Review: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Side Effects May Vary
Author: Julie Murphy
Release Date: March 18, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source: Edelweiss
Review by: Jenn
Links: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Goodreads / IndieBound

My rating: 2.5 stars out of 5 stars
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 always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that's as much as 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, and facing your own mortality.

*I received an eARC of this book from the publisher but it did not influence this review in any way.*

I was super excited about starting this book and I've been hearing a lot of buzz for Side Effects May Vary. Though I try not to read reviews of books I'm about to read so I don't get influenced by someone's opinion, a did hear a few things about it. However, I tried to go into the book with a clear mind and with no preconceived notions about it.

The books starts out good enough and I thought I would be one of the people who would end up loving the book. Alice seems like an interesting character and I was curious to see what would happen. However, by the time I was done with this book, I was disgusted by Alice's behavior. She was such a manipulative, mean, and horrible person. And she was all those things to the one person who did whatever she asked of him, Harvey.

I tried to understand that she was dealing with a lot of emotional upheaval, what with being told she might die and preparing herself for that and then miraculously going into remission. However, I just can't be okay with what she was doing to Harvey and everyone else. She was fully aware of what she was doing to Harvey and knew that she was using him. I was sympathetic when she rationalized that she didn't know how to give Harvey what he wanted because she now has a second chance to think about the future after already given up on it. In fact, when she said that, I completely forgave everything that she had previously done that made me dislike her. However, that thought came to a screeching halt during a scene where she completely tore down Harvey and that was the last straw for me. After that scene, there was nothing that she could have done to make things better.

Aside from Alice, the writing and pacing of the book was well done. I never felt like the story was being bogged down by unnecessary information or that anything was missing. I like the fact that the book was done in dual point of views and as past and present. It was a great but a little confusing (at times) tool that Julie Murphy used. I was never confused by who the narrator was because there were clear distinctions between Alice and Harvey, which sometimes is tricky for authors to do.

I understand that the book is trying to show a second chance at a life you thought you wouldn't have and it worked in a way. It was definitely thought provoking and I wanted to see how that angle would play out. But unfortunately, Alice's behavior made it really difficult to appreciate and to root for her. While it was not a favorite book of mine, I enjoyed Julie's writing and I'm looking forward to reading more of her work.


  1. Whoa! Totally not what I thought would come out of that book. Thanks for giving us the truth about it.

    Xoxo. Lex


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