Side Effects May Vary

Side Effects May Vary

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 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062245359
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/18/2014
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 271,690
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.40(d)
Lexile: HL760L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

Julie Murphy lives in North Texas with her husband who loves her, her dog who adores her, and her cats who tolerate her. After several wonderful years in the library world, Julie now writes full-time. When she’s not writing or reliving her reference desk glory days, she can be found watching made-for-TV movies, hunting for the perfect slice of cheese pizza, and planning her next great travel adventure. She is also the author of the young adult novels Dumplin’ (now a film on Netflix), Puddin’, Ramona Blue, and Side Effects May Vary. You can visit Julie at

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Side Effects May Vary 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was really excited to start this book because the summary made it sound very interesting and feel-good. However the summary did not include how much you will hate the main character. I get that it was not the authors intention for the reader to relate to and like Alice but she did not have to make her a cold-hearted reptile who disregarded anyones feelings that weren't her own. For me, it's hard to like a book if I don't like the main character so I tried to separate my feelings of dislike for Alice and that of the actual novel in order to write a fair review. The plot and other character development was superb. So if you can ignore an obnoxious main character, go ahead and read this book, you'll probably love it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wasn't really into it. I finished reading it but I felt like it took me forever to get through it.
MaryW01 More than 1 year ago
I absolutely love this book. This book can bring anyone to tears! This book is about choosing between life and death and how to deal with it. This book is about a girl named Alice that is diagnosed with leukemia and her world is crashing down around her, but the year she was supposed to die was the year she finally lived. I think that this book is a different version of The Fault in our Stars but, a better one. I think this because this book has a touch of revenge and remission. The author of this book, Julie Murphy, keeps the story and plot real. What I mean by that is that she keeps it true and relatable. It shows the struggle of teenagers that are in high school. All I can say about this book is to expect the unexpected. I did not expect for this book to have such a heart filled story.
elenabrown2021 More than 1 year ago
After reading "Side effects may vary," the way I view people who have deadly sicknesses has changed. In most cases, people with cancer aren't vengeful and horrible people, they're mostly people who try to enjoy the most out their lives now that they know it may soon come to an end. Alice, on the other hand, is completely opposite from this. She manipulates her friend, Harvey, to help her get revenge on people and do horrible things before her sickness kills her. In my opinion, after losing a close friend to cancer, I believe that Alice's case was portrayed unrealistically. However, the author did an amazing job at developing Alice as an "evil character," and it's difficult to portray a cancer patient as a manipulative monster who wishes to give anyone who has ever hurt her a reprisal. When Alice's cancer goes into remission, she has to face the true monster she's become, and she takes her life for granted. However, it felt as if Alice really got what she deserved for all the vengeance. The development of all the characters were amazing, even the minor characters had their own backstory and their own personality that made them feel more like real people instead of background characters, such as Harvey's mother. I really wish that Harvey had the courage to tell Alice that what she was doing is wrong, and she shouldn't make her dying wish to be revenge. I thought it was a bit cliche that Harvey had a crush on Alice, but it was interesting to see Harvey realize what Alice was becoming. In summary, Side Effects May Vary is about how acts of revenge aren't justified by any reason, and it also teaches how some people aren't always as they appear to be. I thought it was an interesting book and I would definitely recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An absolutely and completely charming, eloquent, believable, thought-provoking, empowering, & delightful book; *THANK YOU!*, Julie Murphy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book easy read.
