Review: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Book Reviews

3.5 Stars

Side Effects May Vary is a really well-written debut from Julie Murphy. I thought the writing was incredibly honest and emotionally raw, which made feeling what these characters were feeling real. That anger that Alice feels, the love Harvey can’t shed, all so raw. This was probably my favorite part of this book.

I found the characters a little harder to warm up to. They were complex and made mistakes, which made them real, even when I couldn’t really fall into like with them. But I don’t have to feel like I can be besties with them or feel like I want to totally make out with them to appreciate them.

Alice is an emotionally distant person, even before things in her life change. And after, she’s so angry. And Harvey is the opposite, giving his emotions over without a question. They both grow so much and get to understand one another better by the end, but it was a rough road getting there. There were times when I wanted to tell Alice off or try to make Harvey stand up to her earlier. I did like the parents in this book, even though they’re not in the forefront a lot. I was really intrigued by the glimpses of their lives, their problems, their history. We don’t really get into much of that, but I wanted to know more about them.

In short, Julie Murphy nailed it. Side Effects May Vary is complex and the writing is really great. I look forward to reading more of her books in the future.

Book Info

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
Published by Balzer + Bray
Pub Date: March 18th 2014
Pages: 336
Format: eARC | Source: Edelweiss
Genres: ContemporaryRomanceYoung Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads

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.

About Julie Murphy

Julie Murphy lives in North Texas with her husband who loves her, her dog who adores her, and her cat who tolerates her. When she’s not writing or trying to catch stray cats, she works at an academic library. Her debut contemporary young adult novel, Side Effects May Vary, is out from Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins on March 18, 2014. Julie’s follow-up novel, currently titled Dumplin’, is due out in 2015.

Jess @ Gone with the Words

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

  1. Avatar

    Christa @ More Than Just Magic

    People seem to either love this book or hate it. Maybe because – like you mentioned – the characters are hard to warm up to. But I tend to like books with difficult characters so I’ll definitely give this a shot.

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    Danielle @ Love at First Page

    I was really looking forward to this book, since it tells a much different “cancer story”, but Alice sounds like a character that I will just not get along with. I appreciate complex characters, but if I don’t like them, then chances are I’ll be annoyed/frustrated with the entire thing and end up wanting to skim the book. Plus, the romance sounds highly unappealing. :(

    Thanks for your review!

  3. Avatar


    I just checked this book out from the library. I’ve read some mixed reviews so I’m interested to see what I think. I just read Maybe One Day by Melissa Kantor and it deals with the subject of cancer too. I absolutely loved it. Best story on friendship that I have read in a long time.

  4. Avatar

    The Bookish Manicurist

    I really liked that Alice was the same before and after her diagnosis, and while I don’t want her as my bff, I could totally understand her feelings. You’re so right about this being raw and honest.

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