Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy Review

Started: March 19, 2016

Finished: March 26, 2016

Rating: 4 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): 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?

Side Effects May Vary is the last of the books that I picked up when I went to SE-YA 2016, and it did not disappoint.

I enjoyed this book. I loved Julie Murphy’s writing. It was exactly the type of writing that appeals to me: short, fast-paced, quick-witted, but also has deep meaning embedded in the words. Her writing was beautiful, and almost lyrical at times. I absolutely adored this writing, and I look to read more of her writing in the future.

Another thing I liked was the story. This different kind of twist on the classic bucket list story was refreshing and interesting to read. The story was fast-paced, and I liked how it switched between the past and the present almost seamlessly. Murphy’s handling of that structure was masterful, and I applaud her for it.

One thing that I had a love/hate relationship with was the characters. I loved almost every character that I was supposed to like in this book (meaning not the antagonists). I loved Harvey, Dennis, and everyone else associated with them. I loved nearly all the characters, with one glaring exception: Alice.

Alice was a well-written character, and she had so much depth. But I just could not like her. She seemed like the antagonist to her own story (which is another example of Murphy’s brilliant writing), but she just wasn’t redeemable to me. I couldn’t bring myself to like her when she used characters for her own personal gain. But that’s just my opinion.

One shining point for this book was the relationship between Harvey and Dennis. I’m a sucker for any well-written best friendships. Of the ones I’ve read, the relationship between Harvey and Dennis is one of my favorites. They seemed like they connected to each other, and they seemed like they were just platonic soulmates. I loved this relationship, and it made the book just that much better because of it.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I loved the writing, I loved the story, and, for the most part, I liked the characters. This book was a great read, and I recommend it for anyone looking for a happy story that is just a little bit like The Fault in Our Stars meets Mean Girls.


NEXT READ: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven



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