I was pretty hyped about this book. Unfortunately, my side effects varied into a not-so-happy review, but you never know until YOU try.
Thank you Penguin Books Australia on NetGalley for the eARC! Side Effects May Vary hits shelves on March 26th, 2014.
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 love pocket change, but I like to keep it in a jar, and not in my pocket. When I was little, I was on a bowling league. Moxie is my favorite word. If I won the lottery, the first thing I would buy would be a photo booth. I like outerspace. I believe in karma. I’m terrified of cicadas. I love school. I don’t pick up my house phone. I like getting mail. I’m the funniest person you know. 2+2=5. I live in Texas with my husband who loves me, my dog who adores me, and my cat who tolerates me. Baseball aficionado. Professional potty mouth obsessed with movie trailers. And movies, too. And books. DUH. Let’s be friends.
I honestly thought I’d like this book, so I’m pretty sad to be giving it just 2-stars. What went wrong? Gosh. You tell me. I’m a pretty tolerant person. I’d even call myself understanding (sometimes, you know, not too often or you blogglings will accuse me of being smushy). But I have just one thing to say about this book:
Alice is a mean girl.
The end. Wrap up. Shut it down. Tie the bow. Put a stamp on it and mail it to France. Well, maybe not that far.
I really tried to get into Alice’s shoes (that’s what I try to do for every narrator I read). This is her story. Well, it’s her story AND Harvey’s. They dual narrate, sometimes in the Now and sometimes a reflection of the Past. Which was freakishly confusing, actually. But, when I finished reading the acknowledgements (I love acknowledgements! They’re so interesting!), I realised I didn’t understand either Harvey or Alice.
Alice said jump. Harvey jumped to the moon. Alice said “I hate you”. Harvey said “I’m still here for you.” Alice said let’s destroy people. Harvey said if you say so.
I can’t handle that! It’s wrong. It’s warped. And it doesn’t really sort itself out by the end of the book! This is what I’d consider an abusive relationship. Alice fully abused Harvey the entire book. She wanted to be with him when she was dying, but not when she was living? She didn’t want him, but she didn’t want anyone else to have him.
The blurb leads me to believe it’d be about a bucket list, but it’s not. Yes, there are bucket-list things in there, but it’s definitely not the focus of the story. I’m a bit disappointed by that.
And why did Alice go to school while she’s dying?! Why did her parents let her do that? She was puking and nauseous and sick. She was on pain medication so heavy that when she took it she had to lie down. And the girl was in school. Now I don’t know anyone who’s had cancer, so I can’t say this is unrealistic. It just really bothered me.
Writing? The writing is definitely good. I think Harvey and Alice had very clearly defined voices and well explored personalities. They also needed counselling. Or a hi-five. In the face. With a chair.
I don’t want to dismiss the horror of having cancer while I’m accusing Alice if being uncannily nasty. It’d be beyond devastating to have cancer, to watch yourself slowly disintegrate. To know you’re going to die. I can’t even imagine it. I think the author handled the cancer issue very thoughtfully (apart from the send-Alice-to-school-even-when-she’s-puking-up-her-guts bit).
But I’m not going to pretend I thought Alice and Harvey’s relationship just needed some work. I don’t think they were okay for each other. Alice used Harvey un-remorsefully.
Harvey says: I didn’t know what was worse: the fact that everyone could see that she was using me or that I could so readily admit it.
Cait has become an old cynic in her old age. She either rates books 4 or 2 stars. THERE IS NO IN BETWEEN. Pity. Currently, she’s tossing between a) beta-reading a book for a friend, b) writing a book herself, or c) reading UNHINGED by A.G. Howard. At least you can’t say she doesn’t make difficult life choices.