ARC Review: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

March 10, 2014 Review 54 ★★

ARC Review: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
(Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository)

Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Publisher
Pages: 336
Release Date: March 18th, 2014
Genres: Adolescence, Contemporary, Friendship, Social Issues, Young Adult
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 received this book for free from the source listed above in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


Where I expected a deep and meaningful plot there was a bland storyline mostly based on the petty revenge of a young girl. Where I expected a mature, old-soul type main character there was a shallow teen who recovered from cancer and hates the world for it.

Characters in a Gif


tina fey gif

I’m going to get right into this with Alice. This girl. This girl literally has a personal grudge against what seems like everyone on Earth. She’s a total bitch to her best friend Harvey, who has done nothing but care for her and a terrible daughter to her parents who have to deal with their only child having cancer. Alice’s M.O. is taking advantage of others, which includes manipulating people’s feelings and using a serious disease to get whatever she wants.

scurbs gif

And her first words after she finds out she is in remission? (Which isn’t a spoiler because it’s in the synopsis) is “Motherfucker.” I mumbled. Alice was ready to die, expecting it, and almost even wanting it. She’s upset because the day before she told her best guy friend something and doesn’t know “how to live with that.”

Let’s look at a few Alice quotes:

“I wasn’t a very good person unless I really made the effort to be.”

“These last couple of weeks, I’d pushed him farther away while keeping him barely in reach.”

Let me explain that one. Harvey, Alice’s friend, has done nothing but be by Alice’s side, care for her, and help her out with her revenge bucket list. He has made his feelings for her clear multiple times and she uses that to get him to do things for her and admits it. For example, Harvey had to drive her home one time and he waited right in front of her in his car while she flirts with another guy right in front of him and makes him feel like he’s the rude one. Knowing he is pissed at her, she gives him a kiss on the cheek before she gets out of the car just to “appease” him.

shy gif

“I think I like you,” he said. It was more statement than confession. I flipped through channels, trying to pretend like I hadn’t heard him because I didn’t know how to respond.”

“I liked that it was hard for him to be mad at me. And maybe I liked it a little too much.”

“…every chance I could to bend over with my ass in the air or to brush my boobs up against Harvey’s arm. I felt pretty stupid.”

“I found myself plotting her demise. This wasn’t okay. He couldn’t be with someone, not so soon. I wanted to destroy her.”



confused gif

Poor Harvey spends almost his entire SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY life being played like a fiddle by Alice. He is constantly being pulled towards her then being pushed back, and has no idea what’s going on. Does Alice like him? Why is Alice being such a bitch? Alice Alice Alice Alice etc. I would pity him if I didn’t think he was so stupid for going along with all this.

He does finally come to his senses and stands up to her but it’s pretty anticlimactic and doesn’t last very long. So he redeemed his character (unlike Alice did) even if it was only for a moment. Someone needed to bring Alice back to the playing ground of the mere mortals after all her power trips.

nsync fool for you

As for the writing, I didn’t have any real issues with it, although it was definitely more telling than showing, which can be very straightforward at times. Pacing wasn’t all that spectacular either, as I found myself 20% done and thought it was more like 70%.

This is not as deep or engrossing as The Fault in Our Stars, it has more of a Better Off Friends feel combined with Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality. It does have entertainment value, but if you can’t get past Alice’s behavior, this is one you might want to avoid.

*Quotes are to be check against a final version of the book.

Rating Report
Overall: 2

54 Responses to “ARC Review: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy”

  1. Laura Plus Books

    “She’s a total bitch to her best friend” Oh shit. Okay, I’m like really scared now. I want to love it, I really do but like I can’t deal with bitches. And I guess it does lighten the blow when she admits that she’s a bitch but I hate bitches. Haha, omg, the amount of times I said bitches is making me laugh. But seriously, I’ve lived through enough in real life and in books. I’m crossing my fingers that it’ll be okay because I knew before hand! Awesome review like always!
    Laura Plus Books recently posted…Stacking The Shelves #29: Looking For Side Tales

    • Alise

      Yeah! Maybe expecting her attitude will be bad might make it more enjoyable because I was just kind of shocked that a person could be that negative towards everyone. It makes it worse because all these people do is care for her and she just manipulates them. There’s being depressed that you have cancer and then there is just being a plain bitch. Thanks!

    • Alise

      I somewhat liked the premise because a book about this issue had to be deep, right? But, no. Right? Sigh.

