“Charisma” by Jeanne Ryan

Jeanne Ryan‘s new book Charisma takes smart, scary YA to a whole new level. This is a plot that gets both your brain and heart rates going.

When Aislyn takes an underground gene therapy drug guaranteed to make her popular she gets more than she bargained for, especially when the drug turns deadly.  After one dose of Charisma Aislyn’s crippling shyness disappears and she’s finally able to converse with the guy she likes. The whole world notices–including the media. Suddenly the meekest girl in the world is front page news. Is the new-and-improved Aislyn still Aislyn? Is popularity worth dying for? Should scientists be tinkering with DNA to begin with?

I knew Charisma would be entertaining because I’m a fan of Ryan’s previous book, Nerve, but what I didn’t expect were all the parallels to the HIV epidemic and how society treated AIDS patients many decades ago. When the world doesn’t understand a new disease or how it’s transmitted, society does cruel things. I’m old enough to remember Ryan White who contracted HIV through a blood transfusion and then was shunned by his community. Without giving away any spoilers, the social-justice questions Charisma raises, especially near the end of the book, are huge.

I loved every single bit of this novel except for the font used for the title. I’m concerned that for people with dyslexia, the script would be difficult to read. (Yes, I’m picky!) Thankfully the rest of the text is set in clear Bulmer MT Standard. The image of the freaky pink bunny of the cover of course, will haunt you forever. 🙂

Click here to read my review of NERVE.

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