Book Reviews

Book Review: Side Effects May Vary

About the Book:

For fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell comes this powerful novel about a girl with cancer who creates a take-no-prisoners bucket list that sets off a war at school—only to discover she’s gone into remission.

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs. So she convinces her best friend, Harvey, to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge as it is about hope. But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission, and now she must face the consequences of all she’s said and done. Contemporary realistic-fiction readers who love romantic stories featuring strong heroines will find much to savor in this standout debut.

About the Author:

Julie Murphy lives in North Texas with her husband who loves her, her dog who adores her, and her cats who tolerate her. After several wonderful years in the library world, Julie now writes full-time. When she’s not writing or reliving her reference desk glory days, she can be found watching made-for-TV movies, hunting for the perfect slice of cheese pizza, and planning her next great travel adventure. She is the author of Dumplin’, Side Effects May Vary, and Ramona Blue. You can visit Julie at www.juliemurphywrites.com.

The Review:

There must be an odd kind of comfort in knowing that no matter how badly you screw up, there will always be that person to be there for you. And they will continue being there for you even if you’re the biggest asshole in the face of the planet. Until one day, they wake up from their dream world and say quietly, ‘I am done with your bullshit.’ They walk away and you wonder how you could have missed the signs. You’d taken it for granted that no matter what happens they will be there in your life forever. Always in your line of sight – but not next to you!

Such is the story of Alice and Harvey in Side Effects May Vary. Honestly, the blurb had raised my expectations really high. It claimed to be about a girl named Alice who is diagnosed with leukaemia and she has a sentence over her head. But she decides to have the last word wherein she had her friend, Harvey, pull off elaborate schemes wherein she doesn’t take any prisoners. But her plans fall through when instead of dying she goes into remission and has to deal with the consequences of all that she has done.

While the story starts off with a lot of promise and the reader cannot wait to know what god awful things are on the list, it turns out to be disappointing. There were only two people who wronged her and her revenge over them is nothing but petty. Then again, Alice isn’t painted to be a Saint. She is somewhere near the popularity chain of the social ladder and she has stumbled upon secrets that she wants to use as leverage. But Harvey is the only good influence in her life. Harvey is the only thing that stops her from completely going over to the dark side. And yet since she is scared of promising him forever, since she is incapable of making a commitment, she does what any person who doesn’t want to lose the best person in their lives would do – she strings him along. She uses him and when push comes to shove, she lashes out at him. While I understand that Alice had gone through a turmoil – accepting you have no future and then suddenly being told you do – can wreak havoc in your mind. It still, however, isn’t a good enough reason to be a shitty person to everyone else around you.

Had I read this book at any other point of time in my life, I wouldn’t have liked it all that much, I bet. But I could feel and empathize with Harvey’s pain. There were times I wanted to reach into the book and shake Alice until her teeth rattled in her head. Julie Murphy’s debut certainly held a lot of promise. And while I applaud the unique storyline, I wish the revenge plot every bit has take-no-prisoners kind as the blurb had promised.

Still, I am going to read the other books by Julie Murphy.

Rating: 3.75/5


Aniesha_Brahma Aniesha Brahma is the author of The Secret Proposal, The Guitar Girl, When Our Worlds Collide, All Signs Lead Back to You and P.C. Chandra’s The Awesome Four: Coming Together & The Legend of Stardust. She founded BUZZ Magazine in 2014 with two of her friends. Besides being the editor of BUZZ, she runs two blogs: Aniesha’s Musings and Bibliotheque. She also describes herself as a crazy cat lady and a Potterhead. Aniesha also recently started co-curating book events under the banner of #BooksOverChai with Pradipta Mandal.

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