Monday, August 18, 2014

Side Effects May Vary

Book: Side Effects May Vary
Author: Julie Murphy

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?-Goodreads

Review: I finished this book several weeks ago and I waited to review it because I have so many conflicting emotions about it. First things first-yes, this book has a cancer theme but it is by no means a copy of The Fault In Our Stars. I enjoyed TFIOS and will rate both books a 3/5, but this book has more realistic characters and a totally different plot. 

This book has two narrators and is told in two different timelines: the present, when Alice is in remission and the past-when she is diagnosed. Although Alice and Harvey's written voices weren't very distinctive, I enjoyed the writing style and the pacing. I think my favorite part of this book is that Alice stays true to herself throughout the cancer and remission. Cancer does not make her this automatic angel of a person who seeks to live life to the fullest. She's a bit of a mean girl and after her diagnosis, she creates a bucket list of sorts to get back at people that she feels have wronged her. Don't get me wrong-I didn't actually like what she was doing to people (she was pretty awful) but I could see a teenager girl actually doing these things. 

While the cancer and bucket list are definitely important parts of this book, I would say the main story arc was the dysfunction relationship between Alice and Harvey. In many ways I read the main character of this book as Harvey. Once childhood best friends, they grew apart in high school but Alice's cancer diagnosis brought them back together. And when I say brought them back together, this means her convincing Harvey to go along with her vindictive mean-girl activities even though he knows they are wrong. After confessing her feelings to Harvey when she thought she was dying, she cannot reconcile her feelings and the expectation of a relationship with him when she finds out she is in remission. This results in Alice treating Harvey like crap yet knowing how to string him along. He in turn knows she is using him but he loves her and cannot give up on her. 

One of my favorite scenes of this book is when Alice's mother calls her out on her bad behavior. It was fantastic. My second favorite scene was the ending, which may frustrate some readers but I thought was handled quite well.

Overall-I enjoyed this book, I appreciate the "real-ness" of it but I did not like Alice. 

Grade: 3/5

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