Monday, March 17, 2014

Review ~ Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Series: standalone
Genre: YA contemporary
Pages: 336
Publication date: March 18th, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins)
Goodreads Description: 
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. 
Source: I received an e-arc of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in return for an honest review. 

I'm so conflicted on what to rate this. Four or three-and-a-half stars? The book started off well, but between 20 and 50 percent, it hit hit a big snag. After the halfway point, it quickly picked up and became really good--the kind of good I hoped it would be. The story eventually turned my emotions into a ball of anger, sadness, worry, and happiness, but it still had some big flaws.


So, there was cancer, but the book wasn't really about that. It was more about the . . . well, the "side effects" that Alice felt while she had cancer and while she was in remission. The story told by both her and Harvey in both the present and the past was of how Alice dealt with issues. And man, did she have issues--family, love, future, existence, jealousy, revenge . . . she had it all. It was a crazy roller coaster she took everyone (mainly Harvey) on. It was a bittersweet story most of the time, but ultimately, I really liked it. It was my favorite part of the book. I loved the progress of the story and the growth that Alice (finally) went through. I loved the two characters' relationship that the book focused on (even though it was terribly flawed and bittersweet). The ending too. I loved that--it left me smiling.


Alice was not an easy character to like. She did so many things to purposely hurt people and she did everything she could to isolate herself from people. Poor Harvey--her behavior towards him was the worst. She used and manipulated him and constantly pushed him away. I understood why she did so many bad things and acted so mean, though. Like I said, she had a lot of issues to deal with, and unfortunately, she said and did a lot of wrong things in the process. I both liked and disliked her. I don't like the things she did, but I did like her overall. I liked how she wasn't easy to like--it made her stand out.

As for Harvey, he was a lot easier to like, but he still wasn't a very likable character. It took him a very long time for him to stand up to Alice and stop allowing her to walk all over him. His character didn't stand out to ma as much as Alice's, but he was still a good one that had also grown by the end of the book.


Around fifty percent, I jotted down a few notes about what I liked and disliked about the book, and this was one of my dislikes:

"It's not . . . engaging. The writing, the narrations, the dialogue are not pulling me in and fully convincing me of . . . well, anything."

That describes how about 30 percent of the book went for me. While I really liked the story and main characters, the writing itself felt too "eh." It wasn't pulling me all the way into the book and making me believe the emotions the characters were having. That was the biggest letdown of the book. After the halfway mark, things got much better and I was able to really connect with the characters, but that was probably due to the events that were occurring (one horrendous scene made me cry a little) than anything else. 

There's another thing that let me down (but not as much as the writing): the side characters. The book was so focused on Alice and Harvey that barely any attention was given to other characters. Sure, there were a couple significant ones, but I didn't see enough of them. They didn't seem to fully serve the roles they were supposed to play, and I really would've liked to see them do that. 


I'm a bit conflicted. As much as I loved the story, the writing didn't allow me to really get into it and fully enjoy all of it. I still really liked reading the book, though, especially towards the end. It got really good then, and I'm so glad that it did!

What's my rating, then? I'm going to stick to a full four stars because the Alice and her story made up for the flaws I found.

My questions for you:

What do you think of characters that aren't easily likable?
What makes them too unlikable for you?

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