  2. Cait @ Notebook Sisters

    I seriously thought I’d like this! I mean, the negative reviews were rolling in..but I’m like, “nah, I’ll think it’s funny”. SO SO WRONG. I hated Alice. I don’t say that lightly either. But her and Harvey’s relationship can only be considered abusive!! I do NOT understand that at all. Especially Alice’s first day back at school, when Harvey had to WAIT UNTIL SHE WAS FREAKING READY when he was driving her home…out of the niceness of his heart. Like, what the???! And the ending was not satisfying at all. I couldn’t trust Alice. I just wanted a better life for Harvey, though, honestly, he was a bit stupid if he just wanted to stick around and get kicked the whole time. GAH. But I think you summed up my feelings very well in this review. ;)
    Cait @ Notebook Sisters recently posted…Notebook Sisters Approved: Pronounceable Fantasy Names

    • Alise

      Ha, tell me about it. I didn’t read reviews so I didn’t expect to her to be like that so I was a bit more shocked. It definitely was abusive, especially verbally. “Harvey had to WAIT UNTIL SHE WAS FREAKING READY when he was driving her home” YEP. AND SHE FLIRTS IN FRONT OF HIM. I didn’t care for the ending, either. She ‘changed’ much too fast and unrealistically. Thanks :)

    • Alise

      At the very least you’ll be expecting it and maybe it won’t bother you as much! If you do read it, let me know, I’d love to read your thoughts.

  3. Wattle

    Oh yikes. This sure sounds like one to avoid :( what is it with bitchy main characters? I don’t understand why authors feel the need to create horrible MCs, unless they themselves are like that. In which case…uh. Awkward. Don’t we get enough of vapid, morally corrupt folk in real life? :/
    Wattle recently posted…Book Review: Nefertiti’s Heart by A.W. Exley

    • Alise

      Baha, that’s hilarious! And so true, we have to deal with that enough already. This girl has wayyy too much hatred in her for a young girl, even with cancer.

  4. Kirsty-Marie

    Awh, shame. I actually liked this one (probably because I was in a right bitchy mood before starting it, so, it fit right in.) but, I did get frustrated with I at times, especially with Alice, but more with Harvey. I know he’d feel guilty for standing up to her when she had cancer, (which still, manipulating him was a shitty thing for Alice to do), but even after, all that time I just wanted him to stop. And like you said, once he did, it wasn’t even worth it. What was the point? Loving the gifs though, haha!
    Kirsty-Marie recently posted…Review: The Shadow Prince

    • Alise

      No worries, I have quite a few friends who liked it too! Yeah, Harvey really should have.. maybe it’s a guy thing? ;) Thank you!

  5. Wendy Darling

    Oh, man. My coblogger Kim really disliked this book too, and pretty much everyone seems to agree that Alice is extremely unlikable–and not in the surface way that people sometimes complain about, but in the really bad, selfish behavior kind of way. I’m sorry to hear you were so let down by this book. It’s too bad, the author seems to be such a sweetheart on Twitter–I hope her next book shows more of her humor.
    Wendy Darling recently posted…Rebel Belle: hummingbird cake recipe + giveaway

  6. Tanja

    This sounds painful at least! I cannot think of better word but I want to slap both characters without even knowing them. Firstly revenge! I cannot stand reading about it, I guess I never have such desire to revenge something, who knows. Second thing HATERS. Who needs those. I will avoid this one as much as I can. Great review :)
    Tanja recently posted…(Bookish Problems, #3) Recommendations and Hyped Books

    • Alise

      If the characters were real people I think my slap hand would have fallen off by now, ha. Yeah, the revenge parts made me sad because they were only mean to her because she was mean to them. I don’t know, I just didn’t get it. Thanks :)

  7. Angel (Spare Reads)

    I don’t think I can possibly endure this book… and I’m pretty surprised you finished it instead of, you know, rage quit. Neither of the characters sound likable to me at all, especially Alice. Her pettiness is something I cannot bear no matter what. Come on, girl, you just survived a cancer??? Doesn’t that change your perspectives on lots of things?? She seems to take it as a pass to do all the horrible things she can think of without getting in trouble. This setting could be so much more than revengeful schemes, definitely disappointed.
    Angel (Spare Reads) recently posted…ARC Review: The Summer I Found You

    • Alise

      Haha! The only thing that kept me going is the ending, I wanted to see if she redeemed herself. Spoiler: she didn’t. Right? I’m pretty sure I would be sobbing unicorns if I went through that miracle. “She seems to take it as a pass to do all the horrible things she can think of” THIS. That is literally the entire book summarized perfectly.

  8. Lesley Marie

    Alice sounds like a really horrible person. It would be different if she had some growth throughout the book, but it seems like her want of revenge takes up more space than the obvious growing up she needs to do. And poor Harvey… Honestly, why are so many (usually sweet and incredibly kind) best guy friend characters doomed to have a miserable time in YA books? And why are YA leads so willing to let them be miserable? >_<

    Oh, and I read Revenge of the Girl With the Great Personality… It was just okay– a little too shallow for my tastes.

    • Alise

      Alice is almost the opposite, it’s like she goes downhill the entire book and at the last second she’s like “Oh, wow, I really am a bitch” and does a complete 180, total change that does not make sense at all.

      Ha! Of course, the best guy friend is almost always doomed in YA xD

      This one isn’t too deep, either. Sadly.

