Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Book Review: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Title: Side Effects May Vary
Author: Julie Murphy
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publishing Date: March 18th 2014
Length: 336 pages
Keywords: YA, fiction, contemporary, leukemia, bucket list, romance, friendship
Source: Edelweiss

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?

Summary by Goodreads

'Alice' and 'Harvey', 'Then' and 'Now'. Two names and two tenses are all it needs to describe Julie Murphy's captivating writing arrangements. You know that an author did a fantastic job when you can't decide which chapters you are loving more and are more eager to get to. I wanted to read them all at the same time!
Alice and Harvey are friends in the 'Now'. In the 'Then' parts they aren't even talking to each other. So how did they become friends or maybe even more, recognizing how important their childhood friendship was when Alice has suddenly no time left? 

The way the childhood friends find back to each other and the chapters Alice and Harvey spend working on Alice's bucket list, clinging to life and to each other, that was exactly what I was looking forward to read when I picked up SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY. Good moments in bad times, tears, heartbreak, loss, hope. I was so invested in Alice and Harvey's relationship that I was screaming injustice when Harvey thought it was time to say Goodbye.

As you already know, Alice doesn't die. She goes into remission, the leukemia doesn't win. And from that point on, things aren't as easy as they were before.
SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY is very much about loss, the joy to be alive and the fear of losing it all over again. No one can blame Alice for needing time to adjust to the new situation and to shed all her fears of the past months. Julie's approach at dealing with leukemia and surviving it is unique and totally got me thinking. I never thought about there being a fear of living after something like that happened to you, but clearely there can be.

Now that Alice has her whole life ahead of her, she gets difficult and very hard to like. Her attitude isn't anything you want to deal with in a story that could've been such a destined, easy and sweet love story. It was as if she didn't want to think about what her actions were doing to other people and especially Harvey. One is expected to feel sorry for Alice all the time and excuse her behaviour, no matter how wrong she's acting. But at some point I just couldn't bring myself to try to get into her head anymore.
Where Alice isn't always so darling, Harvey is the one readers will fall in love with. The quiet and caring boy, who's always been in love with the girl whose days had been counted. Harvey is such a sweet guy and there will be lots of swoon-worthy Harvey moments for all of us to make up for the sour Alice parts.

3,5/5 ***/* SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY – A pensive and sentimental story about the unfathomable, cruel and comic ways of life. 

The first half of Alice's story, and her relationship with Harvey, is simply awesome to read. Then after Alice's remission news everything seemed to go in the wrong direction. Still, SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY as a whole story is written with such beautiful skill that I just have to recommend it. To everyone who is looking for a YA contemporary read that isn't only dedicated to the sad outcomes of leukemia. A read that explores how ambivalent feelings about a new chance at life can be.

"About a month later, I got the big distraction I'd hoped for. I was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia. Cancer. I had fucking cancer." ― p. 13

SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY you might enjoy THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green, SECOND CHANCE SUMMER by Morgan Matson or NOW IS GOOD by Jenny Downham. Tissue box recommended, should you decide to read them.

* Yep, that's Julie Murphy on the left. 

* Julie Murphy's second book DUMPLIN' comes out in 2015. Add it on Goodreads!

* Click here for an excerpt of SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY!

* Want to meet Julie? Check out her event schedule.

* For information about Julie and her books visit

* Thanks to Harper Collins and Edelweiss for the chance to review SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY!


  1. Alice pretty much ruined the book for me. If she had been just a little more likeable, I'm sure I would have enjoyed this one more.

  2. This was a 3.5 for me too. It couldn't have been better, but I just couldn't stand Alice. Ugh!