Thursday, March 13, 2014

ARC Review: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Title: Side Effects May Vary
Author: Julie Murphy
Published: March 18, 2014 by Balthazar and Bray
Amazon Goodreads

Synospis:  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? 

My Review:

I received an ARC of this book from the fabulous ladies at On the Same Page as part of their ARC Tours. Thanks again to Brittany and the other lovely ladies!

This book is not your your average cancer book. It is not sweet or sentimental. It is not sad and heartwarming. Nothing that happens in this book is glamorous or fluffy.  It is dark and tough to read at times but that's part of it's charm. It's more Heathers and less The Fault in Our Stars.

I personally found the spin on the contemporary novel to be completely unique and engaging. Julie's writing sets a dark and gritty tone and establishes characters that feel very real. Throughout most of the book I was very unsettled. It made me think a lot about how I would handle such a situation. Would I resign myself to dying slowly and quietly? Would I seek revenge on those who have wronged me? How would I want to live out my final days? It also makes you think a lot about the consequences of your actions. It's like those people who win the lottery and quit their jobs then blow it all and have to file for bankruptcy. This book was more a blueprint on how not to be than advice on how to live your life to the fullest. I enjoyed that unique story that Julie chose to write. It's definitely not like something I have read before.

What also made this story unique is the way it was told. It's not a linear timeline. We begin the story in the middle, Alice is told that she is in remission. Then two timelines branch off from there. We go back to the "THEN" timeline where Alice was diagnosed with cancer and we follow her as she deals with her impending death and checks things off her bucket list. These chapters are peppered with the "NOW" timeline where Alice deals with the fact that she isn't dying and has to live with the consequences of what she said and did to people when she thought she would never have to see them again. The book is told from both Alice and her best friend, Harvey's, perspectives. Between the alternative timelines and the duel narrators things do get a little confusing at times. I found myself having to go back to the start of a chapter to remind myself who was telling the story and when it was happening.

As far as the characters go, they are not very likable but they are sympathetic. Alice is diagnosed with leukemia shortly after a very traumatic life event and she is not dealing with it very well. Already having a bit of a mean streak she acts out in unbelievable ways and becomes downright nasty to practically everyone she ever meets. Even after she finds out she's not dying her attitude problems persist and honestly she gets worse. She's stubborn and reckless but I understand where she is coming from, her anger of the situation was completely displaced and she was taking it out on people who didn't really deserve it (okay some of them did, but still). Even sweet and devoted Harvey is not immune to her negativity. He allows her bad attitude to affect him and as the story goes on, even he becomes less likable. As the story evolves both Alice and Harvey have "aha moments" and compelling characters arcs that I always love reading about. As time goes on and I learn more about what they are doing and why I started to feel invested in their happiness despite the fact that they annoyed me to no end. I wanted them to have a happy ending.

This is not your average contemporary novel but if you're looking for something gritty and unique then I would definitely recommend Side Effects May Vary. It is worth the read.

I give Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy a 7.5 out of 10

About the Author

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. Julie can best be found on her website (, tumblr (, or twitter (


To celebrate the release Julie is asking everyone to share what's on their Bucket Lists. In the book when Alice finds out she doesn't have long to live she sets out to accomplish a list of things so that she can feel accomplished. What are some things you want to accomplish before you die? Most of what I want to accomplish is related to travel. When I think about the things I would want to if I found out I had less than a year to live they all involve going somewhere and seeing something. Places I've read about in books or places I have studied in school. They're historic landmarks, seven wonders, once in a lifetime experiences.

Places to Go and Things to do Before I Die:
Fake whale, real fun!
-Hug a redwood tree in Muir Woods
- See where my Dad was born in Australia (swim the Great Barrier Reef and pet a koala)
-Go on a whale watch
-Cross-country road trip (visit the Grand Canyon, Mt Rushmore, Joshua Tree, and obscure things like the world's largest ball of twine (if that exists))
-Hike the entire Freedom Trail in Boston
-Visit every Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC
-Climb the Eiffel Tower (and do other Parisian things)
-Go on an African Safari
-Visit Disneyland (high five Mickey)
-Attend Bonaroo music festival
-Visit the Rome (see the Vatican, Colleseum, Forum, throw a penny in the Trevi Fountain)
-Visit Machu Pichu in Peru
-Cliff Jumping in Hawaii (climb a volcano too)
 -Visit all seven the continents
-Try to get to Hogwarts (Platform 9 3/4 is your best course of entry while in London do other things)
- Visit Russia (St Petersburg and Moscow)
-Move somewhere that you know no one and start a life
-Attend BEA
 -Wallpaper apartment with maps of all the cool places that you've visited!
-Add more things and see more places

Leave me a comment with the things you want to do before you die. And if you've read Side Effects May Vary, what were your thoughts? HAPPY READING!


  1. I loved reading your bucket list, and love the idea of that map wallpaper! I also want to whale watch, and it's super cool that you've gone to platform 9 3/4 :) New follower by the way!

  2. I've never made a bucket list, but I like your idea of climbing the Eiffel Tower. When I went to Paris, the day I went to the Tower, it was raining so much and the queue was so huge that I didn't wait. It was very sunny when I went to the Disney park though.