Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Review: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
Series: Standalone
Published: March 18th, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
336 pages (eARC)
Genre: Contemporary young adult
Acquired this book: From the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review
Warning: May contain spoilers
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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?

Side Effects May Vary is an unorthodox love story. If you’re looking for sunshine and roses and a romance that will make you swoon, Side Effects May Vary isn’t it. But if you’re looking for something honest, real, bold, and sometimes even a little uncomfortable, this book may just be for you.

I was oddly fascinated by Alice. She’s the kind of character we normally see as a secondary character - a mean girl. I didn’t like her and she didn’t have many redeeming qualities, but there was part of me that appreciated her for her honesty. She was who she was, and she made no apologies for that. She was mean-spirited, vengeful, selfish, indecisive, and a user. I actually can’t think of many characters I’ve liked less, but she was one of those characters I loved to hate because so much of what she said and thought was so shocking, I wondered what she would think, say, or do next.

Harvey, on the other hand, was absolutely adorable. He was so sweet and caring, and would do anything for Alice…and she knew it. She knew he’d always had feelings for her and she used that to her advantage every chance she got. There were times I wished Harvey would grow a backbone, but a part of me understood how hard it was for him - he was so in love with Alice and had been forever, so it was hard for him to say no to her or do anything that might make her unhappy, especially when she was really sick.

I liked the dual POV and the ‘Now’ and ‘Then’ format. I thought it might get confusing but it didn’t. This was actually the perfect story for a dual narrative, since Alice and Harvey were so different. I think the story would have been skewed if it had only been from one perspective. 

I’m still not sure how I feel about the ending. Part of me liked it but it was way too abrupt. I kept flipping back and forth on my Kindle, thinking I’d missed a page somehow. I don’t mind open-ended endings, but I would have liked a little more.

Side Effects May Vary is different from any other contemporary YA book I’ve read. While it has all the elements of a great YA contemp - friendship, family relationships, ups and downs, hardships, heartache, humour, romance - it has something different and special that I can’t quite put my finger on. From what I’ve seen so far, people are largely divided on this book, and I can understand why - disliking or even hating a main character can be a pretty big deterrent - but this book has so much heart. It has a lot of life lessons and emotion crammed into its pages, and it shows you that it’s never too late to change, become a better person, or do the right thing.

Have you read Side Effects May Vary? What did you think? If you haven't, does it sound like something you'd be interested in? Do you have a Bucket List?


  1. I completely agree with everything you said about this book! It was very interesting how despicable a character Alice is, but she felt so real and honest that I didn't actually hate her. All in all this was a great and honest read, so I really liked it too. Great review!

    -Kimi at Geeky Chiquitas

  2. Yeah, this just went way up on the must read list for me. I was already interested, but the idea that someone has created a MC who is dividing people so much makes this a book where I feel like I want to weigh in on the debate, especially since I like writing characters who are varying shades of gray.

  3. I didn't really click with this book...but I did love how contrasting Alice and Harvey's personalities were. I was very impressed that the "then" and "now"s didn't get confusing!

    I'm stopping by from YA Romantic's linkup! My linked up review!

  4. Alice really sounds like a character I don't think I'd like at all but I have been really curious about this book so might give it a go.

    A wonderful review Marie! :)


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