Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Review: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Title: Side Effects May Vary
Author: Julie Murphy
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Release Date: 18 March, 2014
Source: Balzer + Bray via Edelweiss

Goodreads rating: 3.88 out of 5.00 (220+ ratings)
Goodreads | The Reading Room

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.
Review by Nara

Cancer would take away plenty. My hair, my body, my life. What I'd never realised though, was that there was one privilege to dying: the right to live without consequence.
While I'd still definitely say that it's a good book overall, I feel like Side Effects May Vary perhaps didn't meet my expectations, which, granted, were sky high. I just feel like on the whole, it wasn't quite the poignant, powerful book I expected it to be. I mean, the blurb says that Alice has done "irreparable damage" to people around her, and while the things she did were bad, they weren't as horrible as I thought they might have been. And therefore, the repercussions didn't seem like they'd be too bad. Really, the only thing that I really didn't like was the way Alice treated Harvey. Other than that, I mean, sure, the things Alice did were kind of bad, but I wouldn't say that they were absolutely terrible.

I had some problems with the first 100 pages or so, but things definitely picked up as I read on. I think initially, the book doesn't quite have that "grab" factor and I found my mind wandering a fair bit- as the plot settles though, I went speeding through the second half.

Side Effects May Vary is told in dual point of view (Alice and Harvey) and in two different timelines: then and now. I'm not sure whether it was just me, but for some reason, at times I found all of these different perspectives a bit confusing. Maybe because it jumps so quickly between them, or maybe I just wasn't concentrating hard enough on the book, but I found it confusing. There were a fair few time skips within each timeline, so that also added to the confuzzlement. And I feel like we didn't quite get enough time in one time period before we were whisked away to the other- it made connecting to the characters a bit difficult.
   On that cold night in January it all slipped into place for me and she became my everything and my everyone. My music, my sun, my words, my hope, my logic, my confusion, my flaw.
   I was thirteen years old, and she was all these things to me.
   And I was her friend.
The main focus of this book is probably on Alice and Harvey's relationship, and I'd say that the quote above pretty much summarises this relationship perfectly. Alice seriously doesn't deserve someone like Harvey. Part of me wanted them to end up together for Harvey's sake, but I feel like a bigger part of me didn't. Basically, I did not ship them. I suppose Alice does redeem herself by the end of the book, which obviously we are all expecting, but I still felt like perhaps Harvey let things slide a bit too easily. Also, let's be honest, Harvey was a bit of a doormat. Perhaps a justified doormat, but a doormat nonetheless.

While this review sounds a bit negative haha, I did enjoy the book overall. Maybe it didn't quite meet my expectations, but it was definitely still a decent read.

*Quotations taken from the ARC and may not be the same in the final copy*

Liked it

Overall: 8/10
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Cover: 5/5