  9. Pam@YA Escape from Reality

    I keep reading more negative reviews for this book, and I’m starting to think I’ll probably skip it. I’m assuming the author meant to write the MC in this way, so that makes me really curious as to why. Does Alice have any redeeming qualities? Sometimes it’s interesting if the MC is sort of an anti-heroine, as long as there is growth, etc. But if not, it’s a little hard to care about that person and if I don’t care about the MC, I usually don’t like the book. Thanks for the honest review (and nice gifs, by the way).
    Pam@YA Escape from Reality recently posted…Book Review: Darkside Sun by Jocelyn Adams

    • Alise

      I honestly have no idea about intentions, the only thing I could think of would be character development but there was still none of that so it didn’t work out. In my honest opinion, she did not. Thank you!

  10. Aimee

    I seriously COULD NOT STAND Alice in this novel. X: I wanted to lock her in the hospital room. And hope that she never gets out. Harvey was kind of an annoying lovesick puppy at first, but then by the end of the novel, I agree that his character redeemed himself. Fantastic review, Alise!
    Aimee recently posted…Review: Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas

    • Alise

      Thanks :D

      Alice definitely need a wakeup call, and even though she got plenty her attitude still didn’t change, which was so frustrating!

  11. Andreea

    Oh man, I love the way you write your reviews, because they’re so hilarious.

    Too bad you didn’t like this book and that it was just shallow.

    Thanks for your honest review!

  12. Rashika

    Nope. Nope Nope.
    Wow. The female lead sounds like a pain and it’s not only you who feels that way! *shudders*
    I hate characters and people like her to the very bottom of my heart and I’d probably end up screaming and throwing stuff if I had to sit through a whole book of her manipulating things to her own advantage and being so self-absorbed.

    I have no idea how you did it.

    Wonderful review, Alise!!!
    Rashika recently posted…ARC Review: The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier

    • Alise

      I’m surprised that so many people feel the same way about Alice, I thought I would get hate for this review. Yep, frustration abound in this one. I guess I was hoping for redemption, but…


  13. Christy @ Christy's Book Addiction

    I was so excited for this book! I guess I was really hoping that it would be almost as good as The Fault in Our Stars, but I don’t think I’ve seen an good reviews for this book at all. I think I’m going to have to skip it, the MC sounds like a pain in the ass and I just don’t do good with those types at all.

  14. Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms

    It sucks that Alice is such a horrible main character. That would be the first thing to disinterest me. I thought it would be kind of feel-inducing (kinda like TFIOS), but I guess not… Too bad you couldn’t like it! Great review :) You deserve an award for finishing it, I don’t know if I would be able to xD
    Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms recently posted…Review: Avalon by Mindee Arnett

    • Alise

      Oh, there were feels. Just not the good kind, ha. Although, I don’t know if that’s a sign of really good writing when the author can make you feel that way about a character so much. Haha, thank you!

  15. Mel@thedailyprophecy

    I couldn’t stand Alice either and I was confused why Harvey loves her so much.. But nonetheless, I kinda liked the book too. I understood the difficulties of thinking you’re going to die – and then hearing you’ll live after all. I liked how realistic the portrayal is of someone with leukemia (as far as I know)
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted…Review 239. Bree Despain – The shadow prince.

    • Alise

      Yeah, from Harvey’s POV he was probably so grateful for the times Alice did lead him on he didn’t think of anything else.

  16. Faye @ The Social Potato

    Haha, I’ve read so many reviews for this book and hardly any of them had anything positive to say. IT’s like after reading so many negative reviews, I’ve started hating Alice with the rest of them, despite not having read a page of it myself. And come on, Harvey! You can do so much better! You don’t need to stick to someone who pretty much treats you like shit >_< I'm sorry this was a negative and unpleasant book experience for you :( Fingers crossed your next read will be better? Say, Forever Song? ;D
    Faye @ The Social Potato recently posted…ARC Review: A World Without Princes by Soman Chainani

    • Alise

      Ah, yep, I know that feeling well too. You have really gotten Harvey for not reading the books, she treats him so bad and yet he still wants her, ugh.

      Whoop! Thanks for reminding me of that ;) Now my day is perked back up again :D

  17. Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf

    :( :( :( I’m so sad you didn’t like this one as much as you wanted to Alise! This one definitely has a great premise, but from your review it doesn’t sound like the execution is up to that standard. Alice sounds like a complete jerk, and the fact that Harvey allows her to CONTINUE being a jerk to him doesn’t make me feel like he’d be a hit character in my mind.

    Nonetheless, I think I’m still going to give this one a try. As always, brilliant review Alise!
    Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf recently posted…Nil

    • Alise

      She really is, and it’s worse because she attitude is uncalled for. All these people care about her so much and all she does is treat them like garbage.

      I do hope you get some enjoyment out of it!
      Thanks :D

    • Alise

      No, it wasn’t. She didn’t even REALLY apologize to anyone, either. I was pretty disappointed all around. Haha, yup!

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