Side Effects May Vary – Judy Murphy
What would you do if there were absolutely no consequences for your actions?
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, who 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 archnemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger). 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 caused irreparable damage to the people around her—and to the one person who matters most?
I’ve read a lot of books about kids with cancer, it seems to be a bit of a trend at the moment and all of them have been kind of incredible and though this is another very well written book about a kid with cancer, it also has the interesting concept of the fact that Alice gets better. So aside from having to deal with having cancer, she then has to deal with not having cancer. And of course, part of the having cancer plot was the fact that her bucket list was made up of humiliating her ex boyfriend and her frenemies and letting her feelings for her child hood best friend run away with her because, you know, she was dying, she’d never have to answer to any of the things she had done, there were absolutely no consequences. Well, until she’s told she’s in remission, because then of course, she has to go back to school and face the ex boyfriend and the frenemies and poor Harvey, the boy who thinks she feels the same way as her. Honestly, Alice wasn’t always the most likeable of characters, you know with the playing with Harvey’s heart and the whole public humiliation thing, but she was understandable. Unlike characters like Hazel Lancaster, Alice wasn’t happy in her condition, she accepted death, but she used being sick to get away with being mean to people. She was manipulative and horrible, but she was damn interesting.
This whole book was interesting to be honest, there were lies and deception and manipulation. Alice wasn’t meant to be liked, but she was meant to be understood and sympathised with, Judy Murphy has created and incredibly intricate and well written story here. What we have is a non linear narrative told from Alice and Harvey’s point of views, two sides of the same story, we see Alice as Harvey sees her, we see Alice as she is and the two sides gives us the well rounded and 3d confusion and bitterness that is this character. Basically, this is not just a story about revenge and consequences, this is a story about an immature teenage girl dealing with something huge in a dysfunctional family environment who is too scared and angry to think things through properly. The characters that Alice tries to destroy had it coming, but that doesn’t mean that she should have done what she did to them and watching her realise that she has to live with what she has done to these people, what she has done to Harvey is deliciously satisfying.
If you enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars or How I Live Now and would like a different take on the cancer story genre, then you should definitely grab this for your shelves, unlike Alice, it won’t leave you with any regrets.