Saturday, March 29, 2014

Side Effects May Vary

Book 15 of my 2014 Reading Challenge.

I received this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway and would like to thank them for the opportunity to read and honestly review this book. 

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Summary (via the book jacket)

What if you'd been living your whole 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 spend her final months right wrongs - however she sees fit.  She convinces her friend Harvey, who 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?

My Opinion

This book was original and took me on an emotional ride.  I liked it but recognize the style isn't for everyone.  
Like Gilmore Girls or The West Wing, this book is heavy on dialogue and inner feelings and light on locations and action.  
If you need your main character to be likable, this isn't the book for you.  Doesn't the author know teen characters with a terminal illness are supposed to be chaste and angelic with hearts of gold?  Alice is selfish and manipulative and a straight up bitch at times.  She was authentic in that skin crawly oh-my-god-i'm-so-glad-to-be-out-of-high-school-and-away-from-teen-girls sort of way.  
I identified with these characters and the angst and melodrama of teen emotions.  I've been Alice in relationships before, hurling words I didn't mean in a desperate attempt to push someone away before I got hurt.  I've been Harvey in relationships before, wishing for the self-respect to walk away from someone that didn't protect my heart the way I deserved but not able to do so in case this time was the time they will open up to me.  Both are unhealthy, flawed, and heartbreaking to watch.  
It may not be the most realistic book but I'm willing to suspend reality for a good story. The medical aspects, including Alice's spontaneous remission, were only superficially explained and Harvey was very eloquent for a teenage boy but his phrasing was so beautiful that I didn't care...I loved him. 
Overall, I loved her writing style and would definitely read more of her books.

Quote from the Book

**Note: I read an uncorrected proof of this book and the following quote may have been altered in the final copy.

"Our lips touched.  It wasn't our first kiss, but in that moment, I knew the meaning of it all.  I knew every word in the dictionary, every color in the rainbow.  For a moment, cancer was cured and the world had halted to a stop in an eerie state of perfection."

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