Wednesday, May 7, 2014

{Review} Side Effects May Vary By: Julie Murphy

Title: Side Effects May Vary
Author: Julie Murphy
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Shelves: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Recommended For Fans Of: Wendy Wunder, A.J. Betts

Synopsis: When 16 year-old Alice was diagnosed with leukemia, not only does her physical being become sick, but also all the aspects of her life that she once thought so stable come tumbling down. A year later, when told she is now officially in remission, things have not gotten any easier for Alice. Instead, they seem to get harder as her best friend and the love of her life, Harvey, tries to fix what Alice has already broken, and the own parts of her soul that she was sure was going to die. But Alice is about to learn that even without cancer, side effects of life will always vary.

Review: About halfway through this book, I thought I knew for sure that I was going to rate it perhaps a 1 out of 5 stars. But thank god I waited because sometimes, the things that are worth reading are always in the end.

Characters: Let's talk about the characters, shall we? Alice was the main character, a young girl who had gone through hell and survived. So imagine my surprise when she turns out to be a world-class *insert another word for mean girl here*. Alice was manipulative, annoying, distant and moody. She treated Harvey, her best friend who also happened to be in love with her, as her slave. Alice not only took advantage of him, but she played with his heart. Halfway through this book, I was about done with Alice. While I appreciated Julie Murphy's efforts to create a looser character whose heart was not purely gold, Alice felt like a science fair experiment gone wrong. But, choosing to read past the first half, Alice started to change just a little bit in my eyes. For some reason, I couldn't help but defend her in my mind. Think of Alice like this: she's that friend that you never see eye-to-eye with, but she's also that girl you'd defend in a fight. And although those rare moments of warmth and gold that came through in Alice were enough to raise my review to 3 stars, it by no means meant she even made my list of lovable characters. Harvey, on the other hand, was just the boy you could not help but love. He was a handsome Prince Charming, even when Alice refused to be his princess.

Writing: Now here's where I also had some concerns. Side Effects May Vary is told from two points of view; both Harvey and Alice. However, these points of view also go back and forth between the year Alice was diagnosed with leukemia and the period after her remission. You don't find out the reasoning behind this "time switch" until the very end, but even then, it's still a bit unclear. Although it's not DIFFICULT to keep the settings straight, it takes a bit of effort to piece together the string of events that played out from Alice's sickness. And contrasting to that, one part I really liked about Julie Murphy's writing is her exploration into the theme of "cruelty inspiring cruelty." We all know that high school is a tough time, and some people can be downright vicious no matter what stage of life you are in. This is seen in Side Effects May Vary, when Alice's enemies are absolutely cruel and miserable. In retaliation, however, Alice does some things that aren't too easily forgivable, and sometimes, that is the human nature. Alice is definitely one of the more flawed characters I've read in YA contemporary.

Ending: Like I said in the beginning of my review, the ending of Side Effects May Vary is likely the best part. I enjoyed the way Julie Murphy ended this story. I truly did. A perfect way to end an imperfect book, right?

Conclusion: Although Side Effects May Vary is not a book that you will love right away, maybe you'll be able to find those hidden silver linings and just possibly give this book a chance.


  1. I love the title of this novel! The H and h have to be somewhat likable for me to get into a story. Glad this one turned around for you.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Jennifer! And I have to agree, the title IS very clever! :)