ARC Read-it-if Review: Side Effects May Vary…

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Evening all! Today I have for you Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy, which I received as a digital galley from the publisher via Netgalley.  Thanks!

Side Effects May Vary follows the story of Alice and her (sometimes) best childhood friend Harvey through a period of ups and downs.  When Alice finds out she has terminal leukaemia, Harvey is there for Alice to lean on, even as she asks him to be her sidekick in some…unconventional…bucket list escapades.  Then, unexpectedly for everyone, when Alice is seemingly at death’s door, her doctors tell her that she is in remission.  Now Alice must face up to what and who she has become and find a way to move forward in a whole new future that she didn’t expect to have.

side effects may vary

Read it if:

* you read The Fault in Our Stars (I didn’t, by the way) and want to read another book featuring a main character with cancer

* you like YA novels that feature a female protagonist who is immature, manipulative and cruel, and a male protagonist who doesn’t respect himself enough to (a) stand up for himself and (b) distance himself from the immature, manipulative and cruel behaviour of the female protagonist, all in the name of “love”

Okay. You guessed it. I didn’t much care for this book.  Sorry Julie Murphy. It’s nothing personal.

Or rather, the book and story itself isn’t so bad – I think there are going to be a lot of people who really like the plot and the alternating points of view of Alice and Harvey, the then and now format of the book, and even the (miniscule and highly convenient) growth of the main character by the end of the story.  But it just wasn’t for me.

It’s the character of Alice that really put me off the whole thing.  She’s an entitled, nasty, revenge-seeking little madam. Plain and simple.  The thing that really tipped me over the edge into active dislike of this character was her over-the-top revenge pranks that involved publicly humiliating people who had wronged her in private. Later on in the book, when those she has pranked then seek their revenge in a public way, I had absolutely no sympathy for Alice.  Add to this the way she treats her supposed best friend, and I just couldn’t be bothered caring about how things would turn out for such an unlikeable character.

The other thing that annoyed me about this book **AND THIS MAY BE A SPOILER for some, so if you’re not up for it, skip this whole paragraph!!** was the whole idea of “love” that was portrayed.  I don’t understand why “love” is depicted through a character allowing himself to be treated like rubbish for a prolonged period of time by the object of his affection, as Harvey does, on the off chance that the person you “love” will suddenly “love” you back.  There’s no love here – Alice practices manipulation and then bargaining to win Harvey back, and Harvey demonstrates infatuation and submission.  That’s it.  This may be one of the reasons I don’t read too much YA with romance, because there very rarely seem to be depictions of healthy romantic relationships, but rather this perpetuation of the tortured soul who waits forever until their love object sees them for who they truly are and returns that skewed version of love.  Meh.

So again, not the book for me, but certainly one that I think a lot of YA contemporary (and especially romance) buffs will probably happily devour.  I’d suggest giving it a go if that’s your genre of choice and don’t let my curmudgeonly grouching put you off.  Side Effects May Vary is released on March 18th.

Until next time,

Bruce

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