Charisma by Jeanne Ryan begs the question — if you had one shot at a new you, would you take it?
Charisma follows the story of Aislyn, a painfully shy junior in high school who suffers from social anxiety. Speaking up in class and trying to have fun with her friends at a party are well outside her comfort zone. She feels like she’s tried everything, including medication and exposure therapy, but nothing works.
And while it feels like she’ll have to deal with this issue her entire life, she finds out about a new underground gene therapy treatment in the form of a drug called Charisma. Aislyn’s personality completely changes, and suddenly she’s exactly the person she wanted to be all along.
Plus it makes talking to her crush, Jack, all that much easier.
But there’s one problem. The therapy appears to be contagious — and deadly. Worse yet, the doctor who gave her and a select number of other patients the drug suddenly disappears. Should Aislyn reverse the therapy and go back to being her old self, or should she risk everything to keep her new social status?
‘Charisma’ book review
Charisma by Jeanne Ryan is at its best when it gets technical. Considering Ryan has a PHD and has worked with youth development programs and social workers, it’s obvious she knows what she talking about. Regardless of how much is science and how much is fiction, the highlights are in the details, which make this story seem all the more plausible.
Aislyn’s anxiety is not an uncommon disorder, especially when it comes to teenagers and young adults. Her panic attacks in the beginning of the book are described in excruciating detail — to the point where it’s almost difficult to breathe as you read through the passages about how her lungs just won’t work and her hands won’t stop sweating.
Although it’s more of a secondary part of the story, Aislyn’s brother Sammy has Cystic fibrosis. The realistic way in which he is portrayed, as well as how his relationship with his mother and sister is handled, really cements the relatability of this book. You can see how hard Aislyn has been struggling, and you can understand her choice to try something drastic in order to better her life and, she hopes, better the lives of those around here.