on 26th March 2014
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Written from the perspectives of both Harvey and Alice, in Side Effects May Vary, Julie Murphy weaves a compelling story of friendship, relationships and love, with a little bit of death thrown in for good measure; at least for a while. When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs. So she convinces her best friend Harvey, who's loved her forever, to help with compiling a crazy 'just-dying-to-do' bucket list, that's as much about revenge as it is about redemption. But just when Alice's scores are settled, she goes into remission. Now she must face the consequences of all she's said and done and discover just what happens when we say our 'final' words, only to find that life isn't through with us yet. Sharp, witty and poignant - this is a book written for all ages.
Alice has been battling leukaemia for over a year but she’s getting weaker all the time. She’s sure that her time is coming to an end and as a result enlists her oldest friend, Harvey, to help her complete her unfinished business. But this is a bucket list with a difference. Alice wants to get revenge on those who have wronged her before it’s too late. Harvey knows that what Alice is doing is wrong but he’s loved her since before he knew what love was and can deny her nothing. When Alice gets the news that she is in remission it should be a happy time but now she has to deal with the fall out of her actions.
I loved reading this debut novel by Julie Murphy. I started reading it thinking that I’d read a few chapters before bed and before I knew it – I was finished the book and only a few hours until I was supposed to wake up.
Alice isn’t like a lot of characters I’ve read before. She’s angry and mean but I felt like she was a very honest character. Life has wronged her and she wants to get her own back. She’s bitter what life has thrown at her. Having cancer hasn’t changed her – she hasn’t all of a sudden become a better person. I loved reading about her. There were times when I wanted to shout at her (What are you doing Alice?!) but as much as her actions didn’t always make sense to me – it made sense for her. They felt authentic for the girl I had gotten to know over the course of this novel.
Harvey is Alice’s partner in crime as she completes her revenge list. He was a character I wasn’t a fan of for a huge part of the novel. He’s a bit of a doormat and whilst that is good for Alice’s plan – I wanted him to stand up for himself. For him to be worthy of loving and to stand up and be someone Alice couldn’t walk over and ignore. That said, he did grow and change over the course of the book and by the end he started to be a character I enjoyed reading.
This is a book about life. About being hurt and surviving. Alice has a lot going on in her life. There is parents drama, the fickleness of friendship, relationship problems and her medical crisis. And whilst I don’t approve of how she dealt with it all – she did manage to cope and come though it all. Her actions all had consequences and no matter what she had been though – she didn’t get an easy out. I admire how Julie Murphy handled the situations she put her characters though and loved this different view of a teenage cancer story.
Side Effects May Vary was one of my most anticipated reads of this year and it did not disappoint. It’s not just a romance but a touching and compelling story about a girl coming to grips with what life throws at her – and the consequences of getting even.
I received this book for free from Penguin Books Australia in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I’ve heard SO many different things about this book, positive and negative. I really want to read it just to see what my own thoughts are. I’ll probably wait until I find it in a library somewhere (or persuade my school library into buying it!). Lovely review 🙂
Thanks Emily (by the way – I love your name. My almost 2 year old niece is called Emily and she’s awesome) . Having read it – I can understand why it’s a polarizing book. It’s not one that shows the characters off in the best light but I think it’s realistic and that’s why I like it. Everyone is fairly flawed. If you get around to reading it I hope you enjoy it.
Glad you enjoyed it Kate, I heard a lot of negative things about the book but it’s great to see that the characters grew over time. Lovely review!
Thanks Jeann. I think I saw you had a review copy in one of your stacking the shelves posts. I hope you fall on the enjoyed it side of the line for this book.
I’m glad you enjoyed this too, Kate! I thought Alice was very realistic as well!