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May 09, 2014

Review: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Side Effects May Vary
Title: Side Effects May Vary
Author: Julie Murphy

 Harper Collins/ Balzer & Bray
Publication Date: March 18, 2014
Genre(s): Young Adult (Contemporary)
Source: Publisher
Format: ARC
Pages: 344
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.
Alice has already accepted her fate. A sixteen year old diagnosed with leukemia, this isn't some miracle waiting to happen. The very thing that's supposed to be curing her is killing her. When her parents decide it's time to stop the chemo, Alice knows they just pulled the plug. She's going to die. With the help of her best friend, Harvey, who's had a crush on her since they were little, she gets revenge on her homophobic ex boyfriend who messed with one of her classmates and an arch nemesis of hers since she was a kid, relives some childhood memories, and tries some things she's never done before. Just as Alice decides she's done making marks, she goes into remission. Bam. Now, Alice has to go back and face all the horrible things she's done, all while trying to deal with her conflicted feelings about Harvey.
Alice is a brat. She's mean, and vengeful, and deeply flawed, and selfish and uses Harvey. Actually, she treats him like a dog. And I think that's why I liked her so much. Don't get me wrong, she's horrible, but she seems so realistic, you can't help but sympathize with her. I've actually never read a book told by a mean girl, and I only hope they all have the same second thoughts as Alice, even if they brush them aside. Harvey is SO much more likeable, but honestly, I didn't like him that much. Even though Alice treats him like a dog, Harvey lets her, even when he doesn't want to. She always manages to pull him back. His lack of...self control(?) really bothered me. I do kinda get where he's coming from though. Alice treats him like a yo-yo, bringing him in and letting him feel like there is something between them, and then pushing him away, leaving him stranded. I felt bad for him, but it was more like an "Oh, poor you, boo hoo, now deal with it." than actually sympathizing with him.
I really did like how not only did the story alternate between Alice and Harvey, but also between the past and present. Some people might not like that though, so watch out. There is a lot of cussing in this book, so not for younger kids. Overall, Side Effects May Vary is a great, not cliché cancer story that won't make you sob your eyes out.


  1. Despite how awful Alice sounds the fact that she is very realistic appeals to me. Great review Danna

  2. Oh, I need to read this! I've heard about how mean Alice is but since you like her anyway...and it's not cliche, so I'm definitely going to go for this. Great review, Danna!

  3. I have heard really great reviews about this one and I'm really surprised that a lot of people really liked Alice even though she sounds horrible to me. I really want to see how will I react. Great review! :)

  4. The premise reminds me of a movie I saw a long time ago, only that the protagonist was a guy.
    Can't remember the name now....

    Escapism from Reality

  5. I'm glad to hear this wasn't a typical sob your eyes out cancer story, but Alice sounds kind of horrible. Nice to see you enjoyed it even so, Danna. Great review! :)

  6. Hi! I'm a new blogger and I love your reviews on this blog and book tube! Thanks so much!