Thursday, November 9, 2017

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

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. Goodreads
“Then he left, and with him he took the sun, the moon, the stars, and anything inside of me that might have been good.”
I keep picking up books with awful characters! (Don't misunderstand...great book, frustrating characters.) Alice is a bitch. There is no other way to say it, and to call her anything less would be an insult to her character. She knows she's a bitch, and yet she continues on a path of self-destruction. Then she compounds the problem by dragging decent, loyal, genuinely good people down with her. I understand that Alice got cancer as a teenager, but that doesn't give her a free pass to treat people the way she did. She thought she would die and not have to deal with any of the aftermath, but she was wrong.

I don't know why Alice found out she was going to die and then immediately thought REVENGE. I'm not in her situation, nor have I have ever been, but I would like to think I would be the type of person to make amends and find resolutions. I doubt I would have the energy to seek out perceived enemies and destroy them. We're also in drastically different stages in life, so I'm sure my final moments would be spent with my children. Alice had a lot to deal with, and she was so young and afraid. She just didn't want to admit to being afraid. She allowed her feelings to swallow her up from the inside, and would never say what needed to be said. She was selfish, cruel, and unrelenting in her pursuit of payback. There are actual enemies, sure, but what teenager (or adult for that matter) doesn't have an enemy or two. I wish she had focused more of her time on the people around her, and expressed her feelings instead of burying them. It all bubbled out at the same time, which never ends well.

Harvey. Sweet, innocent, blind Harvey. I don't know where his self-respect went, but I wish he had found it a lot sooner than he did. His love of Alice was almost like an obsession. He just knew from a very young age that he loved her and would always love her. How is that healthy? Harvey knew more about Alice than he knew about himself. You have to determine who you are by yourself before you can be you with someone else. Especially when that someone is as toxic and all-consuming as Alice. *highlight to view spoiler» He does try with another girl, but we all know it's never going to work out. At least the two of them are honest about it.

Alice made me crazy. I lost so much oxygen just from sighing heavily throughout the book. If I had kept rolling my eyes, they would have been permanently affixed to the tops of my eyelids. Harvey needed to put himself first, but was always too concerned with Alice.

Then it starts to get interesting. They are two broken, helpless people that grow and find themselves as the story progresses. They don't remain obnoxious, unlikeable characters forever. They change and evolve. It was beautiful to watch, even when it hurt. Alice's pain wasn't just from her cancer. It was from betrayal, and a loss of trust. Harvey never wavered in his affections, but he did stop taking shit from Alice. *highlight to view spoiler» (I honestly don't know how he still managed to blindly trust her in the end, but he did.)

Side Effects May Vary was a tragically hopeful story, and I'm happy with how it concluded.

23 comments:

  1. I'm glad you enjoyed listening to this one. I've heard some mixed things about it. I'm kind of over ill teenage books after TFIOS although the revenge aspect is kind of different.

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    1. I can see why people would have mixed feelings about this book. It's hard to read about characters you don't connect with. I never felt compelled to cheer Alice on, or encourage Harvey's endeavors. People (myself included) like books with likable characters that you can relate to. This book has characters that are unlikable, but that's the whole point. They have to learn from themselves and their mistakes to become better people. It's a book about personal growth.

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    2. Her illness obviously plays a big role in this book, but it's different from TFIOS.

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  2. I’m glad to hear the ending redeemed the crappy characters. I’d struggle with this one but the ending tempts me.

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    1. It was a good audiobook to have playing in the background while I did other things. I could also miss a few minutes and not feel completely lost.

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  3. Heard mixed reviews about this story. I'm glad you have positive opinions about this book.

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    1. I think you need to go into this book without any expectations! The characters are troubled and young, so they come across as immature and unlikeable. I'm sure we weren't very likeable as teenagers, lol. It's a good story about self-awareness and how actions have consequences (even small ones).

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  4. I am ok with characters being sort of awful as long as they grow and are better at the end of the story. I have this book and have been meaning to get to it, since I enjoyed Murphy's other books. You pretty much sold me with your closing sentence, because I need hope with my tragedy.

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    1. It's a good read. I wouldn't call it an ALL-TIME FAVORITE, but it was enjoyable. It allowed me to view a new and unfamiliar perspective, which is always nice.

      I haven't read her other books. Do you have any recommendations?


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  5. While I've never been in Alice's position, I was diagnosed with MS at the young age of 15 and was determined to make the most of the life I was dealt. Alice sounds like the kind of heroine that would drive me bat-crap crazy, but I'm glad you were able to enjoy the book, nonetheless.

    PS. I do not dog ear ;)

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    1. She did drive me bat-crap crazy! I think she was supposed to. The author lets you observe most of Alice's inner thoughts and turmoil, so you can see how she changes throughout the story.

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  6. I've heard so many differing things about this book - it seems like people either love it or hate it, so I'm glad you enjoyed it so much. :) Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! <3

    ~ Zoe @ Stories on Stage

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    1. Thank you! I think I'm an anomaly, lol. I didn't love or hate this book. I enjoyed parts of it, but I never disliked it enough to just stop listening to the audiobook. If it had been terrible, I would have returned it to the library and chosen something else. 😏

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  7. I haven't read any Julie Murphy, but I've been eyeing Ramona Blue. I haven't heard much about this particular title. This sounds like a pretty twisted story, but I'm intrigued by the characters' journey. Great review.

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    1. Thanks! This was my first book by Julie Murphy. I haven't had a chance to look at her other books, but if you get around to reading Ramona Blue, let me know what you think!

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  8. When it said she was going to spend her time righting wrongs, I thought it would be her fixing her mistakes, not getting revenge on people o.0 She does sound like an awful person. I agree, sickness isn't an excuse for being a jerk. But I imagine that was the point---consequences and growth and all that. Sounds like it worked for you in the end!

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    1. Right?! Her revenge, while potentially justified, was somewhat extreme and extensive. Their payback was even worse. Reading this made me remember just how awful kids can be in high school. *shudders*

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  9. Oh wow. I really liked Dumplin. Have you read that one?

    I'm glad to hear that they grew from it though. I think it's hard to read about characters like that sometimes but you have to hang in there to see the redemption. We don't always do the right things at first.

    For What It's Worth

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    1. No. I'll check it out!

      I agree. It's hard to read about characters that are struggling, and it's even worse when they aren't likable at first. There is slow, agonizing growth in the beginning, but I think there is a big difference by the end.

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  10. Hm... may have a problem with that last spoiler, but you have me curious. I was all nope until you mentioned growth. I do enjoy that in a book. I may have to check the book out.

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    1. You just have to be very, very patient with Alice. I had so many problems with the last spoiler, lol. It all worked out in the end, but Alice shouldn't have expected so much from him. He deserved better.

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