Harper Collins/Balzer + Bray
March 18, 2014
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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, 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.
Alice thinks she knows approximately how much life she has left (not much) and has figured out what she wants to do with that limited amount of time. Her to-do list isn't what one would expect: it involves payback and revenge, along with some good deeds. She knows just what she wants - and does not want - to do.
It's when her death sentence is suddenly lifted that Alice's life seems truly to be thrown into a tailspin.
She knows how to have cancer, knows how to be dying, but remission? Not dying? That leaves her floundering.
Now she has to do what she never expected: Live through the repercussions of her actions and choices. Good and bad.
I really enjoyed Side Effects May Vary. It's not simply a girl who has cancer, is dying and then isn't. There's also Harvey and Alice's friendship - and possibly more - in all its ups, downs, complications, and heartache, her family's relationship. We also see all of Alice's character and personality.
Alice isn't perfect. In fact, at some points, she's rather unlikable. She isn't an angel - her portrayal or her actions - when she's dying or after her remission. It is this, along with the the thoughts and feelings we see in the 'Alice' narrated chapters, that make her so real. She thinks she has everything figured, knows how it's all going to go . .. when it doesn't, it's possible she becomes an even better character. Once no longer facing an imminent 'expiration date,' Alice has to come to terms with some things. Including just who she is.
And whether or not it's who she wants to be.
Finding out you're not dying, is not usually something that messes up someone's life, either in fiction or reality, but it does Alice. When she learns she's in remission and things start having consequences beyond the next few days or weeks, when Harvey and her family stop treating her like she'll be gone any moment, it's back to real life.
I love Alice and Harvey's relationship. I really love that it was not perfect or fake and that it had its bumps. One best friend having feelings for the other isn't anything new, what makes their tale - and Side Effects May Vary - unique, is all that they're forced to go through. Individually and together.
Side Effects May Vary is an original story with great characters and insights into both death and life.
Julie lives in North Texas with her husband who loves her, her dog who adores her, and her cat who tolerates her. When she's not writing or trying to catch stray cats, she works at an academic library. Side Effects May Vary is Julie's debut novel.
Find Julie Murphy online: website/Goodreads/Twitter/Pinterest/Instagram/YouTube/Tumblr
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thank you to the publisher for my egalley through Edelweiss for this tour post