Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Review: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
Published March 18, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins/ Balzer + Bray
What if you'd been living your life as if you were dying—only to find out that you had your whole future ahead of you?

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs—however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, who she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that's as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her archnemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger). But just when Alice's scores are settled, she goes into remission.

Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she's said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she caused irreparable damage to the people around her—and to the one person who matters most?

Julie Murphy's Side Effects May Vary is a fearless and moving tour de force about love, life, and facing your own mortality.

My Thoughts
Harvy = 5 Stars
Alice = 0 Stars
Rating Clarification = 2.5 Stars

Wow! What a tough book to warm up to! I haven’t struggled with a protag this much in a long time. There were many moments in the story that I just about threw in the towel, so I surprise myself that I saw it all the way through.

Side Effects May Vary balances a potentially touching story between two very different protagonists. First you have sixteen year old Alice that is diagnosed with cancer. From one day to the next, she sees her life take a dramatic turn where she not only fights to stay alive but also struggles with coming to grips with some of the troubles in her life. Because her days are suddenly numbered, she decides to enlist the help of her longtime friend Harvey to exact some revenge on those who did her wrong.

However, when she finds herself in remission, she’s not only forced to deal with her new reality but also the consequences of her decisions that leaves many people angry and troubled with her actions against them.

Throughout the entire story, I struggled with trying to gain an ounce of sympathy for Alice. I simply didn’t like her. I know… I know… we’re talking about a kid that was dealt the c-card so an automatic sympathy pass should be granted. Well that just didn’t happen. This kid was downright callous, selfish and mean! It confuses me why an author would develop a character in such a way. At first I felt like I was missing something, but no… Just about every character in the novel validated my feelings. One when so far as to say, “The cancer might be gone, but the bitch isn’t.” Mean words, but I tell you she deserved them. Such a tough book to enjoy when you don’t like the narrator.

Thankfully for this book, there was another side to this story that was told from Harvey’s point of view. I loved this character and he was one of the reasons I saw this through the end. Harvey was kind, unassuming and aware. He knew he was being used by Alice and finally towards the end of the novel he makes some tough decisions that forces Alice to re-think who and what she is and how she treats people. Great balance in the story!

Overall, I struggled completely with Side Effects May Vary. Not one I feel comfortable recommending.
2.5 Snowflakes


  1. Oh man, I am sorry you didn't enjoy this one. I remember reading about this one and thought it sounded interesting. It's so different from the usual cancer story lines. But it sounds like the character is pretty unlikeable. Not sure I will read this one.

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