Kylie-MyBookishThoughts More than 1 year ago
Alice and Harvey have been friends since childhood. They did everything together. When Harvey was made fun of at school, Alice would beat the person up. Literally throw punches and hurt the person for hurting Harvey. As they grow up, Harvey realizes that he likes Alice more than a friend. In fact, He is in love with her. Both their worlds are thrown upside down when Alice gets sick. She is diagnosed with terminal cancer. She won't live much longer. Alice's battle with Leukemia is very truthful. Harvey describes her appearance in full detail. Alice deteriorates quickly, and Harvey is by her side the entire side. They have begun a slightly romantic relationship. Occasional kisses. Harvey knew it was a mistake to get even closer to Alice while she got sicker and sicker, but he couldn't say no to her, and this is Harvey's greatest flaw. Alice stops her chemotherapy rather quickly, because it is making her life to miserable. As Alice continues her struggle, the whole death thing hits her. She realizes that there are things she needs to do before she dies, and she gets started right away. She get's Harvey to help her and she goes on a "Paper Towns" style revenge quest. But it's not only revenge she is going for. There are a few nicer deeds thrown in the mix. Alice starts with Luke. Her ex-boyfriend. Luke was pretty terrible to Alice. He cheated on her with Alice's worst high school enemy Celeste. Celeste and Alice have had a rivalry since childhood ballet classes. Alice had the form of a ballerina, and always beat out the slightly curvier Celeste. To get revenge on Luke, Alice get's ahold of a photograph. It is a snapshot of Luke kissing another boy from school. Luke's face is clearly visible in the shot. Alice tells Luke to come to the gym to before she showed the whole school the picture. This may not seem like a horrible situation. But trust me, it gets worse. Luke runs into the gym from weight lifting class. All he has on is a towel. Turns out, there is an assembly going on, so Luke is shimmying up a ladder is a towel. And oh so slowly that towel falls off. Alice didn't have to even post the picture for Luke to embarrass himself in front of the whole school. For Celeste, Alice goes even farther. Celeste is in the school musical, dancing a ballet solo. When Celeste goes on stage, Harvey helps her distract the people who are supposed to go on stage, so she can. The stage managers try to fix everything, but eventually just let it go. Alice and Celeste dance side by side. As their plan continues, a huge bucket of fake blood is dumped on their heads. This iconic scene from "Carrie" was really intense. Harvey's view of Alice dancing around with fake blood on her was astonishing. It was really unpredicted. I had simply thought Alice would steal Celeste's part in the ballet. Her other tasks on her bucket list were nicer. They changed the lives of people. She purchased a dog that was about to be put down and gave it to the neighbor girl who couldn't afford it. She also found Harvey's grandfather for him. His father had left when he was a baby. Harvey had always been curious about his father, and Alice gave him the lead he needed. Alice, Harvey and a few other friends also sneak into an amusement park. With all the angst and drama with Alice's leukemia, this was a nice scene filled with friendship and nostalgia. However, this doesn't leave Alice in the right. She is a mean girl. As bad as Celeste. She fuels that fire one hundred percent. At time
KateUnger More than 1 year ago
Based on that description, I thought this book would be funny. I was expecting a girl who was given a second chance at life having to make amends with those she'd hurt after telling the truth or playing some pranks when she thought she was going to die. I did not expect a girl who seems upset by the prospect of not dying. The book is told in "Now" and "Then" type fashion, so when Alice goes into remission, you don't know what she's done, so it was slightly realistic that she was unhappy about her continued state of being. (Although nothing would make me prefer death over life.) But as the book unfolds, you find out that the stuff she did wasn't even that bad. It just seemed dumb to me. I found Alice to be completely unlikable. She is manipulative and vindictive. She uses Harvey to help her with these stupid pranks to get back at her ex-boyfriend and the girl he was cheating with. Aside from that, the list wasn't very clearly defined. She does do one nice thing and then experiments with drugs (sort of) and sex, but it was kind of a disappointing bucket list. Harvey is not completely without blame. He annoyed me as well. He is kind of pathetic and lets himself be used because he's (apparently) in love with Alice. The end is ridiculous. Alice blames her issues on her mother who lies about an affair the whole time Alice is sick. But that's not a good enough excuse for her bitchy behavior IMO. Julie Murphy attempts some redemption and reconciliation at the very end, but I found it to be too little too late. I just didn't care about any of the characters anymore. I disliked the whole tone of this book. I know I shouldn't compare books, and especially not with The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. But that book was so profound, mature, and positive. It was a love story in the greatest form. And this story was negative, petty, and just so high school - in the worst ways possible. When presented with death, would anyone, even a teenager, be this shallow? Can you tell I kind of hated this book? I suffered through because it is this month's YA book club pick. It should make for some interesting discussion. Stay tuned for my post book club post after the 29th.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Shawscribbles More than 1 year ago
