Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Side Effects of a Serious Attitude

Expected Publication:  March 18th, 2014
Side Effects May Vary
By: Julie Murphy
Balzer + Bray
ISBN-13:  9780062245359

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 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 am always reluctant to read books about kids or teens with cancer.  Just because I feel like it's very difficult subjecr matter and the author usually devolves into something overly maudlin and sappy - like a Nicholas Sparks book or something!  That said, I think the only one I've ever read that really touched me and came across realistically was The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder.  I enjoyed The Fault In Our Stars the first time I read it, but it didn't hold up very well upon further re-reads.  So I was apprehensive to see what direction that Julie Murphy would decide to take.  It was already different in the fact that the main character, Alice, starts the book off by going into remission.  So when the readers are introduced to her, Alice has been told that she is going to live after all.  Except she's not happy about it as you would expect her to be.  Because she just spent what she thought were the last months of her life, doing whatever the hell she wanted and getting revenge on the people that hurt her in the past.  Now she has to deal with her feelings for her friend Harvey, the mean things she did to her ballet rival and ex-boyfriend, and the fact that she saw her Mom cheating on her Dad right before she got cancer.
     I enjoyed the alternating between the present time and the time before/during when Alice had cancer.  It gave more of an insight into her complicated friendship with Harvey and the reasons for the things she had on her bucket list.  I feel like one of the biggest problems I had with this book was that Alice was an irredeemable bitch for almost the entire thing.  We get to see her POV and Harvey's, but whereas I ended up rooting for Harvey and sympathizing with him, I just wanted Alice to get some help or something.  Harvey was her best friend all throughout their childhood (their parents were good friends) but she dropped him when they entered high school, without a second thought.  Then when Alice is diagnosed with cancer, she takes Harvey back into her life, mostly so that she can use him to help her complete her buckt list/revenge on other people.  Harvey knows that she's just using him, but the poor guy spends almost the entire book trying his hardest to find any sort of redeeming quality in her to make up for her just plain mean and awful behavior.
     Alice on the other hand, is totally unexplainable other than to say that she probably has some kind of personality disorder or something.  She acts downright evil to people, even ones who do nothing but take care of her and try to make her life pleasant.  One major example of this is when she goes into remission, pretty much after admitting to Harvey she loves him, and ditches him again.  Instead Alice starts to go after Eric, the new guy in school.  She kind of likes him, but it seems like she's mostly just doing it to make Harvey jealous and hurt him.  She wants him to be there for her when it's convenient, but Alice will do anything possible to make Harvey feel expendable and refuses to admit anything to him now that she's stuck being alive.  I was really happy that shortly before the end Harvey stopped making excuses for her and kind of just gave up on redeeming Alice in any way.  So of course, in the last 2% of the book, Alice decided to become a better person and try to win Harvey back.  That said, there were some major emotions in this book and reading Alice's POV you can tell that she really doesn't want to be this way and doesn't know why she is.  So I still managed to enjoy the what-if aspects, even if this book has somewhat of a vindictive nature for my tastes personally.  Overall, a good read that makes you really think about life and the people in it.  Not recommended for people who can't stand truly mean characters though.

VERDICT:  3.5/5  Stars

*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication date is March 18th, 2014.*

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