Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
Published: March 18, 2014 by Balzer + Bray
Source: ARC via author + friends
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. [goodreads]
I had the privilege of reading an early copy of this novel last year, and my first thought after finishing it: EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ THIS BOOK. There was a constant flow of admiration for Julie Murphy's writing as I read page after page, thinking WOW, this is her debut?! Her ability to make me think beyond the pages is a testament to her craft. This story is rich with emotion and consequences, flooded with humor and wit. SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY encompasses a lot of what makes contemporary YA so compelling for this adult reader. The emotions it conjures up are unforgettable, leaving behind a slue of tears and echos of laughter.
Alice thinks she's dying. In fact, her doctors have told her she doesn't have much time left. So instead of conquering a bucket list of inspirational moments, she creates a list of wrongs she wishes to right. The only problem is that these wrongs have ugly consequences. However, since Alice has been given an expiration date, she figures she won't be around for the aftermath.
But then life plays a funny trick on her, giving her a second chance, and all those wrongs she didn't see through are now staring her in the face. The biggest consequence belongs to her best friend Harvey, and coming to terms with the truth about her true feelings for him.
There's a spark of raw honesty and ruthlessness in Alice's character that drew me in, causing me to really despise who she was. It was downright dirty in some parts. But there was also a fire in this girl, refusing to be extinguished, not even by Harvey. Oh Harvey. This boy captured my heart from the first few pages he is introduced and caused my heart to swell even in the moments that I just wanted to wrap him inside a warm hug.
There are scenes in this novel that resonated deep within my teenage self. It took me back to a time of belonging and what it means to find your place among people who hold influences in your life, whether you want them to or not. Julie Murphy tells a story that is both heartwarming and heartbreaking, littering the pages with words that are impressionable and poignant. I highly recommend this contemporary YA to readers that welcome thought provoking stories that cause them to feel long after they've finished reading the last page.