Review: Side Effects May Vary, Julie Murphy

March 27, 2014 Uncategorized 8 ★★

Review: Side Effects May Vary, Julie MurphySide Effects May Vary on 26 March 2014
Pages: 336
Amazon • Amazon UK • Book Depository

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.


I really wanted to love this book. The premise appealed to me. A teenage girl gets diagnosed with terminal cancer and decides to complete a ‘bucket list’ to pack as many new experiences into her tragically short life as possible. So although it is a depressing subject, I expected the book to be full of the joy of life.

Um, no. Do not be fooled. The bucket list was hardly featured in this novel at all. You never really get to see what made the list, and the things she does tick off mostly concern petty teenage revenge on her ex-boyfriend and ballet ‘frenemy.’

I don’t know about you, but my bucket list would include more: “try every flavour Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream and make amends to those I have harmed” and less: “humiliate my ex-boyfriend and steal the dreams away from my high-school nemesis.”

Which brings me to the character of Alice (said bitter and petty teenage girl). She was horrid, horrid, horrid. I have not met a character that so annoyed me since the whiny and helpless Bella Swan of Twilight fame. I expected to have a degree of sympathy for Alice, considering her awful situation, but she was the most spiteful and selfish creature in my experience of YA fiction.

The way she uses (and abuses) her ‘love interest’ – Harvey, is appalling. She leads him on then blows him off. He is good enough to drive her places and keep her company when she is dying, but as soon as she finds out the cancer is in remission she feels too much pressure over his love for her and drops him like a hot potato. Not cool Alice!

And that is another thing – when any normal, sane person finds out their cancer is in remission, I expect there would be much whooping and cheering and happiness all around. But Alice seems disappointed she is going to live. Rather then seeing this as a second chance at living a better life, she sulks and moans and skips school. I really felt like slapping her and screaming: “Be grateful, you undeserving bitch!”

While I think my position on the main character is pretty clear, I liked Harvey. His only fault was loving Alice.

The story had so much potential, I am still reeling from my disappointment.

two-stars – Side Effects may cause you to throw the book across the room.


Natasha lives in Brisbane, Australia with her husband and son. She is a self confessed bibliophile who enjoys literature and adult fiction. She also loves travelling and aims to visit 40 countries by the time she is 40 (current count 36).

8 Responses to “Review: Side Effects May Vary, Julie Murphy”

  1. Ebony

    I’m sorry you didn’t like this book Natasha! I haven’t seen any positive reviews for this book, so it makes me glad that I didn’t pre-order it as was originally the plan. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
    Ebony recently posted…Life of a Blogger #6My Profile

    • Natasha

      I am also sorry I didn’t like the book. It had such potential, what a pity I detested the main character so. However, I am sure there are a lot of people who will love this book – I was just not one of them 🙂

  2. Cait @ Notebook Sisters

    Ha YES. Thank you. 😉 You’ve basically summed up aaaall my thoughts on this book. I was really hoping to love it, but gosh, I got so riled at the relationship between Alice/Harvey. It was kind of abusive. I didn’t understand why Alice only wanted Harvey around when she was dying. I just don’t GET it. She was pretty awful and I can’t see how the ending even indicated that would change. *sigh* Great review. 😉

    Ohh, and so I don’t look TOO random (har, har) I’m in the Aussie YA blog group on Goodreads and I was just checking out everyone’s blogs so far. 🙂 Hiiiii.
    Cait @ Notebook Sisters recently posted…Enmity by E.J. Andrews (ouch, that hurt)My Profile

    • Natasha

      Well hello Cait! Thanks for dropping by :). I am so glad other people also found Alice just horrible. When I posted the review I prepared myself for a huge YA backlash – but clearly most of us think alike. Great minds and all that 😉

    • Natasha

      Me too! That would have been a much better ending.
      Harvey: “Oh bugger off Alice, I am going to find Hazel Grace” – or such like 🙂

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