Review of Side Effects May Vary

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, 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?

Julie Murphy's Side Effects May Vary is a fearless and moving tour de force about love, life, and facing your own mortality.

I loved the cover of Side Effects May Vary and the bit of the synopsis I read was really intriguing, “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?” Doesn’t that just scream that this is a book to be read. Sadly, it was not everything that I wanted it to be. I really struggled with giving this one a 2 or a 3 and landed on a three. I really deserved more, but I just really hated one of the characters.

  • Harvey was amazing. He was, in my mind, like Harvey from Sabrina the Teenage Witch. He was cute, a little dopey, had a huge heart and super caring. Harvey is in love with Alice. He is giving up practically every minute of his life to be with Alice, his childhood best friend who turned into his love. If this book was all from Harvey’s POV, I would have given it a five.
  • The story was interesting, Alice finds out that she has cancer and believes that she is dying. She decides to live life “like she was dying” and really do some unnecessary things. But then she doesn’t die and goes into remission and life has to continue from the path she has now taken.
  • Alice really bothered me (see below in the gripes), but the book did really come together and came to a completeness when Alice and her mother have a conversation in the car at the end of the book. Something her mother said about losing control of life really made sense and possibly could help you understand why Alice acted the way she did.

  • Sometimes the time change between “then” and “now” was confusing. It seemed to overlap and was a little weird at first. I got used to it fairly quickly, but it was a little annoying at first.
  • Alice was awful. Seriously awful. I wanted to like her, to realize that sucky things happened to her and that way why she was like that, but she really, really started to suck by the end of the book. I was sick of the “poor me” attitude and really upset with the way she treated Harvey, her parents and others around her. I read a quote on Facebook this afternoon and it was perfect for this book, “I admire people who choose to sine even after all the storms they’ve been through.” Alice took the wrong path and made a horrible choice on attitude. The rating of the book was really hard to give because the writing was done well, but the story, especially Alice, really wasn’t all there for me.


  1. I have issues with books where the main character is just awful, and from this review (and others I've read), I don't think this book is for me. I like that, in the end, the author did make you feel okay about Alice's character though - or at least a bit better about her.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  2. I've been on the fence about whether I want to read this one or not, the summary sounds good. But now I think I'll pass, thanks for the honest review

    Emily @ Follow the Yellow Book Road

  3. I had pretty similar thoughts to you regarding this one Missie. :) I thought that Alice was really irritating, but I realize the author intended to have her that way, so it didn't bother me as much as it might have. Thanks for sharing, and wonderful review! <3

    ~ Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf

  4. Aww, the main character was annoying? Hm, that's no good but ooh Harvey reminded you of the one from Sabrina? I loved that TV show! Not sure if picking this up or not, will have to think about it more further but great review! :)


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