Book Review: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Posted February 12, 2014 by Lori in Books, Reviews / 4 Comments Tags: ,

I received this book for free from Around the World ARC Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Side Effects May Vary by Julie MurphySide Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
Published by HarperCollins on 2014-03-18
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Around the World ARC Tours
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three-half-stars

Written from the perspectives of both Harvey and Alice, in Side Effects May Vary, Julie Murphy weaves a compelling story of friendship, relationships and love, with a little bit of death thrown in for good measure; at least for a while. When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs. So she convinces her best friend Harvey, who's loved her forever, to help with compiling a crazy 'just-dying-to-do' bucket list, that's as much about revenge as it is about redemption. But just when Alice's scores are settled, she goes into remission. Now she must face the consequences of all she's said and done and discover just what happens when we say our 'final' words, only to find that life isn't through with us yet. Sharp, witty and poignant - this is a book written for all ages.

This one was pretty up and down for me. I really liked the story with it’s interesting take on a cancer book and the dual POVs but I didn’t liked the main character and her attitude at all. I still recommend the book to anyone interested in it and am glad I got the opportunity to read it, I would just definitely make a note of the few problems I had with it.

My problem with the main character, Alice, was just how much of a bitch she was. I understand she has cancer and I can’t even imagine what dealing with that must be like and everything she had gone through, but I couldn’t excuse her “I’m taking everyone down with me” attitude. I also could not overlook the way she treated Harvey. Supposedly the one person she trusted and loved and the one person who stuck by her through everything and she treated him like dirt. Again, I know she was dealing with a terminal disease and was mad and realizing how much she was going to miss by dying so young, but it would have been nice if she could have treated Harvey a little bit better. I can deal with characters who realize what they’re doing and trying to do better, but she pretty much dealt with her feelings by walking away from them and hurting people close to her. I wanted her to be a little bit more likable so I could have sympathized with her more instead of just wanting to yell at her.

I also had a little bit of a problem with the timeline in this book. As I mentioned above, there is a dual POV which I thought was done really well. But along with the switching POVs between chapters, there was also a back and forth in time with the changing chapters. So one chapter might be Harvey’s POV from Now (post remission news) and the next might be Alice’s POV from Then (post leukemia diagnosis) and the next might be Alice’s POV from Now. It worked in relation to the way the story was told but it was definitely a lot to keep track of. Fortunately, it was easy to know which POV the chapter was in because I felt each had a very unique voice, but there was a lot of back and forth and it may have been difficult to keep track if I hadn’t read the book as quickly as I did.

Now on to the good stuff. I actually really liked this story. It was a different sort of cancer book and the emotions were much different than I expected to feel. It was nice dealing with the other side of cancer and realizing that just because you’re given a second chance, doesn’t mean that everything will be easy and happy from then on. I thought that taking a look at one’s life and how it might be remembered is a good way to decide how to you want to change and leave a different kind of legacy. As much as I didn’t like Alice, I appreciated that at least by the end she realized that the legacy she had been about to leave may not have been the one she had wanted. It was also nice acknowledging that sometimes the best and right things to do are the hardest. All these lessons are learned but they aren’t easy. And it was interesting looking at life after coming so close to death.

Not everything about this book was great for me but my overall feelings for the book are still positive. I’d recommend it for it’s unique take as a cancer book and it’s very well done dual POV. I would mention that the book jumped around a lot from past to present and POV’s and that the main character is definitely hard to like. But I think it’s still worth a read, especially if this is a book you’ve been looking forward to.

4 Responses to “Book Review: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy”

  1. Vivien

    This unfortunately, didn’t work for me at all. I struggled to finish it. I was really surprised with the direction that this book took. I just really didn’t like it :/ Glad you were able to enjoy it though!

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