April 22, 2014

REVIEW: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
Publisher: HarperCollins/ Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: March 18, 2014
Source: Edelweiss via publisher
Rating: 3/5 stars
Get it: Amazon | B&N
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, whom 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 arch nemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger and reliving some childhood memories). 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 done 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 Review
I had high hopes for Side Effects May Vary because it had such a promising synopsis. I was expecting something poignant and moving, but I just felt drained and let down. However, it was not without some good points. 

The Bad

Probably anything that had to do with Alice was a bad for me. I could not sympathize or even remotely connect or feel for this girl. Alice tried to be diabolical in her revenge and in her pay back, but she just ended up being mean. I couldn’t like her at all, especially with the way she treated her family and Harvey. Alice wasn’t nice. She had a moment here and there that gave her heart, but her attitude, the way she used Harvey and just how she acted was horrible. She annoyed, angered, and exhausted me to no end. I know that her life was turned upside down when she got diagnosed and she accepted death and then again when she went in remission, but she became careless, heartless, and kind of unhinged. I was mostly tired of the way she reeled in, dropped, used and abused Harvey so easily.

The overall storyline was just meh to me. So much of this book was about Alice it was hard to push aside my dislike for her. The main focus was on her struggle with accepting the fact that she was better after accepting that she was sick and dying. I get it that the transition was hard, especially when Alice had kept secrets and done some pretty bad things to people whether or not they deserved it, was still questionable. Her behavior was eccentric and erratic and she just all over the place. She loved Harvey, but couldn’t tell him or begin to fathom how they could be together. Alice just couldn’t seem to piece her life then to her life now and she rebelled and acted out. When she finally realized her mistakes and wrong doings, for me it was just too little too late. 

The Good

While Alice was the bad for me, Harvey was all the good. He had such a big heart and he loved Alice despite the way she treated him. He saw the goodness in her where even I failed to see it. Harvey was way too forgiving and understanding, but he was more of a person than Alice could have been. I hated that Harvey let Alice use him and walk all over him because he deserved so much more than her. He still let her in when she abandoned him the first time and again the second time. He loved Alice so much that I sometimes hated him for it because he wouldn’t say no to her like he should have. But really, Harvey was so loyal and dependable. He was the one character that showed the most emotion and made me ache and break for him. He made me really proud when he finally stood his ground. Between Harvey and Alice, Harvey will always win out as the better person hands down. 

I actually liked the way Julie Murphy wrote and set this book up. This book was far from being The Fault in Our Stars or my recent favorite cancer book, Maybe One Day and I mean this in a good way because it stood out on its own. Instead of reading about someone dealing with cancer and death, we get the other side of the spectrum of dealing with remission and living. It was rough and I didn’t like Alice, but I thought her story had to be told. I also liked how Alice and Harvey’s perspectives were split from their past to when Alice first got diagnosed and then to the present when she went into remission. I thought it worked really well because I got to see how Harvey was back into Alice’s life and what led Alice to be the way she turned out to be. 

Overall, Side Effects May Vary did manage to grasp my attention and make me fall in love with at least one character. It wasn’t entirely bad and for that I was grateful.

*Thanks to HarperCollins/ Balzer + Bray for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review

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