Side Effects May Vary


Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy


Then life was normal. Alice was a high school student with a best friend and a boyfriend, a potential future dancing, and parents who she has a semi-decent relationship with.  But when she’s diagnosed with lukemia her whole world changes. She’s broken up with her boyfriend, her parents are doting over her, and she’s falling hard for best friend Harvey.

But she can’t be honest with Harvey or with herself right now. Right now is about taking care of some unfinished business before her untimely death. Acting out a not-so-nice bucket list, Alice and Harvey both see Alice for who she is … who she really is. And they both don’t like that person.


Now Alice’s world has turned upside down once again. Since finding out she is in remission (a miracle in and of itself) she doesn’t seem to know who she was or who she is going to be. All she knows is that she’s messed up with Harvey. Instead of doing one special thing for her used to be best friend, she has used, manipulated, and broke his heart.

Alice knows there’s no going back to how is used to be, and that she’s ruined any chance of a romantic future together, but she needs to try. She needs to try to do something nice, something selfless for the person she loves more than herself — Harvey.

But this something be enough? Will Harvey find it in his heart to forgive her? Or will his push her away as she has pushed him away?

Side Effects May Vary, written by author Julie Murphy, is a realistic read that will have readers crying one minute and laughing with the turn of the page.

Murphy’s writing in her debut novel is stellar. Her words are descriptive, and more than that they are emotionally charged. Reader’s hearts will break alongside Harvey’s. They will shed big fat tears with Alice. They will come to terms with the fact that life is often messy, but it’s worth living.  What makes the writing that fills Side Effects May Vary such a good read is the fact that author Murphy has taken a really heavy and dark subject – the death of a teenager – and has breathed life into into.

Let me be honest with you: I truly enjoyed Side Effects May Vary. I liked the overall story. I liked how the story was executed and how it unfolded. And I liked how emotionally invested I was in the story. But there were two key components of the story that I did not love – main characters Alice and Harvey.

Alice, Side Effects May Vary’s leading lady, is often portrayed as being a not-so-nice person. Okay, she’s downright mean. Because of this I found her to be a very unlikeable character. So much so that it was often hard to cheer for her. There were moments, when fellow students sought revenge on her after all she did to them, that I felt like she kind of deserved it.

While she did have a few redeeming qualities, they simply were not enough to make me really like Alice, even though I really wanted to like her.

And then there was Alice’s male counterpart: Harvey. While he was apparently sweet, I found that he seriously lacked self confidence. More than that though I felt that he was weak – as a character and as Alice’s love interest.  Even though there were moments where I truly thought that Harvey was stepping up and standing up for himself, those moments did not last very long. Yes, he stood up for himself, but he also backed down the moment Alice showed any interest.

Both characters were very frustrating to me as a whole, and because of that I felt I could not enjoy this book as much as I had expected to. But not every character was as frustrating as Alice and Harvey. There was Dennis, Harvey’s friend and coworker. More than then I found him to be, not only the comic relief, but Harvey’s voice of reason. I appreciated Dennis’ love of all things pop culture, and his sense of humor. I liked him so much that I really wished Dennis had a bigger part than what he had.

Side Effects May Vary is a really great read. And it’s one that I’m happy to have finally read. While it was not a five star book for me (like I fully expected it to be) it’s a book that I would highly recommend. There is something for every reader found within its pages.

(Cover image from Goodreads)