Title/Author: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
Publisher/Date published: Balzer + Bray, March 18th 2014
How I got this book: received it from the publisher as an egalley
Buy this book at: The Book Depository
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Goodreads summary: 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 was one of my most anticipated debuts of 2014. To me, the concept of a girl going through her bucket list and living like she is going to die soon and then NOT dying and having to deal with the consequences is fascinating. As a doctor, I have seen that sometimes it's just as hard for people to live as it is to die, especially when you've been expecting the opposite.
So obviously I wasn't expecting Side Effects May Vary to be rainbows and butterflies, and it wasn't. Julie Murphy's debut novel is brutal and honest and raw. And I liked it. There's nothing shiny about being diagnosed with leukemia and having to go through chemotherapy and it wasn't sugarcoated in this book and I appreciate that. The reality is harsh and awful and I felt that while reading Side Effects May Vary.
Alice wasn't necessarily a likeable character, but I didn't mind so much. She felt like a real girl with real fears and feelings and just a big mess. She's vindictive and then she has this moment in which she does something truly selfless for the little girl living next door. She has issues and she knows it.
Harvey is a good guy. He truly is. He's just also a bit spineless when it comes to Alice and her crap. And while it didn't make me awwww, I did believe their lovestory. There were moments when I believed in them and it made me understand why Harvey kept going back when she called him.
Julie Murphy takes us back and forth between Then and Now, switching from the moment Alice was diagnosed to the present after she's gone into remission. And slowly the whole story unravelled. I liked that both the Then and the Now were linear, and I wasn't thrown around all over the timeline, cause that makes me loose my bearings easily. I'm not sure it was really necessary to tell the story this way, I think it could have been linear all the way, but this worked as well.
Side Effects May Vary will have me thinking about it for a while I think, but from the subject matter, I think it could have packed a greater punch. I wasn't emotionally involved and I think that's what made me like it, but not love it. Julie Murphy told me a believable story about a girl with leukemia and the impact it has on someone and their loved ones without sugarcoating it and I really appreciate that.
My rating: 3,5 stars
Julie lives in North Texas with her husband who loves her, her dog who adores her, and her cat who tolerates her. When she's not writing or trying to catch stray cats, she works at an academic library. Side Effects May Vary is Julie's debut novel.
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