Side Effects May Vary is written in third person and switches point of view between the two main characters, Alice & Charlie. In addition to this, it moves back and forth through time. Unlike many books that follow this model, I found that this was NOT at all confusing in this book. In fact, it worked! Even so this book was very difficult for me. I found the main character, Alice, extremely hard to like. It would not be an exaggeration to say I hated her. I didn't understand her motives or her goals. I didn't feel sympathy for her. I just didn't like her. Charlie, the main male character in the book, and Alice's steadfast friend despite the fact that, for the most part, she's a self-centered brat, is easier to like. But his devotion to Alice and his angst over her is equally as frustrating as Alice's personality. My big criticism of this book is Alice's inability to admit that she is in love with Charlie. While this is a believable plotline for some characters, for Alice there is absolutely no reason in her background that would suggest that she has been so traumatized as to be unable to love or to admit that she's in love. She is raised as a beloved only child, who seems to have fairly normal relationships with both her parents (there is tension between her mother and herself but not enough to warrant her being so broken when it comes to the romance department). With no understandable reason for not being a normal teenager (no horrible past relationships where she's been irrevocably hurt, no childhood traumas ... nothing) I struggled for most of this book to find something to like about Alice. In the end, this book evoked such strong emotions from me, I left with admitting that it had to be a good book. Whether you love or hate something, when it drives you nuts while reading it, it must be a good read.
Dazzlamb More than 1 year ago
'Alice' and 'Harvey', 'Then' and 'Now'. Two names and two tenses are all it needs to describe Julie Murphy's captivating writing arrangements. You know that an author did a fantastic job when you can't decide which chapters you are loving more and are more eager to get to. I wanted to read them all at the same time! Alice and Harvey are friends in the 'Now'. In the 'Then' parts they aren't even talking to each other. So how did they become friends or maybe even more, recognizing how important their childhood friendship was when Alice has suddenly no time left? The way the childhood friends find back to each other and the chapters Alice and Harvey spend working on Alice's bucket list, clinging to life and to each other, that was exactly what I was looking forward to read when I picked up SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY. Good moments in bad times, tears, heartbreak, loss, hope. I was so invested in Alice and Harvey's relationship that I was screaming injustice when Harvey thought it was time to say Goodbye. As you already know, Alice doesn't die. She goes into remission, the leukemia doesn't win. And from that point on, things aren't as easy as they were before. SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY is very much about loss, the joy to be alive and the fear of losing it all over again. No one can blame Alice for needing time to adjust to the new situation and to shed all her fears of the past months. Julie's approach at dealing with leukemia and surviving it is unique and totally got me thinking. I never thought about there being a fear of living after something like that happened to you, but clearely there can be. Now that Alice has her whole life ahead of her, she gets difficult and very hard to like. Her attitude isn't anything you want to deal with in a story that could've been such a destined, easy and sweet love story. It was as if she didn't want to think about what her actions were doing to other people and especially Harvey. One is expected to feel sorry for Alice all the time and excuse her behaviour, no matter how wrong she's acting. But at some point I just couldn't bring myself to try to get into her head anymore. Where Alice isn't always so darling, Harvey is the one readers will fall in love with. The quiet and caring boy, who's always been in love with the girl whose days had been counted. Harvey is such a sweet guy and there will be lots of swoon-worthy Harvey moments for all of us to make up for the sour Alice parts. 3,5/5 ***/* SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY – A pensive and sentimental story about the unfathomable, cruel and comic ways of life. The first half of Alice's story, and her relationship with Harvey, is simply awesome to read. Then after Alice's remission news everything seemed to go in the wrong direction. Still, SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY as a whole story is written with such beautiful skill that I just have to recommend it. To everyone who is looking for a YA contemporary read that isn't only dedicated to the sad outcomes of leukemia. A read that explores how ambivalent feelings about a new chance at life can be.