Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Release Date: March 18th, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Drama, YA
Source: Received in exchange for review
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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, whom 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 arch nemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger and reliving some childhood memories). 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 done irreparable damage to the people around her, and to the one person who matters most?
I went into Side Effects May Vary with low expectations. I’d heard several people say that Alice was completely unlikable, that Alice and Harvey’s relationship was unhealthy, and that this was an all-around disappointing book. I guess you can see why my expectations were low. In spite of this, though, or maybe because of it, I found myself really enjoying Side Effects May Vary.
Now, I’m not saying this book is without flaws. Absolutely not. People were right when they told me that Alice is a bitch. She is. She manipulates and uses people, feels sorry only for herself and never for others, and has a complete hot-and-cold personality. Still, I found myself liking her. Not liking her in a “I want to be friends with her” way, but in the way you like Courtney Summer’s protagonists: this girl is a complete bitch, but I love her anyway. And I’m glad to report that she does change. Not for a good part of the novel, but we do get to see glimpses of a nicer and compassionate Alice. At the end of the novel, she finally, finally realizes that she can do better in life.
Where this book surprised me was the romance. I’d expected Side Effects May Vary to revolve around the people Alice’d done wrong and the way she has to resolve it, but this book really is about the romance. Normally I throw a fit when a book is so romance-centered, but in a way, it works. It all depends on how you perceive the romance. To me, the dynamic between Alice and Harvey was a metaphor for the different relationships Alice had with different people. She has to come to terms with herself and with those around her. The way she treats Harvey is the way she treats everyone: she’s a complete bitch most of the time, but ever so slowly we get to see remorse seeping in. All the revelations she had when it came to Harvey were related to the other people in her life. So while this book was mainly about Alice/Harvey, I think it stood for everyone else in her life.
Your enjoyment of this novel does probably hinge on what you think of Alice + Harvey. If you think their dynamic is completely off and that it’s an unhealthy relationship, you probably won’t enjoy Side Effects May Vary very much. And I definitely can see why people would think so. Alice bosses Harvey around like she does anyone – she hardly asks for his side of the story and rather just demands several things of him. I have to admit, when I put it like that, it does sound unhealthy. In reality, though, I did ship Alice and Harvey. Yes, she uses him, and yes, she’s a complete bitch to him. He realizes this, but he’s a total softy and cares for her anyway. I could feel their dynamic and understand the attarction they felt, and something just clicked. Normally, I would have probably hated a relationship like this, but in Side Effects May Vary, it just worked for me.
Side Effects May Vary is a very fast read. Now, I did have to do some speed reading because I accidentally wrote down that this would be published in May, not in March, but Side Effects May Vary made it very easy to do said speed reading. It’s full of drama and everything about this novel just made it very easy to get sucked into the story and keep on reading!
In all, I really enjoyed Side Effects May Vary. In spite of its many flaws, Side Effects May Vary sucked me in and didn’t let go until I’d finished. This is the story of a broken girl – a complete and utter bitch – who slowly starts to realize her wrongs and has to make them right.
~Thank you Blazer & Bray for sending me a copy!~
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