Review Blog

Apr 29 2014

Side effects may vary by Julie Murphy

cover image

Penguin Books, 2014. ISBN 9780143571711.
(Age: Senior Fiction) This is a debut novel for young adults by an American writer.
Readers will be familiar with 'bucket lists' often conceived out of revenge in school situations but there is a twist in this story. Alice has been diagnosed with leukaemia and is on a mission to fulfil her list but she asks dear friend Harvey to help her. As a life long and adoring friend, he does not take much convincing. Alice admits to herself that it looks as if she is using Harvey, but her illness provides the excuse, and she knows that Harvey is always there for her. Even when there is a sharp turnaround with Alice having gone into remission, she is determined to proceed with the 'bucket list' in a reckless fashion, injuring Harvey along the way, and obscuring the truths about their relationship.
Alice and Harvey provide alternate narratives with the action moving from the past to the present and vice versa. It is to the author's credit that this potentially confusing method of storytelling actually reads fluently and effectively. Alice is a frustrating character, at times treating Harvey with little regard for his feelings, and then being jealous on hearing of his new girlfriend. Both are very interesting, however, devoted to their causes, supportive of each other and good analysts of situations.
This is an enjoyable read: the language flows well, there are great moments of humour and the plot moves at a good pace.
Julie Wells

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