Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Review: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Side Effects May Vary
Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
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.


Publishes in US: March 18th 2014 by HarperCollins/ Balzer + Bray
Genre: YA contemp
Source: Harper Teen
Series? No.

Buy it: Indiebound, Amazon,Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million.

Author stalk away: ~site ~twitter ~blog

    I wanted to read Side Effects May Vary because I am a sucker for an emotional book. Anything about cancer or illness just screams my name and I have never really been able to put a finger on it besides the fact that I am a reader, and we all have things that push our buttons. 
   Side Effects May Vary is told in dual perspective, from Alice the main character with cancer who suddenly finds out she is in a miraculous remission. And also from Harvey, the boy who has love her forever, and helps her with her Dying to do list. They grew up together so the dynamics between them are complicated especially since they grew apart in high school. Alice got a jock boyfriend who she later found out things about and Harvey pretty much just stayed the same. But when Alice finds out she is sick, Harvey is the first person she goes to. At times, it was hard for me to still even really like and respect Alice though because when she found out she was in remission, we don't get her side of it, and she starts avoiding Harvey. I think that she often really takes advantage of Harvey, knowing his feelings for her, and she just takes him along for the ride. But as I continued reading about her, I realized that it was all defensive. Due to her personality and some of the things she'd seen in her life, she is afraid of feelings and commitments, so while I still don't agree with how mean she is and how she takes advantage of her close relationship with Harvey, I understand. I also see some character growth in her, that she realizes what she's doing, and that she isn't the person she wants to be inside. The transformation was so slow, especially when she is given a new lease on life, and nothing has an expiration date anymore. 
    That is the other thing about Side Effects May Vary, it is told in the then and the now, with the now starting right before she found out that she was in remission. So, in some of the time we get Alice's then while Harvey's now and I didn't really know why she was avoiding except maybe fear and not knowing what to do with herself with time she thought she would not have. At one point she said a really profound thing about she had come to terms with being sick and dying and now the future and the not knowing was completely overwhelming to her. The then and now was a good format for this though because we see how things are and also what happened to lead Alice and Harvey to that point. 
    Overall, I really liked their romance, they had a lot of history and chemistry, and I knew that what they felt was strong even if at times, neither of them went about it in the right way. But I think that Alice's fear of committment was really drawn out and it took a lot for her to get around it. Here's a great example of her voice and how she would tell the truth to Harvey, which made me feel a little less sorry for him at times, because Alice didn't lie about what she was dealing with and he knew her personality. 
“You freak the shit out of me, Harvey. I don’t get it—how you can feel like there are no consequences for living with your feelings on your sleeve. Because there are, you know. There are consequences so horrible, and I wish I could ignore them like you can—the feelings and their consequences. I wish it didn’t matter to me.”
    I like the other touches in the book, such as Alice's dancing, her rivalry with Celeste, as well as Harvey's relationship with his mom and the extension of his piano playing and getting his independence through quitting and getting a job. 
    Side Effects May Vary was different from what I expected, and while I flew through the book, it wasn't the emotional hard hitter in the way that I thought it would be. There is still some ups and downs, but it is more a look at the lives of two people, seeing how they deal with illness, family issues, and their long standing friendship and feelings of love and not knowing what to do with it. Another thing that I had an issue with was her miraculous intermission. One day she was at death's door and the next, the doctor told her she was in remission. But I could mostly ignore it for the unique angle it gave on the book--about how cancer's presence or lack of could really effect people. 
    But I do think that it is a neat angle to take on the whole sick girl theme. That she was ready to die and then all of the sudden healthy and life being thrown at her quickly. She is having to think about college, and what she wants for her life, and also facing some of the consequences from her dying to do list. Which were pretty epic and also some cruel. She says and acts in some ways, and it was hard to see how it effected Harvey and she had no idea. But the girls in this were some serious mean girls and boy. They received it but also dished it back out in some pretty horrific ways. But it really showed some big growth in Harvey when he stood up to her about it and gave her a choice and walked away, leaving things on her court. 
    The ending was good for the story, and it showed that Alice really was changing and trying to do things the right way, not only to get Harvey, but for herself and for her family. It showed Harvey standing up for himself despite being hurt and still loving Alice. And it gave a glimpse of what their happily ever afters could look like without knotting the bow and making into some epic series that follows their lives. 

