This post contains a review, a bookish manicure, and a giveaway.
Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
Published March 26, 2014 by Penguin AU
Source: the publisher
Rating: 4 stars
From the blurb: When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs. So she convinces her best friend Harvey, who's loved her forever, to help with compiling a crazy just-dying-to-do bucket list, that's as much about revenge as it is about redemption. But just when Alice's scores are settled, she goes into remission. Now she must face the consequences of all she's said and done and discover just what happens when we say our 'final' words, only to find that life isn't through with us yet.
Side Effects May Vary is Julie Murphy’s debut novel set in a fictional town called Hughley. The story revolves around teenager Alice Richardson who has been diagnosed with leukaemia. Alice comes up with a list of things to do before she dies and ropes in long-time friend, Harvey, to help her out. When she goes into remission she realises she now has to deal with the mess she’s made.
I was keen for this book as soon as I’d heard about it. The fact that it was another YA book featuring a main character with cancer did not deter me, especially as it took a look at a patient who goes into remission. Alice may not be an easy character to like, but her story is still captivating.
Alice was already a mean girl before she was diagnosed and I liked that we got to see who she truly was and that having cancer didn't change her, she was still mean, manipulative, and out for revenge. Despite her being a user of people, I didn't dislike her, especially when she changed her mind about outing someone at school - I like that she didn't cross that line.
The story is told from two perspectives and covers two time lines: then (about a year ago when Alice was diagnosed), and now (after she’s been told she’s in remission). The dual POV worked really well as the two main characters are so distinct. Harvey is the other perspective and he was really sweet. He’s been in love with Alice for years and he’s so happy to spend time with her that he ignores the fact that she’s using him. There were moments where I wanted Harvey to get over Alice so I was really pleased to see his growth over the story.
I was expecting an actual list of items that Alice was going to complete and that we’d see her check them off but instead we’re kept in the dark, just like Harvey. Although, there was one item I just knew would be featured. The timeline also surprised me, sometimes it would skip back to then and then forward to now but it was never one after the other, sometimes we’d spend a few chapters in the now and then skip back in time. While I found the two voices easy to distinguish between, I sometimes had to stop and think about what had been happening in each timeline.
Side Effects May Vary is very different to other YA books involving cancer (eg. The Fault in Our Stars, Everything Left Unsaid, Before I Die) in that it doesn't focus on the cancer, or how the parents/family react, it focuses on what happens when you get told you’re going to live. I could totally understand Alice’s anger at having her plans change. I could understand the fear of wanting to hope, of wanting to plan for the future. Her story felt realistic and the ending, while open-ended, felt hopeful.
Thank you to the lovely people at Penguin for my review copy.
I really like this cover, the colourful font and graphics look great against the black.
I used 2 coats of Orly Liquid Vinyl as the base
I used a fine brush and acrylic paint for the check box, ballet slippers, pill bottle, and Ferris wheel.
Once dry I used Orly Matte Top to mimic the matte finish of the cover.
I'm giving away my copy of this book and it's open internationally - good luck!