Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

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!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


48 comments:

  1. Nice job on recreating the cover. Love all those designs.

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  2. I have wanted to read this book for a while, but have been wary of it for two reasons.
    So far I have read a lot of reviews saying that Alice is an extremely unlikeable character (which can make a book very difficult to really love), and that it's another cancer book. I've never been a particular fan of cancer books but I have recently read two titles that really got right to my heart.
    I am still interested to read it, because a lot of the time authors make characters with a terminal illness all-knowing and wise beyond their years. It doesn't seem that way with Alice, and I am interested to read how exactly she is portrayed throughout the novel.
    Although I must say I am not a huge fan of friends treating friends (who they know have feelings for them) badly. It makes me sad and very frustrated.

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    1. It is a very different cancer book, obviously the disease is still a big part of the story, but this is more about how Alice deals with it. And yes, she's not the nicest of girls but it made for an interesting read.

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  3. Ohhh, my gosh your nails! THE DETAIL. That's just kind of amazing. ;)

    Weell, I wasn't a fan of this book, but I'm glad lots of other people enjoy it! I feel like such a royal raincloud when I'm moody about books. lol ;) I wish it had more bucket-list-like things though, because that's kind of misleading of the blurb. She did, what? Three things? Great review! :)

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    1. Thank you!

      You're not alone, I've seen some neg reviews, I think mostly due to Alice!

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  4. I'm glad you enjoyed this one, Mandee! I'm not too drawn to it, though I'm glad to see all the positive reviews for this one around the blogosphere. Perhaps I'll add it to my TBR anyway, just in case I change my mind and choose to pick it up. ;) Also, LOVE the nails, as always!

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  5. Everyone seems to be loving this one but I really have no interest in it. Sounds like so many other books out there but with the twist of she doesn't actually die. I'm glad you were able to enjoy it despite an unlikable main character!

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    1. That's ok, we can't be interested in or read every book that comes out!

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  6. I have seen a lot of people reading this and didn't realize it was about cancer. Glad I read that!! I tend to avoid those books. Nails = perfect!

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    1. It is good to know before you start a book because everyone has topics they just cannot read about. Thanks!

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  7. I've seen a lot of people who disliked this one because of how much they disliked Alice. While I didn't like her either (I'm excited to see you didn't hate her though!), I could understand her and sympathize with her. I think both reading from the perspective of a character you dislike and reading a cancer book that's instead about life post-cancer are really cool and distinctive. And yay for Harvey's growth!!! :) The nails are seriously gorgeous, too.

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    1. Yes, I can see why people dislike her, but she was really interesting to read about! And thanks!

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  8. Celine really enjoyed this and now you, I am thinking I should rethink my decision of skipping this one altogether now!

    Lovely review

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  9. I'm glad that you enjoyed this Mandee, I haven''t seen the best reviews around for this book. but its great when you get something different from a cancer book! And for some reason I didn't know you were blogging here! I just added you to the blog roll, sorry about that! And btw your nails look amazing!

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    1. It has had some very mixed reviews, but I thought it was quite unique!

      Yes, it's me!!! xox

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  10. Great nail art as usual! This sounds like an interesting book.

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  11. I really liked your review of this one. I hadn't thought too much about it, but now I really want to read it. I also love that nail art!

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    1. I think you'd like it, Britt! And, thank you!

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  12. That Ferris wheel, I love it! I'm hoping you'll stumble across a circus related cover that you can emulate, would love to see that :)

    Finally! A book based on dealing with a recovery rather than preparing to die. We definitely need these books in YA that focus on the positive. Sounds a little like Zac & Mia by A. J Betts. Thanks for sharing Mands, adding this one to my list.

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    1. Thank you! Well, I do have The Night Circus on my shelf, I'll have to give it a go!

      Yes, it was also similar to Zac & Mia!

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  13. I am glad this one is different, but I still just can't do the cancer books. I am never up for the emotional drama. I love your nails as always. You are so talented. How long does it take for to do a book cover nail job?

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    1. That's so fine, Heids! Books about serious topics can be really draining on readers

      And it depends on the cover, this one wasn't too long, maybe an hour, or 2 hours max. It depends on the detaling :)

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  14. I've been wanting to read this book but wary about the topic of cancer. My mom was diagnosed last year, but she's okay now. Anyway, since this one doesn't focus on cancer, I think I will pick this up. I hope I don't get confused with the now and then timeline. I love how you recreated the cover on your nails!

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    1. It's hard when a topic feels really close to your life, but you could just give it a go and see how you find it :)

      Thank you!

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  15. That's great you really liked this one. I've been reading mixed opinions, but I do like that the story is a different take on someone having cancer.

    Great nails!! You did a wonderful job on the ferris wheel.

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  16. Yet again - an absolutely gorgeous manicure! I Don't know how you manage to do it. So creative!
    And I'm glad you enjoyed this book too. I've seen a lot of negative reviews but I liked the different take on things and that Alice isn't like other girls. She's almost the antithesis of Hazel from TFIOS and I liked that she didn't change just because she was dying.

    Kate @ Fictional Thoughts

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    1. Me too, Kate! She was a really interesting girl

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  17. I have seen this book floating around a lot of blogs. It sounds like a good story. I haven't read a cancer book since TFIOS but I always enjoy them. They always leave me emotional like TFIOS and Before I Die but the stories are always so beautiful in their own ways. I'm definitely reading this one! Great review and those nails! You are so talented!! Love them!

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    1. This one was a lot less emotional than TFiOS and BID, and I mean that in a good way!

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  18. I'm so glad you enjoyed this. I also really liked how Alice didn't change because of the cancer and was never bothered by her mean girl ways. I liked Harvey and wanted him to be happy, but found him almost too good. I love those nails! The images on black is really neat. Great review!

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    1. Yes! And yes to Harvey being too good, sometimes people like that come across as fake.

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  19. Great nails! I'm happy you enjoyed this. I really didn't enjoy it all that much, I just couldn't like Alice. I enjoyed that she wasn't suddenly nice because she had cancer, but I wish she was just a little more likeable. She was so mean to Harvey, I felt so bad for that guy. Great review :)

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    1. She was a bit mean to Harvey, but sometimes it's hard being on the receiving end of such adoration!

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  20. I am very impressed that you have been able to draw a pretty accurate ferris wheel on a FINGERNAIL. Well done.

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    1. Ha! It's a little bit wonky-looking, but thank you so much, Lauren!

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  21. Love the nails! The concept behind this book sounds really interesting. It was one of my most anticipated reads but I've heard so many mixed reviews that I lost interest, so it's nice to see a positive review. I like that the cancer didn't change her personality, interesting change. Great review, thanks for the giveaway!

    - Sunny @ A Sunny Spot Blog

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    1. It's hard not to let reviews sway your feelings about a book, Sunny! But, you should give this a go and see how you go :)

      Delete
  22. I was a little reluctant to read this book because of the cancer element, so I like that it felt different to the others like TFIOS. I've read a couple of reviews, where people haven't liked the heroine very much, so it's nice to hear a different opinion of her, and that even though she's not the nicest person, she's still a likeable character.
    And those nails are seriously spot on :)

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  23. I realise that my strong dislike of Alice has been coloured by the fact that I have an Alice-like person in my life. They wreck havoc on other peoples lives for their own selfish reasons and they never seem to learn from their mistakes!
    As time has gone by I realise that Murphy has actually done a wonderful job of describing someone with a personality disorder and I can appreciate how accurately she drew Alice. But I still don't have to like her!

    But I do like your nails :-)

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Mands xox