Side Effects May Vary

Side Effects May Vary

Side Effects May Vary

by Julie Murphy

Genre: YA Contemporary
Published: March 18th, 2014
by Bazler + Bray




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, whom 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 arch nemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger and reliving some childhood memories). 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 done irreparable damage to the people around her, and to the one person who matters most?


But then again, the cancer could always come back. In a deep corner of myself that scared even me, I thought that maybe if the cancer did come back, it might not be so bad. I knew how to die. It was the living that scared me.

Side Effects May Vary and I had an interesting reading experience. There were some things I absolutely loved about it, and then there were some things that made me let out an eye-roll or two. Nonetheless, despite the few minor things that irked me about it, there’s no doubt that Side Effects May Vary certainly gave me an intriguing new perspective on life, and, as a whole, a fascinating new outlook on cancer.

But, in all, does that overlook the annoyances I had with it? No, not quite, and I feel that’s where Side Effects May Vary was a bit of a let down in my opinion.

When Alice is diagnosed with leukemia at the age of fifteen, the prognosis is grim. Alice decides that from here on out, she’ll get revenge on everyone who has ever wronged her. But only after these revenges are executed does Alice learn some shocking news.

Dr. Meredith took a deep breathe. “Alice.” His brown eyes found mine, and it was only me and him. He exhaled. “You’re in remission.”
Oh, shit.
This, I did not expect. This was not on my list.

She’s going to live, and she’s not happy about it. She’s own up to all the mistakes she made and apologize to everyone.

Alice is a complete jerk. She manipulates people into getting what she wants, she bullies people, she’s disrespectful to her peers and other adults, and she’s a terrible daughter to her parents, who obviously love her dearly.

…every chance I could to bend over with my ass in the air or to brush my boobs up against Harvey’s arm. I felt pretty stupid.

Her best friend, Harvey, has told Alice that he’s in love with her multiple times. Yet, Alice never responds or acknowledges his comments. She even goes as far as to purposely get out of the car to flirt with another boy when Harvey is nearby, knowing it will make him jealous. She knows he’s upset, so to “make up for it” she kisses him.

All in all, while this certainly isn’t my favorite cancer novel (I’m going to have to go with either Maybe One Day by Melissa Kantor or The Fault in Our Stars by John Green), I still admire what Julie Murphy tried to do here, and I do feel she certainly did bring a unique novel to the YA cancer table.

It just wasn’t for me.

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.


2 thoughts on “Side Effects May Vary

  1. A very honest review, which I admired tremendously. I will follow your honest opinion and forget about this book because there are so many better books to enjoy. Thanks

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