{Review} Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

{Review} Side Effects May Vary by Julie MurphySide Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
Published by Balzer & Bray on March 18, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 336
Goodreads Buy the Book
2 Stars

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.

This was one of our most anticipated reads, and like many others that we’ve been reading lately, it fell flat for us. Maybe that’s not true. Maybe we just expect to be able to connect with/like the main character, and when that doesn’t happen, we think it’s fail. This wasn’t bad–the idea was awesome, and the boy is swoony, but the girl… ugh.

The 411:

High school sophomore Alice is sixteen when her life takes a drastic change, shifting from her biggest worry being how far she’s willing to go with her hot boyfriend to finding out something that tears her entire world apart.  And then a month after that, she finds out that she has cancer.  Most people, if handed what Alice equated to a death sentence, would want to do good in the world or spend meaningful time with their loved ones.  But not Alice–she made a sort of bucket list to get revenge on everyone who had wronged her.  Alice enlists Harvey, her childhood BFF that she had drifted apart from since entering high school,  to help her fulfill everything on the list, and even though he doesn’t agree with most of the things on the list, he would do anything for her.
“Harvey, if I … if I dies and you don’t help me with this, you will always regret it.  Doing these things with you, that’s part of my list in a way.”  I bit down on my lip.  “Maybe there are some things that you want to do with me that are on your list, ya know?”
He loves her, and they become closer than ever.  Her prognosis is bleak, and she isn’t expected to survive.
I tried not to think about that because this moment felt perfect.  Her lying here, next to me, her body curving into mine.  It was perfect except that she was dying and I was living and I didn’t know how we could do both at the same time.
But then, a miracle.  Her cancer goes into remission, and Alice doesn’t know how to deal with the fallout.
My vision blurred, and all I saw was everything I’d done over the last year.  Everything I’d said.  Harvey.  I didn’t know how to live with the weight of what I’d told him the other night, what I’d said without words.
So, she barely deals with it.  She goes back to ignoring Harvey and tries to live with the consequences of all the awful things she said and did when she was working through her list.  And as her focus shifts from being sick to what she witnessed prior to finding out about the cancer, it eats her up and takes us through a roller-coaster of emotions.

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What We Loved:

There were several of things about this book that we liked.  The idea of it was pretty awesome, and we loved Harvey.
“You can’t save the world.”
I nodded.  “I know that, but why can’t I at least save her?”
 We liked some of the other characters, too.

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Um...Not So Much:

We hated Alice.  More on her in a moment, but her character ruined the book for us.  The other thing that we didn’t really love is the disjointed way this story is told.  It’s told from both Harvey’s and Alice’s points of view, from the past (before her diagnosis) to now (after she’s in remission).  We think if the story would have been a bit more cohesive, we would have maybe been able to build up some sympathy–or at least empathy–for her.  When it was all said and done, we were rooting for Harvey to grow a backbone and leave her.  And that’s not something that everusually happens to us.

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The Boys:

Harvey Poppovicci.  He’s so sweet, and his words and thoughts are almost lyrical.  He’s smart and he’s a musician, and he’s one of the swooniest boys ever.
“Question game,” I said.  “If the government was populating another planet and they asked you to go, would you?”
“Would you be there?”
We love it when he stands up for himself.
“All I ever wanted was to be proud of myself and to be with you, but I can’t be both at the same time.”
And though we wish he didn’t, we love how much he loves Alice.
Dennis. Harvey’s best friend.  He’s funny and loyal and full of awesome advice.
“Okay,” said Dennis, bursting through the door.  “Who picked the color this year? Because I look fine.”
There are some other guys–Alice’s boyfriend Luke and Eric, a guy she spends time with, too, but we don’t want to spoil all the things.

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The Girls:

Alice. We felt very little connection to her and understood basically none of her motivation where Harvey was concerned.  Or her list for that matter.  She acted like a brat, and she treated Harvey, a boy she had known her whole life, like crap.  Never in a million years does she think she would have to own up to all of the things that she does.  She thinks she’s dying, and she doesn’t care that the only person who would have to deal with the guilt for completing the things on the list would be Harvey.
I had Harvey, and I had him for good.  Hadn’t that been all I wanted?  To make those perfect moments last?  But now I felt trapped, like a homeless person who’d been given their dream home only to suffer from intense wanderlust because we always want something until we have it.
She’s horrible.
Debora. We can’t say much about her except even though we didn’t really want to like her, we couldn’t help it. We kind of loved how awesome and how straightforward she was .

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Bottom Line:

Despite an amazing boy who made us flail and swoon a good idea for a book, the rest of this story leaves something to be desired–like a main character that we don’t hate. ::sadface::

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Rating Report
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Overall: 2


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2 Stars

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