Side Effects May Vary
By Julie Murphy
Publication date: March 18, 2014
HarperCollins/ Balzer + Bray, 336 pages
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.
— Goodreads.com description
At one point in Side Effects May Vary, a character describes Alice as “rotten inside.” Which pretty much sums her up for much of the book. So if you can’t handle books with an unlikable main character, this is not the book for you.
But, really, that would be too bad.
Because as gosh-darn rotten as Alice is, it’s interesting to try to understand her perspective and watch her begin to change (as slow and painful as that process is for her in parts).
And it’s soooo sad and awkward watching Harvey pine for her. Oh, poor Harvey! I love you!
So maybe I’m not totally selling it by using words like “sad” and “painful” to describe the story. But within that sadness and the pain, there’s a lot of beauty and hope and struggle. And a lot of really excellent writing. Julie Murphy absolutely caught my attention with this one. The voice, the pacing, the humor — it was all spot-on. I can’t wait to read more from her.
Definitely recommended for people looking for a strong new writer to follow and something a bit heavier to read. What a lovely debut!
PS: OMG the mean girls in this book made me SOOOOO glad I never have go to through high school ever again! What torture!