Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Side Effects May Vary (Early Book Review)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 12:20 AM with 20 comments
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Side Effects May Vary

Author: Julie Murphy
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Number of Pages: 336
Release Date: March 18, 2014

Synopsis from Goodreads:

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?

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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MY THOUGHTS:
When I first heard about this book, I immediately wrote it off as yet another cancer book (of which there have been way too many lately), but then I finally read the synopsis and realized that this one is a bit different. Instead of yet another weep-y story of a friend, or a couple, losing his/her best friend/love of their life, this book follows a girl who gets a second chance at life when her leukemia goes into remission. Alice is terrified of this second chance, however, because she's been burning bridges left and right in the belief that she is about to die. I haven't read any reviews for this one yet, but I've seen snippets of conversations through GR updates and Twitter convos. People really seem to either be loving or hating this one. I didn't think it was perfect, but I really enjoyed it. I loved how we got to see both Alice and Harvey's side of the story, and I loved how the time line went back in forth between the time Alice was sick (before) to the present when she is trying to get on with her life.

I'm going to go ahead and address the biggest complaint I've seen which is that Alice is a mean girl. Frankly, that just isn't how I saw her. I understood Alice and, while I didn't always like her actions, I understood why she was acting like she was. There are a handful of people to whom Alice isn't "nice." The first is her frenemy turned enemy Celeste. Celeste and Alice have always been competitors. The two are always the ones up for major roles in their ballet studio, but they've tried to maintain a fake friendship. Until Alice finds out that Celeste has been sleeping with her boyfriend, Luke. After that all bets are off. I kind of loved how Alice gets revenge on both Celeste and Luke.

The second person who Alice struggles with is her mom. Right before Alice found out that she has leukemia, Alice catches her mom having an affair on her father. Alice never confesses to seeing the man in her parent's bedroom (through the window), but she cannot forget what she saw. I cannot even imagine having to carry around the burden of knowing that your parent has cheated. I understood why Alice struggled to maintain a normal relationship with her parents which is hard enough when you are a teenager without the extra weight of an affair and being terminally ill!

Finally there is Harvey. Harvey is head-over-heels in love with Alice and has been for years. While Alice starts to let Harvey in while she is sick, she begins to push him away the minute she finds out she is going to live. Alice does not in any way treat Harvey the way he deserves to be treated. She uses him constantly. She knows that he is in love with her and consistently uses that to her advantage. She keeps him on tether hooks. It's appalling. So why am I not outraged? Well, because Alice is a teen girl. She is the type of snooty teen girl who believes the world revolves around her. She thought she was going to die before her 18 birthday, and then found out that she will probably live. She has been pumped full of poison for months, her hair has fallen out, she is constantly in pain, she is carrying the burden of her mother's affair. I think it's understandable if she can only think about herself. Even though she's in remission, the doctors have no idea whether or not the cancer will come back. They don't even know what made it go into remission. I can imagine it is hard for a teen girl to give her heart freely when she has no idea what tomorrow will bring.

There were so many things I really enjoyed about this book. Again, the dual narration and the scattered timeline were excellent. I loved Harvey, he was a little unbelievably too good, but it's fiction, boys in fiction are almost always a little better than they are in real life. I loved how close the two families were. Alice and Harvey were pretty much raised together because Alice's parents and Harvey's mom have always been very close themselves. I loved that the parents were present in their lives, but not perfect.

While this isn't really a complaint because I enjoyed this book, it is kind of misleading to call this one a "bucket-list" book. Alice does have a couple of things up her sleeve in terms of revenge against aforementioned kids at school, but it's not like a: 1. ride in a hot air balloon type of bucket list.

So, again, I think this is one you will enjoy or you won't. I really enjoyed it, and think Alice should be viewed with some compassion. It's very different from the long list of cancer books being published right now which I really appreciated. Highly recommend.

*I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange of an honest review.*

20 comments:

  1. I was really confused that it WASN'T a bucket list book! I agree, the blurb is a bit misleading there. I mean, it was kind of...but even then, she only had about 2 or 3 things she was getting revenge for.
    I'm kind of in the "I hated this" camp. :( I feel bad, because I expected this to be quite quirky and to enjoy it a lot. But, no, it just didn't work for me. I hated how she treated Harvey.

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    1. I was definitely expecting more of a list list, but, whatever. I'll have to check out your review. I know that this one is a bit polarizing. I understand what you are saying about how she treated Harvey, but, yeah, I just think I may have acted the same way in her shoes even if I'm not proud of it. Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. Okay! You have now convinces me to give this a fair chance! I've seen heaps of people hating on her character but you're right that she probably just needs compassion. I mean, we're all bitches sometimes right? I can definitely see myself feeling sorry for Harvey and the other characters but I'll try my best to go into this with an open mind. Amazing review Natalie!