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wanted to really like this book however, I thought the characters were awkward, and the story was difficult to follow; jumping around from character to character and between past and present tense. Just not enjoyable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an okay book. I first wanted to read it because I thought I would relate to the main character with cancer, being a young adult cancer survivor myself. Even though the story touch on that part of her journey of before, going through and after being diagnosed and in remission, I feel like the story is more focus on her relationship with the boy next door, aka her male best friend, who is like forever being friendzoned lol Making you want to like Harvey and less of Alice. I do like how the story is played through flashbacks "Then" and "Now" chapters to give you that background and how their past events shaped how they are today.Though that can get a big confusing making you feel like when are they ever going to get together? because it constantly seem like she wants him but then dont , then do again. It was a decent book, pretty brief when I think more about it after I finished it. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i loved how it didnt stray from being itself
majibookshelf More than 1 year ago
Alice has already accepted her fate. A sixteen year old diagnosed with leukemia, this isn't some miracle waiting to happen. The very thing that's supposed to be curing her is killing her. When her parents decide it's time to stop the chemo, Alice knows they just pulled the plug. She's going to die. With the help of her best friend, Harvey, who's had a crush on her since they were little, she gets revenge on her homophobic ex boyfriend who messed with one of her classmates and an arch nemesis of hers since she was a kid, relives some childhood memories, and tries some things she's never done before. Just as Alice decides she's done making marks, she goes into remission. Bam. Now, Alice has to go back and face all the horrible things she's done, all while trying to deal with her conflicted feelings about Harvey.Alice is a brat. She's mean, and vengeful, and deeply flawed, and selfish and uses Harvey. Actually, she treats him like a dog. And I think that's why I liked her so much. Don't get me wrong, she's horrible, but she seems so realistic, you can't help but sympathize with her. I've actually never read a book told by a mean girl, and I only hope they all have the same second thoughts as Alice, even if they brush them aside. Harvey is SO much more likeable, but honestly, I didn't like him that much. Even though Alice treats him like a dog, Harvey lets her, even when he doesn't want to. She always manages to pull him back. His lack of...self control(?) really bothered me. I do kinda get where he's coming from though. Alice treats him like a yo-yo, bringing him in and letting him feel like there is something between them, and then pushing him away, leaving him stranded. I felt bad for him, but it was more like an "Oh, poor you, boo hoo, now deal with it." than actually sympathizing with him.I really did like how not only did the story alternate between Alice and Harvey, but also between the past and present. Some people might not like that though, so watch out. There is a lot of cussing in this book, so not for younger kids. Overall, Side Effects May Vary is a great, not cliché cancer story that won't make you sob your eyes out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was ohkay?
-Patrick_TheBookshelves More than 1 year ago
Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy was a great, eye-opening book about treasuring every moment and living life to the fullest. I liked the take Murphy took on the topic of "cancer" and the dual POVs actually turned out great. Side Effects May Vary was an amazing debut and I fully recommend it to anyone in need of a good YA contemporary..and this one is definitely memorable! In the book, we meet 16 year old Alice who has leukemia. In her last months, she tries to fix all the wrongs she did and make her last few month memorable. As Alice pieces back her life together from her besfriend, Harvey to family dynamics, she learns how important life is. I admired Alice a lot in the book. We see her in different lights since Murphy decided to do "Then" and "Now" chapters in the book. I liked the mission Alice set out to do and seeing how everything pieced together. Great characters and each one was memorable! I'm glad that Side Effects May Vary didn't have that romance overdose. While we see Harvey deal with his feelings for Alice and Alice seeing her family fall apart, romance wasn't the main point, and I LIKED that a lot! It seems like a trend with YA authors, romance has to be the big aspect of the novel, but Murphy reinvented that and I really enjoyed it. Everything about Side Effects May Vary was stunning from it's cover to the little quotes even to it's bittersweet ending. Everyone needs to pick this one up! Trust me, you'll definitely enjoy Alice's story of recovery!
