Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
HarperCollins/ Blazer + Bray
336p (Kindle Edition)
80% of readers are not going to like Alice, she's not your typical protagonist who has redeeming qualities. Alice is mean, hateful and angry at the world. These attributes will have a a lot of readers exasperated, but for readers like me it makes you find Alice relatable.
I have seen reviews saying they didn't like the book because they didn't like Alice, but you are never meant to like her. She is a horrible, horrible person and this book spectacularly portrayed someone who feels real. Someone who though infuriated you with their choices but made you sympathise with them, and not because of the cancer aspect of this book because while horrible, this book for me wasn't about cancer. It’s about realising everything you though you knew about your mum is wrong, and hating your ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend (who happens to be your arch nemesis since forever), trying to figure out how live with you best friends/love of your life (which at that stage was very limited in time) and living with the consequences for your action.
I enjoyed Alice being a little evil and mean, because I know if I was going to die, you better believe I am going to ensure I enact revenge to those people I believe have wronged me and deserved it. This did come across as a little immature at times.
This is Julie Murphy’s debut novel and it excites me to think of what else she can write (Dumplin’ , her second novel set to come out in 2015). Julie Murphy’s writing both intrigued me and irritated me.
This story is told from two people perspective, Alice and Harvey, who have been best friends since they were young. But not only are there dual POV’s but also two different timeframes for the story. The “Then” timeframe focuses on Alice and Harvey pre and during cancer, while “Now” focuses on their lives in the present and how they deal with the consequences of their actions.
The ‘then’ and ‘now’ didn't work for me. While it wasn't horrible, I would get caught up in the story line of one of the timeframes only to time travel to the other perspective.I would be half way though the page and realise my mind was still in the other time and that was why I was getting confused. I did like knowing the story lines but would have preferred the first half of the book to be ‘then’ and the second half to be ‘now’, Looking for Alaska style.
Harvey. Harvey, Harvey, Harvey. Initially, he got on my nerves. the first half of the book all his point of view was how great Alice was, how much he loved Alice, all he wants is forever with Alice. For majority of this book, he puts up with Alice’s shit without a question. He probably didn't need as much screen time (book time?) as he got but he was an easy point of view to read from.
The other characters in this all played their role very well. Alice’s Mum and Dad, Bernie and Martin, were like good cop, bad cop. Martin seemed very cool and goes with the flow, while Bernie and Alice have an almost hostile relationship. The ending of this storyline, Bernie finding out Alice knows she cheated on her father, seemed very unresolved for me. Im not sure what I wanted or suspected for this outcome, but we are introduced to this fact within the first chapters and the ending just seemed rushed.
This was such frustrating, refreshing (and a little amazing) read. Easily able to read in a sitting or two. If you want cute character that you love, then this book is not for you!! Read if you want characters that seem real, characters that you don't have to like in order to love them.