Side Effects May Vary
By Julie Murphy
Release Date: March 18, 2014
Source: Blog TourWhat 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.
Review: I'm always super wary going into a cancer book. I know this one would be a serious book where people who are too young must face the reality that death is in their near future, but Julie Murphy takes a completely different path with this cancer story. Instead of making only the super good people die and creating a tearfest like someone I know (*cough* John Green *cough*), she gives you a character who isn't perfect or nice at all, which makes you think about what cancer can really do to a person.
At sixteen years old, Alice is diagnosed with Leukemia. In order to live the life she has left, she enlists the help of her old best friend Harvey, who's been in love with Alice for as long as they've been friends. Alice uses Harvey's feelings for her to set out to take revenge on those who have wronged her, and get through a list of things she needs to accomplish before she goes. Alice is okay with her growing relationship with Harvey, because she knows she'll be gone soon anyways. But when Alice goes into remission, her list doesn't seem so perfect anymore, and she has to face the consequences of her actions, including leading Harvey along and developing feelings she's scared to see become permanent. After accepting death, how can Alice come back and live her life?
Like I said, Julie Murphy takes a very unique take on the cancer story. Now that she has Leukemia and a looming expiration date, Alice does things she wouldn't have done in her everyday cancer-free life. But when she finds out she's actually not going to die, Alice becomes an incredibly selfish person who only cares about the responsibilities and expectations she'll have to face in her now long life. While there were definitely many different emotional stresses happening with her mother and the bullies at school, Alice decided to act just as bad as the bad guys, instead of being the humble heroine I'm so used to seeing in YA books. Though this aspect of Alice got very annoying at times, I can see how it would be more realistic and a unique twist to this story.
Harvey, on the other hand, is the good guy who is in love with the idea of Alice. Then, when he finally figures out what loving her really is like when she finally lets him in after she's diagnosed, he falls that much harder for the real thing. The only problem is that Alice is so scared of life and scared of her own emotions, that she purposefully hurts him when she realizes their relationship can be a long-term thing in order to drive him away. It's so sad watching Harvey give everything to and for Alice, and seeing her completely obliterate his heart. I think the part that made this most powerful, though, was how the chapters alternating between Alice and Harvey's points of view also alternative between the past when Alice is diagnosed and the present when she's in remission. We know that Alice and Harvey definitely developed a strong connection and relationship during Alice's fight with cancer, but something happened between then and the remission, and we don't figure out exactly what until well into the novel after the heartbreaking repercussions on Harvey are already revealed.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Both Harvey and Alice are emotionally hurt, confused, and scared. Add in the cancer aspect, and Alice's life really is a mess. How would you act if you had cancer, acted out and yolo'd it up, only to find out you really aren't going to die and have to live with the decisions you made, decisions you never would have made in regular life? Well, that's what Alice has to deal with. She makes decisions that scared her, and becomes even more scared of them and regretful when she has to face their consequences. If you want an emotional cancer story that has some dynamic and flawed characters, you should definitely check out Side Effects May Vary.
“Julie Murphy weaves together a tender and funny tale of love, friendship, heartache, and redemption. SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY explodes with brutal honesty, brilliant wit, and unflinching heart.” (John Corey Whaley, winner of the Michael L. Printz Award for WHERE THINGS COME BACK)
“Julie Murphy’s SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY is a funny, heartfelt, honest look at the beauty and the risk of getting a second chance. An inspiring novel about all the things worth living for. I adored this debut!” (Siobhan Vivian, author of THE LIST)
“A funny and touching novel about a strong-willed heroine who finds facing death simple, but facing life heart-wrenchingly complicated. A real original.” (Jennifer Echols, author of GOING TOO FAR)
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Julie lives in North Texas with her husband who loves her, her dog who adores her, and her cat who tolerates her. When she's not writing or trying to catch stray cats, she works at an academic library. Side Effects May Vary is Julie's debut novel.
Win (1) finished copy of Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy (US Only)