Sarah_UK1 More than 1 year ago
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss.) Alice has been living life without worrying about consequences, because she knows that her leukaemia will soon kill her. Then she goes into remission. What will Alice do now? And how many people has she used and alienated while she thought it didn’t matter? This started off good, but I lost interest half way through, and the ending was a bit of a let-down. Alice was an okay character, and I liked how she wanted to live her life without restraints because she had an expiry date. I didn’t like the way that she treated Harvey though, all she did was mess with his feelings, without admitting any of her own, which I thought was really bad. She never seemed to consider how he would feel when she died, or how he’d feel when she went into remission, she just thought about how she felt. The storyline in this was okay, but I lost interest half-way through. I thought that some of Alice’s little revenge tactics were interesting, but I hated all the dilly-dallying around, and wanted the story to move on a bit quicker. The romance in this was a bit odd. It seemed obvious that Harvey loved Alice, and Alice seemed to love Harvey in return, but then didn’t want to admit it for all sorts of reasons. The way she used him time and time again, never told him her real feelings, and then ignored him was just awful, and I really didn’t like that about her. I wanted her to just man up, and admit her feelings, especially considering the number of times he told her he loved her, but she just carried on being horrible to him. The ending of this was disappointing for me. It just didn’t feel like an end, and even though Alice did eventually do something nice for someone, based on her previous actions, I could just see her turning around and being nasty again in the next breath, and things just weren’t solid enough for me to finish this thinking that anything had changed. Overall; okay story, but the ending was disappointing. 6.75 out of 10.
jmcclay3 More than 1 year ago
Side Effects May Vary is a young adult novel splitting its focus between the moody Alice and the lovesick Harvey. Both offer unique perspective on the same storyline, but it’s clear that Alice’s life and the events surrounding it are the driving force behind the plot. Labeled The Fault in Our Stars meets Sarah Dessen, it is thankfully not a cancer book. Alice is indeed a teenage girl diagnosed with leukemia, but this does not swallow the story whole, nor does it cause the characters to descend into the overly sappy territory typically reserved for the subject matter. First and foremost it is about the relationship between Alice and Harvey, and Alice’s unwillingness to commit to him. It’s about family dynamics and how a child reacts when witnessing a parent’s adultery. Finally, it’s about examining how we deal with life’s problems and whether or not we allow a bad situation to ruin who we are. Alice as a character was certainly a bold choice. She is wholly unlikeable and this is not an exaggeration. It is quite a feat for the protagonist to have cancer and still be loathed. This is an extremely self-aware novel though. The author knows just how horrid Alice is and doesn’t shy away from addressing her attitude at the climax. Still, her prickly demeanor may deter people from reading beyond the first fifty pages. In order to combat this, the story shifts between the present and the past, the past representing Alice’s cancer treatment and the present detailing her return to the world of the living. Still, Alice is not a particularly open character, so even in her most vulnerable moments she barely invokes empathy. This is perhaps one of Alice’s greatest flaws. In her weakest moments, in her moments of absolute degradation and defeat, she chooses to retaliate in the worst ways imaginable. For instance, she has a long-standing feud with ex-boyfriend Luke and resident mean girl, Celeste. At first you feel sorry for Alice until you realize you aren’t dealing with a passive victim, but rather a girl who can match her attackers in cruelty step-by-step. Somewhere in the middle of the novel, Alice orchestrates a Carrie like scene and pours blood all over her arch-nemesis Celeste. If anyone remembers Stephen King’s Carrie, then they know Carrie was the victim. Here we have Alice, our protagonist, acting as bully. She was somewhat justified in wanting revenge, though I wont’ say why, but this was going too far. Alice had lost me at this point when I realized she was just as unkind as those she sought payback against. Though her schemes of revenge are terrible to behold, she is at her worst when interacting with friend Harvey. Here we witness an interesting role reversal, with Alice displaying features of a typical boy and Harvey displaying features of a typical girl. Personally, I enjoy these kinds of switches, finding them to adequately exploit the sillier stereotypes thrust upon both sexes. Somehow Alice manages to embody the worst