Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction
Release: March 18, 2014
Hardcover: 330 Pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
My Copy: Publisher (Edelweiss)
Buy the Book: Amazon
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.
But for all of her mean girl posturing, Alice is also vulnerable and afraid. She is very very hurt when she is betrayed by those closest to her and she lashes out as a means to protect her feelings. But just as she is putting the final notes on her revenge opus, she finds out her cancer is in remission. And now she has to deal with the fall out of her actions. Alice does not handle it very well and spins out of control, right up to the point where you think she won't be able to redeem herself.
Alice enlists the help of Harvey for her schemes. Harvey is a childhood friend who is in love with Alice. At the beginning of the book, I didn't like his puppy doggish way of hanging on Alice's ever word. But by the end, he becomes much less of a push-over and stands up for himself. I ended up liking Harvey quite a lot.
The book description mentions Alice's bucket list, but doesn't spend a lot of time on it. It really focuses more on the consequences of her actions and the relationship between Alice and Harvey. The time period flips back and forth between "then" (during Alice's cancer treatments) and "now" (after her cancer goes into remission). The POV also flips between Alice and Harvey. The non-linear storytelling did get a little confusing me at times, but for the most part it worked ok.
Overall, a compelling read. I think the biggest issue for readers would be how well they can tolerate Alice. I certainly didn't like her all the time, but I wasn't completely repelled by her either. I thought everything came together well at the end and ended a high note without being too saccharine.
Disclosure: I reviewed a copy free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.