Friday, May 15, 2015

Author Spotlight: Charisma by Jeanne Ryan

Posted by Jenn Christensen at 1:00 PM


I’ve lived all over the world, raised in a family with eleven brothers and sisters. I spent my early childhood in Hawaii and the rest of my growing-up years trying to figure out a way to get back there, with stops in South Korea, Michigan and Germany along the way. Before writing fiction, I tried my hand at many things, including war game simulation and youth development research. But I decided it was much more fun to work on stories than statistics.

These days, I still love Hawaii, but have found my home under the moody skies of the Pacific Northwest.

Note, I post news on Twitter @Jeanne_Ryan and on my FB page: www.facebook.com/JeanneRyanAuthor

Title: Charisma
Author: Jeanne Ryan
Publisher: Dial Books
Publication: March 3rd 2015
Cover Rating: 5/5

Charisma was such a great medical thriller. What would you give to not be shy? To glow with such intensity that EVERYONE notices you? Would you give your life? I don't think I would. But I'm not shy or socially awkward so I have no idea how someone like Aislyn truly feels. But Charisma is on the level of bulimia, anorexia and other body/mind altering lifestyles. People are all too quick to change themselves.

Aislyn was kind of annoying. She was so desperate to live a normal life that she put herself and other at risk. I can understand how it is to want to be something you're not but what Aislyn did was entirely selfish and stupid. I do not condone what she did, even if it was to help with her college tuition. Also, because of Aislyn's stupidity, her brother, Sammy, didn't get to go through with a Cystic Fibrosis trial.

Sammy was such a strong little boy. I actually liked him more than most of the other characters. He knew what it was like to live with something that will eventually end his life yet he kept living and was pretty happy. 

Evie was such an amazing friend. But after the entire incident she handled Aislyn with kid gloves. I don't if that was because she was afraid of contracting Charisma or if she was trying to keep calm because of Aislyn's fragile mental state. But either way, I think she should have just acted normal. Aislyn has enough things in her life change and she sould have used a little bit of normality in her life and Evie should have really considered that. Whenever something bad happens it tends to make people act differently towards you because they are afraid you are fragile when in actuality they should just be acting normal to help you heal.

Jack seemed sweet but I just had a feeling he was only trying to get in Aislyn's pants or some other ulterior motive. He pulled away from her towards the end of the book when she probably needed him the most. But I think it also had something to do with Shane.

Shane was a cocky, annoying little jerk at first but after a while I started to like him. He seemed to be hiding some insecurities behind his cocky, man-whore, attitude. I was so upset in the end though. I couldn't believe it.

I loved the focus of the book. Gene Therapy sounds so interesting but that is something that needs so much research and trials. It sounds very dangerous and could probably alter someone beyond just fixing social anxiety. This book felt very real. Young people seem to have no regard to what they take and whether it can hurt them or not. They seem to think they are invincible.

The characters in the book were all so diverse and well rounded. They all had their over strong personalities and stood out. Maybe the author did that because of the Charisma? Either way, I enjoyed having so many diverse characters.

Towards the end of the book I was so happy about Chloe. Not so many people were as lucky as she was. I think the kids who were lucky enough to survive should either join the cause for a cure or focus on maybe trying to help other young people who feel like altering themselves is the ultimate cure. 

Overall, I gave the book 5.5 stars.



1)    Would you ever take Charisma?

As a teen I probably would not have taken it since I was still figuring out who I was, but now, if it were proven to be completely safe, I might give it a try. It would be fascinating to experience life from a perspective so different from my introverted self. However, I’d still want the opportunity to return to “normal” since I think my introspective, observant nature helps me write.


2)    Who would you pick? Shane or Jack?

For the short term, Shane. Long term, Jack.


3)    Where did you get the idea for Charisma?

I started out writing a much different book, a thriller based in Indonesia since I had a trip planned there. However, as I was checking out the State Department travel site, I found a rabies warning for Indonesia, especially in Bali, where we’d spend a week. This warning took root in my brain and my fear grew to giant, ridiculous dimensions. I couldn't figure out a way to handle the mounting anxiety.

Finally, one day I’d had enough. I told myself that I had to find some productive channel for all this crazy, and, since I’m a writer, you can guess what that productive channel might be.

What if there were a lethal virus, like rabies, which also had an upside? A really, really amazing upside?

As a lifelong introvert, the upside that first came to mind was X-Factor star power, which to someone who could easily blend into the scenery has always struck me as a kind of magic. So, taking that seed of a premise, I did some research and eventually arrived at a new story idea, one in which a girl with crippling shyness agrees to an underground gene therapy, delivered via a virus, in order to become the charismatic rockstar of her dreams. The drug would deliver on its promise, but also come with dangerous side effects. This new story lent itself to themes of being careful of what we wish for and figuring out what it truly means to be oneself.


4)    Are you currently working on any new books?

I’m always working on new story ideas. As to which one will have the legs to go on and be published next, it’s too soon to say. But I’ve learned not to rush the process and to enjoy the thrill of discovery.


5)    If you had to pitch your book to a potential buyer what would you say?

I think this story is one that most of us can relate to since who wouldn’t be tempted to accept a one-shot fix for our biggest flaw? Besides that, the book offers romance, danger, and some cool speculative science that may be less fictional than we think.


6)    How do you feel about the newer generation of teenagers always trying to alter their bodies and minds? (i.e. bulimia, anorexia, plastic surgery, etc.)

I think it’s understandable to want to be the best you can be, but I also believe that some teens (and adults) go too far in their quest for “perfection”. Obviously, dangerous eating disorders are never okay. As for plastic surgery, it’s a gray area. Although I think a teen getting Botox or lip fillers seems unnecessary, I could see certain types of plastic surgery possibly making a difference in one’s self esteem if a person were really fixated upon a specific “flaw”. It’s such a personal decision, however, that I don’t feel qualified to draw a line designating what’s “right” or “wrong” in terms of body alteration. Just think long and hard before doing anything permanent.


7)    What would you tell a teenage girl who thinks she needs to change herself to please others?

I’d say if you’re changing who you are to please others, that’s nowhere near as compelling a reason as changing to please yourself. In the long run, you’ll be living with yourself far longer than with anyone else.

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