of both, by playing into the trope of the emotionally manipulative female. This is the crux of the conflict, for she uses Harvey’s romantic feelings for her to her own benefit and does so because she believes she’s going to die. Once she goes into remission, she realizes there is no out and that she has to deal with a love struck boy. This is quite possibly the most perverse scenario arranged in the novel. Alice takes a very casual approach to her illness, accepting death quite easily and moving along with it. Sadly, she preys on a boy she knows is in love with her and uses him as a sort of minion who can do her bidding. While she does have real feelings for him, they are dwarfed by her extreme selfishness and the underlying cruelty needed to carry out such actions. If Harvey is placed in the role usually reserved for females, then it doesn’t make him any more likeable than the girls who have come before. He is an overly sentimental, lovesick boy, who though very sweet, is overbearing with his feelings. This initial reaction offers Alice some reprieve, for Harvey puts pressure on her at a time where she’s dealing with having cancer and then coming to terms with the reality that she may die. In fact, Alice is prepared to die when suddenly the rug is pulled out from underneath her and she’s told she’s in remission. She is then faced with the task of reorienting herself in a world that she had already mentally removed herself from. For him to be concerned about the status of their relationship seemed insensitive. Any feelings of hostility against Harvey gradually dissipate as more of their past is revealed. Alice was aware of Harvey’s feelings for her, but in many occasions allowed him to believe those feelings were reciprocated. They kissed, held hands, cuddled, and even on one occasion had sex. The level of emotional torture implemented by Alice should have been criminal. Harvey displays rare moments of courage where he stands up to her, but those are fleeting. She knows she’s in control and so does he. He transforms into a mostly pathetic character, in desperate need of a wake-up call. As the conflict comes to a head, Alice is called on the carpet for her bad behavior and Harvey ends all involvement with her until she can learn to cope with her feelings in an emotionally stable manner. The novel ends on a sweet note, with Alice recognizing her issues and finally taking a step forward. She does something truly kind for Harvey, and though he has every reason to sever all ties, he chooses to give her another chance. Overall, a gritty, yet honest tale that doesn’t shy away from the underbelly of teenage life. It’s refreshing to see characters that are not instantly likeable. Though technically a risk, it was worth taking, for the author masterfully crafts together a compelling story through solid prose and deeply flawed characters. A highly recommended read for anyone who wants to a healthy dosage of reality in their teen fiction.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In today’s culture there is a stereotype about cancer books—they are often sentimental and sappy. Side Effects May Vary takes this stereotype and flips it on its head. Just when you expect to feel the heart wrenching sadness of a young girl dying of cancer, she goes into remission. The novels then becomes about a teenager finding herself and learning how to live.  The novel tells the story of Alice, a girl who is diagnosed with leukemia. She makes a list of everything she wants to do before she dies—essentially righting the perceived wrongs in her life. She gets revenge on her ex who cheated on her and her arch nemesis that she lives in competition with and who is the “other woman” in the previously mentioned cheating scenario. Along the way she manipulates and uses her childhood best friend—who she reconnects with once she is diagnosed and who happens to be in love with her. Then suddenly she goes into remission. Now she has to live with the decisions she has made and the person she has become—admittedly nasty. She also has to navigate the possibility of a relationship with her childhood friend, Harvey, and how she has used him.  The novel draws you in. Julie Murphy makes you feel all the emotions of the characters. By switching between Alice’s point of view and Harvey’s point of view you feel each of their emotions—from Alice’s struggle with life to the pain Harvey experiences due to Alice’s  actions. She creates characters that you struggle with—you want to hate Alice, but you also see what she is going through. This creates a tension in the reader that we struggle to resolve. Alice was certain she was going to die; now she is going to live, but she doesn’t know how to handle this reality. Alice is a perfectly realized character. She moves beyond the idealized character to a character with real flaws.  This book was a perfectly painful read—one that I highly recommend. You feel the highs and lows of each moment and fair warning: you will probably need tissues. 
