Sunday, August 24, 2014

Review: Side Effects May Vary

Title: Side Effects May Vary
Author: Julie Murphy
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: March 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover, First Edition
Source: Purchased
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 arch-nemesis) 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 Review

I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Murphy's debut novel, and I am hoping that she publishes more books in the future. To put it simply, Side Effects May Vary was a realistic and entertaining read. There are some issues in the book that will bother certain readers, but for the most part, I thought it was a fresh take on a book about a teenager with cancer.

There were a quite a few times when I was reading that I found myself a little confused because of the narration. While it wasn't a huge problem, it was enough to irritate me when I had to flip back a few pages. The book is narrated by two different characters (Alice and Harvey), and they sounded similar throughout most of the novel. Their voices were just too different; there needed to be a little more variation so that readers can tell when Alice is narrating and when Harvey is narrating. At certain points in chapters, I found myself flipping back to the first page of the chapter to remember who the narrator of that particular chapter is. For me, if I read a book with more than one narrator, I want them to have different and distinct voices, and in this case, these characters did not. I should know which point of view the chapter is in, and it fell flat in this book. 

Also, be prepared for a now and then situation because it flips between the present and past. I thought that was pretty cool. You get to see both teenagers at different stages in their lives, and for me, it really made the book one that I'll remember. 

Everything else about the book was pretty much awesome. I loved that Alice is flawed and worries about completing a list before she dies of cancer, even if it includes doing some dirty and downright evil things to people. She's genuinely real. She's a bitch at times. She's soft at times. She just felt like someone that would have walked the halls at my high school.

Harvey... well he's interesting, but in a good way. He's a character who I felt bad for at many points in the book because he adores Alice, but she tends to treat him like garbage. He just cares about Alice so much but she doesn't want to see it. She'd much rather use him to help her accomplish her goals than realize how caring he really is.

Yes, the main character has cancer, but it's different kind of cancer story. It's about using remaining time to do what you want, but then Alice has to learn how to deal with the choices she made when she thought she was going to die. Alice is unlikeable during the novel, so readers feel conflicted because they want to feel bad for her, but they also just want to slap her in the face. She has to learn that every action has a consequence, and that living with cancer is no excuse for treating people like they are worthless. 


  1. Awesome, it's so good to hear that this one doesn't isn't just a cardboard copy of other cancer books that are popular right now. This isn't my usual kind of read, but I could see myself enjoying it despite the few criticisms you had. Great review!!

    1. It's definitely different, but I like different. A lot of people complain about Alice because she is whiny and bitchy, but the girl had cancer. I would be like that too. I get mad all the time because of my disease, so I can understand that pain and emotion Alice feels. Plus it's just cool to see how she changes. It's a good book, and it isn't too long, so I read it rather quickly.

  2. I've been meaning to get this book for quite a while. Isn't the cover just so unique and adorable? I'm glad you liked the book! Great review :D

    Alex @ The Book's Buzz

    1. I love the cover. The ballet shoes on it interested me because I used to be a ballerina. But I just love the neon on the black. It's a good look.

      If you ever read it, let me know. I can't wait to see what you think of it.

  3. I've seen the book around. Never really interested me before but now I will be adding this to my TBR. P.S. love the new look!

    1. It was good. It did annoy me at times, but I did like it.

      And thanks. I'm not so sure how long I might have it stick around. I have another theme that I really like. I'm really fickle.

  4. Lovely review, Erin! I saw this whilst passing (broke) through Barnes & Noble and for about five seconds, seriously considered trying to steal it. The cover is really cute, and the synopsis sounds very intriguing. I hadn't known that it was a non-linear storyline, I don't encounter those often~
    And I totally agree about the different POV thing--if there's more than one narrator, they absolutely have to sound different. (ahem, Allegiant :P)

    1. I've found that I really like non-linear books. I tend to read them a lot faster because I need to know everything. I posted a review for another non-linear, How to Love, recently too.

      And that bugged me so much during Allegiant. That is the major reason I downgraded the rating for that one so much. I got so confused like all the time.


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