Title: Side Effects May VaryI. LOVED. THIS. BOOK. From the cover (I have a mad geek-love crush on font heavy covers) to the strong character development, this book was a fun, powerful read. The premise alone had me drooling and making embarrassing grabby hands for it.
Author: Julie Murphy
Publisher: HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray
Release Date: March 18, 2014
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
Fortunately, I was lucky enough to get my hands on it in July because my power of puppy eyes works effectively on authors (or so I tell myself), but more likely because Julie is awesome and a dear friend of mine. Knowing Julie, I was excited to read her writing because the girl is funny. She has a quick wit and a keen eye and her personality comes out on the page, which is a good thing, trust me.
But also knowing Julie had me thinking, "What if I don't like Side Effects May Vary?" I'm being 100% honest when I say that I LOVED it based on its own merit. The writing, the characters, the storyline, the emotions. I found myself forgetting that I knew the author and devouring the book in large, hungry chunks. I knew within the first chapter that it was my type of book and was even more excited because the talented author was someone I can fangirl to in person.
Besides the cover being perfect, this book has one of the best pitches: Alice is diagnosed with leukemia. She decides to get the last word in every relationship by getting revenge on those who have pissed her off or done her wrong with the help of her (adorable, beautiful, amazing, oh-my-goodness-I-need-one) friend Harvey. And then she goes into remission.
RIGHT? Sounds fan-freaking-tastic! And the book does not disappoint.
Alice is a character that is not easily defined or trapped into a box. She shows her darker parts (seriously, you do not want to get on the bad side of this girl) and yet at the same time I could never despise her. She's all dark, sharp-tongued exterior and broken, believable girl on the inside. Julie did an amazing job of bringing to life the anger and fear of living with a terminable disease and not just wanting but needing to die with grievances aired and loose ends tied. Alice makes choices and decisions I don't think I would have made but I loved her because I could still see myself in her. The mask of actions and words to hide her fears, insecurities, and anger were all too realistic. Even in moments that I wanted to shake her, I still rooted for her. She isn't always likable but I loved her.
Then there is Harvey. He's the best book boyfriend I have read this year. He's so damn sweet and open and loves Alice so much. He loves her flaws, her brains, her body, her poisoned-tipped tongue. He takes her in--all the good and the bad--and it's impossible for him not to love her. He's the type of guy that is genuinely good and caring and can make your heart race faster. I loved him. And I think his love for Alice made me love him even more. I think everyone has felt, or will feel, that intense love for someone who seems unable to return it in the same way and Julie encapsulated it perfectly with Harvey.
Another character that I absolutely loved was Debora, the twin sister of Harvey's best friend. She seemed to quietly steal the scenes that she was in and I loved how she was a foil to Alice. She was type-A and composed and emotionally mature. As much as I loved Alice and rooted for her, I was also rooting for Debora, which ended up in me having my heart crushed at one pivotal moment. I would love to read a book from her POV.
Speaking of POV, Side Effects May Vary is in dual point-of-view AND in alternating Now and Then scenes. You get to know both Harvey and Alice as they tell their own sides of the story. I loved seeing how their friendship and the characters themselves matured and grew and changed. As Alice isn't an instantly likable character, seeing her from both Harvey's and her eyes was a great way for readers to see that she was a flawed, relatable girl that's going through crazy, scary issues.
This was a great debut novel that tackled big, important issues with characters that were honest and raw in a fast-paced, page-turning plot. Put this one on your must reads because I need someone to crush over Harvey, begrudgingly love Alice, and maybe even write Debora fanfic with me.