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I Belong

Early Review: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Side Effects May VaryTitle: Side Effects May Vary

AuthorJulie Murphy

Genre: YA Contemporary

Series: N/A

Publication Date: March 18, 2014

FormatHardcover, 336 Pages

ISBN-10: 006224535X (HarperTeen)

ISBN-13: 978-0062245359 (HarperTeen)

Reviewed by: Bridget


What if you’d been living your life as if you were dying—only to find out that you had your whole future ahead of you?

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?

Julie Murphy’s SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY is a fearless and moving tour de force about love, life, and facing your own mortality.

Quick & Dirty: An emotional book about second chances and living life to fullest. I had a hard time with the protagonist, but overall it was a good read.

Opening Sentence: If ever my parents gave me a religion, it was the gospel of honesty.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review

What would you do if you found out you had terminal cancer and only had maybe a year left to live? Well, sixteen year old Alice just found out she has leukemia, and she has a bucket list she wants to complete before she dies. She recruits her old best friend, Harvey, to help her out. Her list isn’t just about doing things she doesn’t want to miss out on, it is also about getting revenge on all those who have wronged her. She goes to extreme measures to fulfill her bucket list and when everything is finally complete, she goes into remission.

What would you do if you got a second chance at life? This is the terrifying question Alice is now faced with. She never thought about the future because she didn’t think she had one. Now she has to live with the consequences of her actions in the last year, and she doesn’t know if she can handle it. She may have done too much damage to repair her life, and she may push away the only person she has ever truly loved.

Alice was an extremely frustrating character. I get that she has had a really hard year, but honestly, from the very beginning she was kind of bratty and it just got worse. She would take baby steps to start redeeming herself and then she would do something so annoying that I would like her less than I did in the first place. She is getting a second chance at life and all she can do is feel sorry for herself, when she put herself in the situation by living her last year not the way she should have. She was weak and petty, which made it really hard for me to sympathize with her. So for me, I really wasn’t a fan of Alice.

Harvey on the hand was my favorite part of the book. He is such a great guy who was there for Alice no matter how awful she was. His love for her was unconditional and so sweet.  Harvey is one of those people that you wish could be a part of your life because once you are in his life, no matter what you do, he will always care about you. But he’s not a weak character either, he’s not afraid to stand up for himself when he’s had enough. I loved Harvey and thought that he deserved way better than Alice.

Side Effects May Vary was a very emotional book and it deals with the touchy subject of cancer. The book altered between Alice and Harvey’s POV. It also switched from present day to a year ago when Alice was first diagnosed with cancer. I liked this setup because it helped the book flow really well and it never seemed to drag. I liked the message that was portrayed and felt that it was delivered very well. Overall, this was an interesting read and if I had liked the protagonist better, I think this would have been a great book. I look forward to reading more books from this author, I think she has a lot of potential.

Notable Scene:

Mom doubled back to me and ushered me forward, nudging me with the tips of her fingers at the small of my back.  I knew what she wanted, so I played along. It had been quite a while since I had made nice for Mom and Dad, and now it looked like there would be some making up to do. I reached up to pat Dr. Meredith on the shoulder and thank him, but he pulled me into a bear hug instead. The sweat seeped through his dress shirt, and I wanted to pull away, but I didn’t. because if I did, my parents would have seen the few tears rolling down my cheeks and onto Dr. Meredith’s lab coat. I’d grown so used to the terms of my life—the conditions—that now I didn’t know how to tell the difference between the good and the bad. But I knew, unless the cancer came back, that I was going to live. Now, I had to decide who and what I could live with.


FTC Advisory: Balzer + Bray/HarperTeen provided me with a copy of Side Effects May Vary. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.


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