March 6, 2014

Latest Read: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Here are the basics ...
Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
Publication date: March. 18, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Category: Young Adult - Contemporary
Source: Received from publisher via Edelweiss (Thanks!)

Summary: 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 as it is about hope. 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? (Adapted goodreads.com)
My thoughts…
The good: Side Effects May Vary was a very different kind of "young girl gets sick and reflects on her life" story. Because in Alice's case, reflecting on her life meant singling out everyone who had wronged her and coming up with an elaborate revenge plan. And roping in her oldest friend, Harvey, who happens to be in love with her, to help.

She's not all about the revenge though. There are other things on her "bucket" list like learning how to drive and doing a good deed. The whole book is a reflection on life, love, family, friends, past, future and everything in between. It might be easy to write off Alice based on her not-so-nice moments but she's just reacting to the situation around her. And until you're in her shoes, it's hard to know exactly what you would do in her place.

The book alternates between Alice and Harvey's point-of-views and between then and now. Then shows us the moment right before she finds out she has cancer, the chemo treatments that followed and the schemes and other bucket list items she fulfilled during that time. On the other hand, Now was about Alice being in remission. Yes, just when she's gotten the last word with almost everyone, the doctor drops the bomb: You're in remission! It's a miracle! Alice's reaction is more, "yay?" than outright happiness. Because now she has to deal with the meaning of her relationship with Harvey, going back to school and what her future holds.

I'm going to talk about Harvey first because he's a little easier. This boy is a freaking saint. He loves Alice in this unconditional pure way that's both admirable and at times, almost unhealthy. Unhealthy because Alice abuses those feelings and he usually lets her. But even nice guys reach their limit and he eventually does too. My heart definitely broke for him as he continued to openly love her in spite of everything. And Alice isn't easy to love. I don't doubt that readers will struggle with her character but for me, I kept thinking - she's reacting to her diagnosis, to drama at home, to a cheating ex-boyfriend and some really mean girls. I can't blame her for not wanting to just lie down and take it. But because of those things, it's hard for her to open up and love. It doesn't excuse her actions towards Harvey but it does explain it. I couldn't help feeling for her because underneath all the anger is just a very scared, hurt young girl.

(Some minor) reservations: I sometimes struggled a bit with the then and now storytelling because it wasn't always immediately clear when these moments were taking place. So I'd have to look at the chapter heading to remind myself. The ending was also a teeny, tiny bit rushed and I wish we could've gotten at least one or two more pages with these characters.

Do I recommend?: I do! It thought it was really well-written and a few passages made stop so I could take a picture of them with my phone. (Obviously I had to share the goodness!) I recommend giving the book (and Alice) a chance.

Happy reading!

2 comments:

  1. Giving Alice a change is a good way to put it. I think not everyone will be able to give her a chance but I was definitely glad I did. I thought the whole perspective was different, it was very intense and hard to read at times. I wish the ending was a bit more developed; that was the main part that I felt rushed.

    Ashley @ The Quiet Concert

    ReplyDelete
  2. I liked Side Effects May Vary. Even though there were times when I wanted to yell at Alice and shake Harvey, I do think that, if you try to look at things from their perspectives and actual situations, there's a reason they behave the way they do. I will say this -- it was definitely hard for me to put the book down!

    ReplyDelete