DNF Review: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Publication Date: March 18, 2014
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 336 (eARC)
Source: Edelweiss
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?

Julie Murphy’s SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY is a fearless and moving tour de force about love, life, and facing your own mortality.
 ~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

I have a rule when I write DNF reviews and that is the fact that I have to be far enough into the book to know what the hell is going on so that I can sufficiently explain my frustration. However, I broke that rule with this one, mainly because I downloaded it off Edelweiss thinking I would love it and knowing that I owe Harper some kind of feedback. Damn you whitelist for being both amazing and terrible all at once. I DNF'd this book after reading fifteen percent of my eARC.

This was really for three reasons: the main character bugged me, this was one of the rare moments I wanted a ship to sink, and the writing was really boring.

Our main character, Alice, is interesting. She's an anti-hero, really cynical and full of hatred. For some this attitude works. For her it didn't. Instead of drawing me in and making me curious about what made her this way, I immediately disliked her and didn't want to get to know her more. I think this contributed to me wanting to just be done with the book though I didn't have the patience to actually finish it. I skimmed to about 45% though I only truly read the first 15% and when I saw her plan to get back at people, I was sickened and knew I couldn't deal with the book any longer. This girl was on the verge of death and experienced a medical miracle by having her cancer go into remission and she can't appreciate it properly. Bravo for taking risks, Murphy, I'll give you that, but this just wasn't my cup of tea in the end.

Harvey, the love interest is more likable, but he has no development. He is, unfortunately, a cardboard character. I had no desire for his ship to set sail because I wasn't interested in him as a person. Furthermore, I didn't like Alice and no matter what, he's too good for her, so I just wanted to shake him and scream in his face instead of rooting for him. Nice guys are always blinded for some unknown reason.

Lastly, the writing. There were long internal monologues and reflections of the past. I simply was not interested. With my lack of like in regards to the two main characters the only thing left to redeem this book for me was a decent plot and interesting writing. But from what I saw this book had neither. My interest was gone before it ever truly piqued. 

I say give this one a chance if you want, I know it's garnering feedback across the board, but from what little I read I can only see this book being okay at best. Mostly because Murphy took some risks which is what makes this title so polarizing.

I don't really know what else to say. It simply was not meant to be.


FTC Disclaimer: I received no compensation of any kind in exchange for my honest review.


  1. I totally agree with all your points, Lili. I also DNF'd very early, maybe around 10%. I found the main character, Alice, to at least be interesting. What really put me off was the boyfriend, Harvey. He was just so boring. I don't typically have a problem with the switching POV, but this time it bugged me because all Alice would talk about was Harvey, and all Harvey would talk about was Alice.

    It's a shame, because this book did sound so good, and I always appreciate when an author takes risks, as you said. Oh well.

    Also YES the whitelisting is totally a curse in disguise. All the new books! but also, ughhh all the books.

    1. She didn't interest me and Harvey was ten times worse :/ Like...I wanted to scream whenever he said ANYTHING.

      Blah it's fabulous though <3 haha

  2. You made the right choice. Alice just gets more and more and more annoying, and Harvey loses more and more backbone. He's a complete pushover.