Review: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Based on that description, I thought this book would be funny. I was expecting a girl who was given a second chance at life having to make amends with those she’d hurt after telling the truth or playing some pranks when she thought she was going to die.

I did not expect a girl who seems upset by the prospect of not dying. The book is told in “Now” and “Then” type fashion, so when Alice goes into remission, you don’t know what she’s done, so it was slightly realistic that she was unhappy about her continued state of being. (Although nothing would make me prefer death over life.) But as the book unfolds, you find out that the stuff she did wasn’t even that bad. It just seemed dumb to me.

I found Alice to be completely unlikable. She is manipulative and vindictive. She uses Harvey to help her with these stupid pranks to get back at her ex-boyfriend and the girl he was cheating with. Aside from that, the list wasn’t very clearly defined. She does do one nice thing and then experiments with drugs (sort of) and sex, but it was kind of a disappointing bucket list.

Harvey is not completely without blame. He annoyed me as well. He is kind of pathetic and lets himself be used because he’s (apparently) in love with Alice.

The end is ridiculous. Alice blames her issues on her mother who lies about an affair the whole time Alice is sick. But that’s not a good enough excuse for her bitchy behavior IMO. Julie Murphy attempts some redemption and reconciliation at the very end, but I found it to be too little too late. I just didn’t care about any of the characters anymore.

I disliked the whole tone of this book. I know I shouldn’t compare books, and especially not with The Fault in Our Stars (5 stars) by John Green. But that book was so profound, mature, and positive. It was a love story in the greatest form. And this story was negative, petty, and just so high school – in the worst ways possible. When presented with death, would anyone, even a teenager, be this shallow?

Can you tell I kind of hated this book? I suffered through because it is this month’s YA book club pick. It should make for some interesting discussion.

Rating: 1 Star

This review was originally published on Mom’s Radius.

Side Effects May Vary
Julie Murphy
Young Adult Fiction
Balzer + Bray
March 18, 2014

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, who 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 archnemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger). 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 caused 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.

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