Side Effects May Vary
By Julie Murphy
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?
This Blonde’s Review:
I’m torn on what to think about this one. I liked that this book felt a little different from others like this. We see what it’s like for Alice as she gets weaker and gives up. We also get to see what happens when she finds out that her life isn’t over, that she has somehow gone into remission.
Alice is given a second shot at life when she is told she’s in remission. People expect her to rejoice and for her life to pick up where it left off, to have hopes and plans for her future. Except Alice can’t go from zero to fifty as fast as the people around her. She finds herself dealing with the fallout of the things she did when she thought she wouldn’t live. Even the things she did with good intentions are too much for her to handle right away.
Alice struggles to adjust and change her thinking from that of someone without hope to someone who now has to consider tomorrow. Her actions have consequences again and she isn’t sure how to deal with them. Especially when the people who were hurt don’t treat her like she’s broken any longer.
I didn’t care for Alice. She was selfish and knowingly used Harvey’s feelings for her. She wasn’t the girl who didn’t know how he felt but just knew he was dependable. She’s the one who knew his feelings and used them to manipulate him into doing what she wanted. She continued to use people and didn’t stop to consider how her actions would affect people, she simply assumed everyone was there to be used and that they’d go along with it. I liked that this book was different from others I’ve read with main characters who are dying from cancer. I like that the author wasn’t afraid to have a main character that we wouldn’t want to like very much. We might feel sorry for her and know that we can’t imagine her position, but that didn’t give me enough reason to like her anyway. It gave me more reason to like Harvey and hate what he was put through. Because of what he had to witness the girl he loved go through and what he had to deal with when he thought they’d have a chance.
Overall, I have to say I don’t think I cared for this one that much. I wanted to like it, I wanted to find a reason to love Alice. Instead, I found myself wanting the author to decide whether she wanted the book to take place in past and future or his and her viewpoints. I didn’t like that it had both of those things going on. It felt like a little too much to keep track of.
I’m not sure if I just read this book at the wrong time or if it just wasn’t right for me. As I said before, I liked the idea of it. I do like having a character we don’t like at first who grows and we can learn to care for. I’m just not sure that I have enough of the good Alice for me to be able to like her at the end. I can think of a few minor things that I had hoped to see to redeem her, but they didn’t happen. By the time she finally decided she wasn’t interested in destroying someone I felt I had given up on her. At that point I was simply waiting to see how it would end.
I can’t say that I hated this book and don’t think you should read it. I liked that the author did something different from the usual and so would like to encourage you to give it a shot if that appeals to you. But I can’t say that I enjoyed it because of how I felt about Alice. And with that torn feeling I have about this book I have to say I’m sure I’ll read it again at some point in the future to see if maybe I’ll like her a little better on a second read.