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    1. Yay! I hope you love it. If I'm really honest about how this type of illness would have affected me when I was a teen I don't think I would have behaved much better. It's a lot to handle. I found the book and its characters realistic. Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. Wow, this definitely sounds like a book that I will be reading in the near future! You said that a lot of people complain about the main character being a "mean girl", but I believe that would actually make the plot even more interesting to have a different perspective on cancer.

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    1. Exactly. Cancer is such a touchy subject--for good reason, obviously--that I feel like the characters are often more saintly than real humans are. I appreciated this unique look. I hope you do, too. Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. You are the first reviewer that gave Alice the benefit of the doubt. For me, I need to like the character in order to enjoy the book. And mean girl Alice just won't do it for me.

    Great review, Nat. ;)

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    1. Thanks, Joy. Yeah, it's definitely not for everyone. I personally did kind of like her, but I think I'm in the minority. Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. I haven't heard of this one, but it sounds interesting. Mean, self-centered heroes/heroines are one of my big book pet peeves, so I don't know if I'll like this one or not. I think I'll give it a try. Thanks for bringing this one to my attention!

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    1. It really is interesting. I hope you do like it if you pick it up. I've always kind of been attracted to the mean girls. Heathers was one of my all-time favs growing up. lol. Thanks for stopping by!

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  6. It was a little misleading with the bucket list/revenge thing, which is what made me want to read it in the first place, since I love revenge stories. Yeah, there were some scenes, but I wanted more on that front. Totally agree with you about Alice though, though some of her actions, especially with Harvey are extremely petty and bitchy, but she knows she's being a bitch, and like you said, she's been carrying all of that around with her, she's going to be bitter. How she treated him was bad, but at the end of the day, it's a two way street and he let her, even after saying it was the last time, blah blah blah, that annoyed me more. I read a few reviews after that said that it was hard to follow, and I know it's two different narrators and two different times, but apart from the first few chapters, I found it flowed easy enough. Glad you enjoyed it, I thought I was on my own for a while. :)

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    1. I wanted more on the whole revenge/bucket list part, too. Agreed about the Harvey part, too. He was just a little too good for my tastes. I liked him, don't get me wrong, but sometimes you just have to put your foot down and say, "I'm not putting up with the shit anymore." I didn't find this hard to follow at all. I thought it flowed perfectly. Thanks for stopping by!

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  7. I'm going to be reading this one very soon, so I'm happy to see that you enjoyed it. AND that it's not just another cancer book. I agree, there have been far too many lately, though I can see why... cancer seems to be everywhere these days. Anyway, looking forward to the dual POV and scattered time line. :)

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    1. Cancer truly is everywhere. I don't think there is anybody who hasn't been affected by it in some way or another, but there have just been so many lately. I was happy that this view was pretty unique. I hope you enjoy this one, too. Thanks for stopping by!

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  8. I have this to read so I just took note of the fact that you did like it overall and I do hope I am in the group of people who like it as I have a copy waiting to be read!

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    1. I hope you enjoy it. Let me know when you're done. Thanks for stopping by!

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  9. I'm still not sure about this one, but I do admire the author for writing a book with a main character who is not "good." It makes me wonder why. I do like dual POV books and the scattered timeline also intrigues me. Still on the fence, though. Great review! ~Pam

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  10. I really enjoyed Side Effects May Vary and I agree about having compassion for Alice. I didn't mind her being an antihero, but I was bothered by the fact that we never found out what made her like that. It wasn't the cancer because she was pretty bitchy and rude, especially to Harvey, prior to her diagnosis. Other than that though I really enjoyed the book.

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  11. My biggest problem with the book wasn't Alice's meanness, either! I didn't think she was a horrible mean girl honestly. She was spitfire who wanted to make things right. And quite frankly, everyone she got revenge on sort of deserved it! Those people were all assholes. I just didn't like the inconsistency of the past and present and multiple POV changes. I had a hard time keeping track of the present and past. If it had been a bit more linear, I think I probably would've enjoyed this a lot more. I'm really glad you enjoyed this book a lot more than I did!

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  12. I agree, definitely misleading to make this sound like a "bucket list" book or even a "cancer" book, but because I loved almost everything else about the story, I can overlook that. :) I'm glad you enjoyed this book, too, Natalie! I've seen so many who didn't, and I wondered if I was the only one who got Alice and understood her position. This is definitely a polarizing read, but I'm glad we fell on the same side of the spectrum. :D

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Hello, there! Thanks for taking the time to comment. I read each and every one and will do my best to respond--usually on your blog instead of on mine. I will, however, always answer direct questions. Due to serious time restraints, this blog is now an award free zone, but I appreciate the thought!