kimberlyfaye More than 1 year ago
When I began reading Side Effects May Vary, I geared myself up for another book along the lines of The Fault in Our Stars or The F– It List. The book was neither. I wouldn’t even describe it as a combination of the two. It was entirely its own story and, while I found flaws, I also ultimately appreciated it for what it was. I wouldn’t classify this is a cancer book or a romance. Yes, it contains both, but neither truly pull the focus from the character development of what I would classify as a coming of age tale. If you aren’t capable of enjoying a book with a frustrating protagonist, a sweet love interest who is missing more than bit of his backbone and a storyline that might make you want to yell at the characters and rip your hair out, you might want to move along. But if you are willing to give some deeply flawed characters a chance and allow the author to make you truly detest them before coming to appreciate them as they are, you’ll want to give this one a try. Just don’t expect to find unicorns, rainbows and flowers here. You’ll find gorgeous writing, complex characters, a plot that will keep you hooked… but it’s not all happy and warm and fuzzy. Alice isn’t a very nice girl. I tried to put myself in her shoes, but I failed to ever truly understand why she acted as she did. I would expect someone given a second chance at life would embrace it and the people who were there for her while she was at her lowest. She did welcome the possibilities that remission brought, but she pushed away Harvey, her best friend, the boy she loved and the one who remained by her side as she battled cancer. Her family life was less than perfect and she pushed her mom and dad away as well, but that wasn’t as devastating to me as how she treated Harvey. She was manipulative. She knew how to play Harvey and didn’t hesitate to do it. It was difficult to like or relate to someone who willingly treated people she loved so badly. I know she had been through hell on Earth, something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, but it still didn’t fully excuse her actions. Oh, Harvey. How I loved thee. But how I wanted him to get a backbone. His feelings for Alice were obvious. He never hid them. Her leukemia diagnosis was devastating to him. He was in love with her and didn’t know how to deal with the fact that she wouldn’t be around for the life he wanted with her. But, as sad as he was, he was there for her every step of the way, no matter how ugly it all got. He was a fantastic guy, a great friend and the boyfriend any girl would want to have. To see him so hopeful at Alice’s second chance, only to have those hopes squashed by Alice’s actions broke my heart. He really did deserve better than Alice was capable of giving him. He tried to move on, but it’s difficult to do so when the person you love keeps pushing your buttons and then, just as quickly, pushing you away. Side Effects May Vary was told from both Alice’s and Harvey’s POV. It was also told in both past and present tense. This setup could have been tremendously confusing, but I never got bogged down in it. As a matter of fact, I appreciated learning the whole picture. Each character had a clear voice. The multiple POVs allowed me to get inside each character’s head and try to understand their motivations. I truly felt for both of them. Their pain and confusion came through on every page. I found myself entirely invested in their story and was all but yelling at them through the course of the book. Any time an author can make me feel this much – good, bad and everything in between – I have to give them credit. I’m a feeler when I read, so it’s not uncommon for me to cry when reading, but it’s a little more uncommon for me to seriously dislike a character, but still be so very invested in them. I was, without a doubt, invested in Alice. I loved Harvey. That was never a question. Together they were complicated. Sometimes frustrating, often sweet and their interactions made me feel. A lot. Ultimately, I just wanted Alice and Harvey to find happiness, regardless of whether it was together or not. I wanted them each to admit to their faults and grow. I wanted this to be a story that left me with a sense of hope. By the end, each of my wishes were granted, but boy, it was a bumpy ride. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.