elaborate. She did not. Biz gave her roommate a stern look: Are you just going to sit there? Heidi shrugged. Watching Biz try to make small talk was hilarious.

"So, uh, Heidi and Addison used to date," Biz continued with some desperation. She picked up her camera and held it, apparently for comfort, as she did not seem interested in capturing the moment for posterity. Unusual. "That's how we became friends, actually. He brought her home for Easter our sophomore year. She was quite the hit of the party, Mumzy just loved her! Then she shattered my brother's heart into a million pieces." Biz forced a laugh. "That wasn't very nice of you, Heidi. Really. Not nice at all," she said with her mouth while her eyes said: Mayday! Mayday! Help me out for crying out loud!

Heidi languidly deposited some nutshells into a Japanese bowl on the coffee table. "I dumped him in the third-floor study lounge at West Hall, actually. He sobbed like an infant."

"I'm sure," said Doreen. "I mean, I'm sure he was very sad. I mean, you're so—"

Doreen looked up at Heidi. In a flash, Heidi saw her whole self reflected back in the deep color of Doreen's remarkable eyes, until they found their way back to the carpet.

"Yes, well," Biz continued, smiling broadly, "anywho."Anywho?!! "It's a fine dorm. Whatever Heidi might think of Addison, he was always very popular."

"Oh, well," said Doreen, miserably.

"And I suppose you got your schedule? You should let me see it. I'll tell you all about the teachers you have and if you want I'll even show you where—"

"Don't you want to be popular?" Heidi asked with a level stare at Doreen.

". . . where your classes are, if you want. But the first thing you'll need to do is—"

"Biz, hush. I asked your cousin a question. Tell us, darling, won't you? Do you want to be popular? Here, at Chandler."


Doreen's expression, as she looked from Heidi to Biz, was an incredible mixture of eagerness and horror. A plan was beginning to unfold in Heidi's mind as she watched a flush climb up the girl's throat from her chest. "Do I want to be popular?" Doreen repeated dumbly.

"You don't need to restate the question, dear, only answer it."

"Don't listen to her, Doreen," said Biz. "Popularity is not as important to most people as it is to Heidi."

"But it is to our Dorie, isn't it? Which is why I proffered the question. Biz said that her brother had lived in West and that he'd been very popular, to which you replied 'oh well,' as if popularity, while something desirable to you, is not something you see yourself acquiring. And while I'll admit respectfully that it is difficult to imagine popularity in your current state, I am a true American in the sense that I believe that one can achieve anything when one is smarter than everybody else."

"Heidi! My cousin did not come all the way here from Wisconsin for the right to be insulted."

"Indiana," said Doreen, her eyes fixed on Heidi.


"I came from Indiana," said Doreen. "And I don't feel the least bit insulted." The girl's spine had straightened. Hope came into her violet eyes. "The truth is—I feel kind of strange talking about it, but since you asked—I guess I would want that. I'd like to be popular. Who wouldn't? I've never, I mean, in my old school—"

"Yes, Biz tells me you were very badly bullied," said Heidi gravely.

"I'm sorry," said Biz. "I shouldn't have told her. It wasn't my place—"

"That's okay," said Doreen. She reached out and touched Biz's knee. "Hey, that's in the past, right?"

"That's right!" Biz said, aglow with her cousin's attention. "Exactly."

"What was it? Name-calling? Frogs in your locker? That sort of thing?"

"Heidi! Didn't we just say it was in the past?"

Doreen shrugged. "No, it's okay. Sure, yeah, name-calling. No frogs, but somebody did put a pair of bloody underwear in my locker once. Which everyone in the whole school saw flying out onto the floor."

"Oh, Dorie," said Biz.

"That was fine. I could take that. And the pushing. And the tripping. And the time someone put something in my drink so that I threw up during my biology midterm. I learned how to be careful. Eat in the library. Keep my head down. But then I got a message on Facebook. A boy." Doreen paused and gathered her strength. "Judah was his name. He was new, or he was going to be new, moving from another town and he wanted to make friends. We got to chatting." Her eyes welled.

"Who was Judah? Who was he really?" asked Heidi. She knew the old social media fake-out. She'd employed it herself, not directly, but through a minion or two, as a tactic for social maneuvering. But she was never cruel for cruelty's sake. Nobody ever got seriously hurt. That made a difference, surely. But something unpleasant gnawed at her from the inside. Remorse? Guilt? No matter. She soothed herself with the satisfying pop of a splitting pistachio shell.

"A girl from school. Her boyfriend, I don't know. A bunch of people. They started posting some of the stuff I'd written to Judah. But it was totally out of context, you know? So humiliating. My mom wanted me to transfer to a different public school, but I knew that was worthless. They would follow me anywhere. I deleted my Facebook account, I would get through it. But my mom . . ." Doreen swiped at her eyes. Her efforts to downplay how it had all affected her made the story even more heartbreaking. Heidi felt terrible for having asked about it. She should have minded her own business. She sucked the rough salty remains of the nut from the empty shell.

"Children," said Biz. "They can be so awful. And for what? What's the point? I don't get it."

"I'm so sorry," said Heidi. And she really was.

"My mom saw some stuff someone had written on one of my books. Nothing out of the ordinary. 'Kill yourself, bitch.' That sort of thing. 'Nobody likes you, you should die.' And that was it for her. She called my dad and made some serious threats if he didn't get me in here. So that's my story! The life and times of Doreen Gray."

"Well, you're here now," said Biz. "Nobody has to know a thing about your old school. And listen, if you want to be popular, we can definitely help you. I have legacy here, a kind of built-in social status. And Heidi has the proper—"

"Cynicism," said Heidi.

"I was going to say ruthlessness. To manage your, what would you say? Your rebirth."

"Really? Thank you." Doreen's eyes lit up, hopeful. "Thank you so much!"

"You're welcome," said Biz. She blushed. "If it's what you want, then I want to help you."


  • “Sex, lies, and secrets are the hallmarks of Manaster's debut…Filled with vivid imagery and characters readers will love to hate, the story takes on a haunting, sinister tone early on, maintaining it through the descent into madness.”
    –Publishers Weekly

    “The striking black-and-white cover photo evokes Vogue magazine, with a stylish gothic feel that will draw readers, while the chatty, catty tone and breathless pace will keep them turning the pages.”

On Sale
Jun 7, 2016
Page Count
336 pages
Running Press Kids

Ilana Manaster

About the Author

Ilana Manaster has an MFA in fiction and translation from Columbia University. She volunteered as a mentor to young writers through Girls Write Now and has performed her own writing in a one-woman show in the Fringe Festival as a stand-up comedian. Doreen is her debut novel. Ilana currently lives in Barcelona, Spain.

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