Monday, August 24, 2015

A Review of Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy, March 18, 2014.  Balzer + Bray, 341 pages. Teen.

Alice is a sophomore in college who finds out her mother is having an affair, her boyfriend cheated on her with her worst enemy, and she has leukemia all within a couple of weeks.

As she gets sicker and sicker, she faces her own mortality and decides to get revenge against her ex-boyfriend, Luke, and the girl he cheated with, in a very big and public way.  She enlists the help of Harvey, the son of her former ballet teacher and her mother's best friend.  She and Harvey had always been close, but drifted apart after starting high school.  However, after her diagnosis, Alice turned to him for comfort and support and they became close again.

Then, the unexpected happens;  Alice miraculously goes into remission, much to her chagrin.  She had expected to go out with a bang, but now she will have to face the consequences for what she did to Luke and Celeste, but as well as letting Harvey get too close. 

My Thoughts
This book is marketed as a read-alike for John Greene and Rainbow Rowell fans, and I suppose it is.  However, I had a very hard time getting into it and just did not enjoy it that much.  Part of the problem for me was the constantly changing timeline and point-of-view.  It kept changing back and forth between Alice and Harvey, the past and the present.  I don't care for that writing style to begin with, but if the book is good enough I can get past it. This one wasn't. The second thing was that I just didn't feel like the characters were well-developed enough; I never felt like I really got to know them or identified with them at all.  I did not find either Alice or Harvey to be very sympathetic, Alice too selfish and manipulative and Harvey too pathetic and spineless (though in the end when he finally grown a spine he acts like a jerk himself), and I find it difficult to like a book when I don't care for or identify with the main characters at all.  I also expected a little more humor, based on the blurb on the jacket and the cover art.

Not that it was a terrible book, it did make the point that you should ALWAYS consider there may be consequences to your actions, even if you are certain you won't have to face it.  Life can surprise you.  It also makes the point that it is not fair to use someone else's feelings for you to manipulate them, or to continually push someone away, yet not want them to move on and find someone else, either.  It is an okay book, and I'm sure some readers will like it more than I did, but just not a must-read.  I would suggest young fans of John Greene and Rainbow Rowell give it a try, and I'd like to know what they think.

Other Books By This Author
Side Affects May Vary is Julie Murphy's debut novel.  Her second novel, Dumplin', will be out in September of 2015.

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