BOOK REVIEW: Side Effects May Vary by Julie MurphySide Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
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Synopsis:

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, who 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 archnemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger). 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 caused 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.


Karma was a bitch, but so was I.

Once upon a time, there was a girl. This girl grew up with her best friend, her partner in crime, and they were inseparable. She was the ring-leader, and he’d follow her anywhere. He’d do anything for her, because he had fallen madly in love with her. They got to high school. They drifted apart. Then one day, her world shattered with the uttering of three simple words: You have cancer. And with the proclamation of these words, the world became clearer. Her world began to focus, align. She would get the boy on her side again. She would start a bucket list. But not just any bucket list-she would make all those who wronged her pay. Her story isn’t pretty. Her story isn’t nice. She manipulates, breaks hearts, and makes people’s lives (or one person’s in particular) a living hell. You will not like her. You will not condone her actions. But you will finish this, and you will sympathize with her. Your morbid curiosity-and longing for the boy to get what he wants-will win out…but you won’t like the harsh reality. I warned you.

Cancer would take away plenty. My hair, my body, my life. What I’d never realized, though, was that there was one privilege to dying: the right to live without consequence.

Wow. I just don’t even know what to say to this?? What a harsh, manipulative, heart-breaking,
addicting
 book. Never have I read something that conflicted my feelings so much…okay, lies-But it’s been a while! I went into this not really knowing what I was getting myself into. The reviews are dreadfully mixed, ranging from ‘wow this was epic’ to…yeah, I won’t even say it. Alice isn’t a nice girl-of that I was sure of. But the extents she goes to?? I just never…I never expected it. Now, listen to this. It wasn’t even the payback. Sorry, guys, her bucket list was epic. But no, she treated Harvey, her best friend, the boy who has loved her since they were kids, like shit. This? This was extremely hard to handle.

When the girl you loved was dying, it was hard not to let yourself go with her.


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Everyone knows I am always on the boy’s side. It’s inevitable-that’s just meeeeee. But in this one, I don’t see how you couldn’t feel horrible for the boy. How you couldn’t fall in love with him and be on his side. He was the kindest person ever-He’d drop everything to help Alice. He’d humiliate himself in front of the whole school to save her. He’d protect at any and all costs, even if he felt like he was losing a piece of his soul-and he did. He really, truly lost a part of himself in this story, and it tore me to shreds. He would sacrifice everything for her…but there’s a point where even the most in love, dedicated guys can’t take the heartache anymore. Naturally this was when I felt like my heart had went through a wood chipper. Enough was enough….but when you’re madly, truly deeply in love with someone, when do you give up? Never.

When I dropped her off, she gave me a quick kiss on the cheek, a small gesture that she knew would appease me. I hated myself for letting it be this way, and I hated her for making it this way. But, really, I loved her, and that hurt the worst of all because I was tired of being her debris.


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Alice was a bitch. A manipulative asshole. A vengeful little shit. She was beyond redemption and deserved everything that came her way…but, yet….I understood her. I even liked her sometimes-Go figure. But, as I said, every time she manipulated Harvey I didn’t like her. Anyone that can treat someone that way is disgusting, no matter the circumstances. What she went through was horrible, dreadful, but in no way excused treating someone you love that way. Her bucket list was complete, she was on her death bed, when she finally gets the news any person would cherish and grip onto with their last shred of hope and dignity-You’re in remission. But not Alice-Alice has a lot to atone for…and she’s in deep shit.
Oh shit.
This, I did not expect. This was not on my list.

One thing I must say was that the writing wasn’t quite what I’d expected it to be-It didn’t flow as much as my favorite books have lately and it was missing a lyrical quality I’ve grown accustomed to, but that is probably due in part to the intensity of every page. You weren’t focused on the writing so much as Harvey’s heart breaking into little tiny pieces chapter by chapter, and of course that stunted every line, every paragraph-the lines were blurred, but only because I couldn’t believe what I was reading. It was written in a then and now fashion, which I loathe normally. But as the story progressed, it only served to produce impact-POWERFUL IMPACT…and it made me think the story was perfect as it was and I wouldn’t change a thing.


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I’d known her my whole life. Other girls didn’t exist for me in the same way she did. They had been there all along, these feelings; the only thing that had changed was my understanding of them. My whole body finally connected the dots, and I realized that even if we were never together, she’d ruined me and I’d never feel that way about anyone again.

****
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.


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So, if stories with a morally ambiguous character aren’t your thing, I’d steer clear of this story altogether. It’s not a sweet story (unless you count Harvey and Alice’s love story), it’s not light or easy or wholly likable…but it has heart. It has substance. And it might or might not be gratifying, in the end….but this story became beyond addictive and had my stomach in knots from beginning to end….And never has revenge tasted so sweet.

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