Bottom Line: Good book that shows Alice getting a new lease on life and her love story with Harvey, the boy who was and always is in love with her.

My question to you, my lovely readers:
What would be on your list of things to do if you were told you had terminal illness?
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  1. I had no idea whi was told in dual perspectives, but it makes me far more curious to read it. I'm glad you enjoyed it so much.
    Great review.

  2. I have this and I keep putting it off. I tend to stay away from anything that I as to do with Cancer, having lost both of my parents to it. I might have to pick this one eventually. Glad you enjoyed it.

  3. Wow. This is the first good review I've read of this book, and it definitely puts a spin on some of the things other reviews I've seen specifically hated. REALLY hated. I guess it all comes down to perspective. I'll try to keep an open mind ;)

    Jessica @ Rabid Reads

  4. This sounds like a novel that has lots going on. I like that its described as a book about facing mortality.

  5. I'm a big fan of emotional reads too; I'm glad you liked this one overall.

  6. Facing my mortality is one of my biggest fears, Cancer is so hard for me to read right now as someone I know just was diagnosed and I can't deal with it in my books. This does sound like a good read though and I like the sound of the romance.

  7. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed this! I've heard so many horror stories about Alice, and it's wonderful to hear that you appreciated her journey. Great review!

  8. Like you I really enjoy emotional books and all with such tough issues are really appealing to me. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one. Great review, Brandi :)

  9. There have been quite a few mixed reviews for this book, which is a shame, but I'm glad that you were able to enjoy this book overall Brandi, despite it not being as emotional as you expected it to be! Great review!

  10. Glad you enjoyed this one Brandi despite it not having the emotional depth you expected.

  11. I love emotional books, I really do. I don't think I've seen this one around, but it definitely looks interesting. I'm glad you were able to enjoy it despite it not being the emotional hard hitter you were expecting.

    Great review!

  12. This one sounds interesting. I'm not sure if I will like Alive though.

  13. This is a story that would be really hard on me right now, but I'm glad you enjoyed it. Nice review!

  14. I'm really looking forward to this book. Thanks for the heads up, I'll make sure to be stocked with tissues before I start.

  15. Yours is one of the few positive reviews I've seen for this book. So many readers hated the MC with a burning passion, as well as for the supposedly "doormat" love interest. I'm glad you found something to enjoy in it, as that's the purpose for every book reading! :D I'm still on the fence regarding this though. I have a feeling I'll be super annoyed at the MC, too :P

    Faye at The Social Potato Reviews

  16. it sounds so great and I see many wonderful reviews but I don't know why... I'm not attracted.

  17. Oh wow... this sounds like a very deep read. I'm glad once you read more of the book you understood Alice better and why she treated Harvey the way she did. Harvey sounds like a sweet gut! Awesome review!

    Naomi @ Nomi’s Paranormal Palace

  18. I'm a complete sucker for emotional reads, too, Brandi! And Side Effects May Vary has been on my list of books I want to read since I first heard of it. It's too bad the readers don't get to actually see what Alice feels about going into remission, though. That would have been the culmination of things from my perspective, at least.
    Great review!

    Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

  19. I felt the whole recovery was weirdly miraculous too. I mean, they all thought she was going to DIE that night....and then the next day the doctor says she doesn't even have cancer?! Wow. I've never had any experience in those circumstances, so I can't really criticise it, but I did feel it was abrupt. *shrugs* Great review! :) I'm stopping by from YA Romantic's linkup! My linked up review!

  20. Oh goodness, Brandi. This does sound like an emotional read. I'm not sure how'd I feel about Alice's treatment of Harvey though. But this is a book I'd like to read. Thanks for sharing such a thoughtful review.

    Oh, and if I were dying, I'd forget about whether or not I could afford it and do ALL the traveling I could fit in. :)

  21. I didn't care too much for this one because of Alice's attitude, but I'm really happy you liked it! I agree that it is a completely fresh take on the cancer situation in books and it's definitely unique.

  22. ha... I wish miracles likes this could happen...

    Yeah I don't know, I think that would bother me in the book but I am glad you enjoy it despite it.

    Hummm I would want to travel! Visit, Ireland, Scotland, Paris yup.

  23. Glad you liked this one! I'm very interested in it!


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