Side Effects May Vary

Side Effects May Vary

3.7 22
by Julie Murphy

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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

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
An embittered 17-year-old cancer patient and her lovelorn childhood best friend alternate narration in Murphy's grim debut. Harvey and Alice grew up together and were close until high school, when Alice quit dancing at Harvey's mother's ballet studio and started dating a popular athlete. After Alice is diagnosed with leukemia and begins treatment, she turns to Harvey for support and assistance with her short and surprisingly negative bucket list. When the cancer inexplicably goes into remission, Alice has to start thinking of her life in the long-term again. Though the story jumps around between Alice's initial diagnosis/treatment and her remission one year later, the characters and their problems are virtually indistinguishable in both time periods, making it tricky to keep the storylines straight. Alice's anger is believable and a welcome change from portraits of cancer victims as saints, though her treatment of other people, including Harvey, can still be distancing. Harvey is a sympathetic narrator, though, and it's a relief when he and Alice get a hopeful ending after a slow, dark story. Ages 14–up. Agent: Molly Jaffa, Folio Literary Management. (Mar.)
Voya Reviews, April 2014 (Vol. 36, No. 1) - Heidi Culbertson
This is a story about living life to the fullest, and the author effectively captures what it would be like for someone to believe they were living out their last days. Unfortunately, the frequent sensual moments in the book and the profanity of some of the characters detract from the flow and enjoyment of the story. Aside from that, this is a story that celebrates what it means to live. Reviewer: Heidi Culbertson, Teen Reviewer; Ages 15 to 18.
Voya Reviews, April 2014 (Vol. 36, No. 1) - Jane Harper
What would you do if you knew you had only a few months to live? For Alice, diagnosed with leukemia, it means a furious race against time to cross every item off of her Just Dying To Do List. She enlists the help of Harvey, her best friend from childhood. Together they do some simple and sweet things, like learning to drive and re-creating a beloved childhood vacation. For the most part, however, Alice wreaks havoc, plotting an outrageously cruel revenge against a frenemy and publicly humiliating a former boyfriend. She knows she will not be around to face the consequences of her actions. Then, in something of a medical miracle, Alice goes into remission and finds herself with another chance at life. This is an unexpected twist on the typical cancer story, and Alice is a wonderfully flawed protagonist who still manages to be a sympathetic character. Hurt, frightened, and angry, she alienates those closest to her and struggles with a storm of strong emotions and impulses, both healthy and unhealthy. Brief chapters alternate points of view between Alice and Harvey, so readers are able to see her story from more than one perspective. In addition, the chapters alternate time periods from before and after Alice’s remission, allowing readers to experience her struggles when she is sick and when she is well. The slowly developing romance between Harvey and Alice adds depth and appeal to this engaging story of second chances. Reviewer: Jane Harper; Ages 15 to 18.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Sixteen-year-old Alice is in the final stages of leukemia. While her body is being decimated by chemo, she reconnects with her longtime childhood friend, Harvey, and enlists him to help her complete a Dying-To-Do List. Revenge on her ex-boyfriend who cheated on her? Check. Revenge on the girl he cheated with? Check. Visiting the memory-laden but run-down amusement park of her childhood? Check. Ready to die, Alice is completely shocked when her cancer suddenly goes into remission. Faced with life, she now has to deal with the kind of person she has become (not the nicest) and the kind of person she wants to be. On top of everything, how will she handle the complicated love she feels for Harvey? Caring for him feels impossible because she doesn't trust the reprieve from cancer that she's been given. Growing up is hard, but growing up with the threat of a recurrence of cancer is even harder. The narrative demands that close attention be paid, as chapters alternate between the points of view of both Alice and Harvey, as well as between Then (when Alice had cancer) and Now (when she is cancer-free). Honest and unflinching, this is a compelling story of one teen's struggle with cancer, love, and living. A worthwhile addition.—Ragan O'Malley, Saint Ann's School, Brooklyn, NY
Kirkus Reviews
A teen faces mortality—and then the possibility of life after all. Alice has spent the last year convinced she will die of acute lymphocytic leukemia, but now she's in an unexpected remission, and the fatalism that earlier freed her from any scruples she felt about completing the more extreme items on her Just Dying To-Do List won't serve her well if she's going to live. In chapters that alternate perspective between Alice and her steadfast, loving not-quite-boyfriend, Harvey, Alice exacts revenge on her ex-boyfriend, Luke, and her chief nemesis, Celeste. Her dramatic flair and creativity in these endeavors—including a re-enactment of the pig's blood scene from Carrie—are as chilling as they are entertaining. Alice's ballsy triumphs over the people who've caused her grief box her into an untenable cycle of revenge and payback. Were it not for Alice's bracing honesty (if only with herself) about her crises of confidence and her devotion to Harvey, she might come across as only a rather unpleasant and manipulative girl obsessed with having the last word before she dies. Instead, readers will, like Harvey, see Alice in all her complexity. Unlike most teens-with-cancer novels, Alice's story ends on a note of hard-won redemption and possibility. Readers will turn the last page wanting to know where the next chapter leads. (Fiction. 15-18)
“Alice and Harvey’s relationship is raw, honest, moving, and unapologetic in its depiction of their individual, and collective, pain.”
Teen Vogue
“A tale of unlikely romance, impossible obstacles, and mortality, this book is a must-read.”
Seventeen Magazine
“It’s equal parts fun, cringe-worthy, and totally fearless!”
John Corey Whaley
“Julie Murphy weaves together a tender and funny tale of love, friendship, heartache, and redemption. SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY explodes with brutal honesty, brilliant wit, and unflinching heart.”
Siobhan Vivian
“Julie Murphy’s SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY is a funny, heartfelt, honest look at the beauty and the risk of getting a second chance. An inspiring novel about all the things worth living for. I adored this debut!”
Jennifer Echols
“A funny and touching novel about a strong-willed heroine who finds facing death simple, but facing life heart-wrenchingly complicated. A real original.”

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.40(d)
HL760L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

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