A shy girl grabs an opportunity to change her personality with an illegal genetic transformation.
Aislyn can barely manage to speak in public, she’s so shy. She can’t bring herself even to let Jack, her secret heartthrob, know she likes him. Her shyness cripples her life. When she loses a scholarship she should have won because she cannot make a simple presentation, she despairs. She’s good at science and works with a brilliant scientist at a laboratory researching genetic modifications to treat diseases, such as the cystic fibrosis her brother, Sammy, has. When Dr. Sternfield offers her Charisma, an experimental gene modification meant to boost confidence, Aislyn agrees. The treatment works. Aislyn begins a real relationship with Jack and finds herself interacting with others easily, even boldly. However, she soon realizes that she isn’t the only person who has taken the secret treatment, which uses a virus to carry the modified genes. When others become sick and fall into comas, and some die, the scandal hits the news—and Dr. Sternfield goes missing. Meanwhile, Aislyn’s mother, fearing gene therapy, keeps Sammy out of a promising gene treatment for cystic fibrosis that could save the boy’s life. Ryan presents a portrait of a public response to an epidemic that is especially resonant given recent panics. Suspense balances with discussions of bioethics for a provocative and entertaining read.
A sympathetic protagonist combines with intriguing medical possibility for a solid thriller. (Science fiction. 12-18)