Review: Side Effects May Vary

January 30, 2014 book review 7

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Release Date: March 18, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: publisher

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?

I went into SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY a little worried about how close to home it was going to hit. I haven’t read a story told from a cancer patient’s point of view before because of how touchy the subject matter would be to me. That being said, I am a huge sucker for bucket list books and Alice’s list is all about getting revenge, which I loved. I just had to give this book a chance. I’m glad I did.

Alice is a spitfire, to sum her up in one word. An absolute spitfire. She was mouthy, didn’t take anyone’s BS, and would do whatever was necessary to get revenge on those who have wronged her, even if it means hurting someone along the way. Cancer is horrible and I know exactly the toll it takes on people, my sister being one of them. I love that Alice took it, accepted it, and decided she was going to have the last word. And while I don’t blame her, she could be as mean as a snake to not only the people she wanted to get revenge on, but also those around her who truly loved her. I was shocked at the extent she wanted to get revenge but boy was she a genius with her elaborate plans. Gutsy, gutsy. Harvey is her best friend and she could be so heartless towards him sometimes, it broke my heart! But Alice was flawed, raw, and real. She never used having cancer as an excuse.  I loved her rebellious attitude that she attributed to just being her, cancer aside. I didn’t always agree with what she was doing but I loved her still the same.

One of my biggest problems with this book was the bizarre way in which it was formatted. Not only do we have two different POVs, but we also get a past and present time frame. Neither of which switched consecutively. For example, and to best demonstrate what I’m talking about, here is what the chapters looked like: Alice Now, Harvey Then, Alice Then, Alice Then, Alice Now, Harvey Then, etc. I had a hard time keeping the time lines straight and was often confused about which event took place when. Having two different POVs on top of that just made it even more confusing and hard to keep up with. If this book took place in chronological order, it would have been easier to keep up with I think. I really enjoyed the plot but would have loved it more if I didn’t have to stop and think about where in time I was. Keeping that in mind, this is definitely a book you’ll want to have a physical copy of. It’ll make flipping back and forth easier!

Throughout the book, Alice is going through hoops to complete her personal bucket get revenge list. She drags Harvey down with her and he goes along with it. Towards the end of the book, Alice realizes that she has to start thinking of others. I loved getting to see the slow transformation from a girl with a vendetta to one who wants to make a difference, no matter how small it might be. The ending was beyond perfect and Murphy certainly knows how to leave her readers hanging. The last sentence about killed me! It was so vague and was left to the readers to fill in the blanks. As much as I wanted specific details, I love when an author does this! My issues with formatting and my minor issues with Alice’s choices aside, SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY was a very, very good read. I enjoyed going on this journey with Alice and seeing the subtle changes for the better in her.

3.5 Thought Clouds
I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!


7 Responses to “Review: Side Effects May Vary”

    • Christine P

      She really was such a dynamic character. She made some questionable choices but there were times when you couldn’t help but love her attitude. Hope you get to read this soon and love it!

  1. Cait

    This one is definitely on my really-wish-I-had list. But that crazy formatting sounds awkward. Eh. I have trouble focusing (sometimes, I admit, my brain can be a little…everywhere) and I like it when books are laid out simply. I know how it feels to read books that hit close to home. I read one just the other day and it was really…interesting. Awkward, but comforting all at once. 🙂 (And you definitely know if the author’s doing it right.)

  2. Kirsty-Marie Jones

    I can count on one hand how many books I’ve read to do with the subject, because it is a hard one to deal with, and something that connects to anyone and everyone. THe first I read was TFiOS, and the second recently Maybe One Day, and I cried at both. But, the same thing made me download it was because of the idea of the revenge part. Though, now knowing the format, that’ll drive me nuts. Overall, I think it’ll differ with each person, and I can’t wait to read it to decide for myself, but even if it was difficult, I’m glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

  3. Nicole

    I think I am going to have trouble keeping the time lines straight too. I get confused even when books alternate chapters! And I might have a love-hate relationship with Alice. She sounds great but also a little selfish maybe? Revenge is always fun but I’m glad she makes a transformation in the end. I am very curious about this one. Great review!

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