Saturday, February 22, 2014

Review: Side-Effects May Vary

Author: Julie Murphy
ISBN: 1743484879
Book Genre: YA Contemporary
Release Date: March 18th 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Book Source: Edelweiss


Goodreads Synopsis:
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? 


Review:

So… I was very uncertain about this book. I wasn't even sure if I should request it but a lot of people were liking it, so I thought to give it a shot. The problem is, the impression I got was of a sad story about a girl struggling with cancer, doing a list of things before she inevitably dies, but then bam, she's alive and faces the consequences of her actions, but you as a reader deal with it alongside her and you all get closure or growth or whatnot. All right, essentially this is what the book is about more or less BUT I didn't get closure. Or sense much growth. I'm giving you guys a rant warning here, there may be spoilers.

Alice was diagnosed with cancer, and the first thing that came to mind to her when she thought she was going to die soon was to make a list of things she wanted to do before she died. She couldn't do it alone so she recruited her once upon a time close friend who she's pretty sure loves her to help her scheme and accomplish things. All goes well for Alice until she goes into remission… then? Not so much. She has to face the consequences of her scheming, which is not something she had counted on.

The idea of the story was intriguing at most. The going back and forth in point of views between Harvey and Alice both now and in the past, wasn't the best part of the story since there was no chronological order to the now and then, it could take place any time in the past and any time in the assumed present. I was prepared to deal with the entire book and hoping to be pleasantly surprised by the turn of things, and hopefully enjoy the book. I was pleasantly surprised, but sadly, not for long. What I didn't anticipate was hating the protagonist so very much. 

I think Alice is one of the worst people ever. She's the most ridiculously self-centered, selfish, arrogant, egocentric, and vindictive people I've read about in quite some time. I guess one of the great things of having a religion or faith or even Karma, is that when life hands you bad news, like really really bad news, as in your much closer than anticipated imminent death, you kind of start thinking of your purpose in life, what you're leaving behind, what your legacy would be, how people will remember you. You start thinking about praying, or making it up for people, or helping others deal with your death when your gone. But oh no, definitely not Alice.

"I laughed. We were so different. Harvey wanted good. He wanted to leave the ones he loved in a good place. I'd just wanted the last word. But I wouldn't be sorry for that now. It's too late for sorry."
 Instead of trying to forgive the transgressions that were committed against her, instead of thinking above it all, since she's dying and should probably be at peace rather than anything else, she plots her revenge. She wants to cause havoc, wreck things and people, so she can remain the centre of attention. All she cared about was making the year she was going to be alive for the most heavenly experience for herself, and if it included Harvey - because hello he makes her happy - then so be it. Who cares if this experience was tearing him apart? Who cares if he would never recover from the experience when she was gone? Who cares if she was potentially scarring him for life? What mattered was that she got what she wanted, how she wanted, when she wanted, and that's that. Why think of what she wouldn't be there to witness anyway?

"I think I'm going to die." There was an eerie calm to her voice that terrified me more intensely than any cancer.
"Don't say that, Alice."
"We all die. We are dying. I'm just in the fast lane, I guess, dying faster than the rest of you slugs."

The most thing I personally loathed her for, was her treatment of Harvey. She'd ignored him for years, but once she was about to die, she decided she might as well let him in her life again, because now that she has an expiration date, she can let him love her the way he'd always wanted to and just give him hope for the year she was staying alive. She dragged him through hell, put his heart on a freaking grinder and just tore him to pieces. Over and over and over again. She kept leading him on, giving the poor guy the impression his feelings were reciprocated and that even though she was dying, they were something. Until of course she was in remission and the poor lad excited over the potential of a future between them realizes that the Alice that survived was back to the one before she was diagnosed with cancer. Except much worse. I was upset for the poor guy. The thing is, she didn't want to be with him anymore, she treated him like freaking crap, but she had the gall to not want him with anyone else either.

"I'd always heard that when you truly love someone, you're happy for them as long as they're happy. But that's a lie. That's higher-road bull shit. If you love someone so much, why the hell would you be happy to see them with anyone else? I didn't want the easy kind of love. I wanted the crazy love, the kind of love that created and destroyed all at the same time."

And boy did she destroy. The problem is, I never got why Harvey loved her in the first place, not one freaking redeeming quality in this atrocious human being. Okay fine, I'll give her one act of kindness. But that's not enough to love someone so heinous, full of hatred and ugliness inside, so not worth it. Whenever Harvey talked about why he loved her, there was nothing solid, nothing from her core, just that she was a beautiful dancer, he loved her looks… I don't know, nothing about why he loved her made her sound like a person that one could love. More like an addictive drug that's so horrible for you but might seem just good at the time, except later on you realize the amount of damage it's inflicted, the harm it can do and you still come back for more. Harvey was one of the most singularly amazing people out there. I think I would have had a very big book crush on him if it wasn't for the fact that he was a doormat to Alice, a slave of her every whim, no backbone to actually save and protect himself from her. The poor guy was a hopeless goner. His life turned upside down when hearing she might be taken away from him for good.

"I have leukemia, Harvey."
Your life changes sometimes and it only takes a few words to bridge the gap between now and then.

In conclusion, the story had an interesting plot. However, hating Alice and her character as much as I did, made it very difficult to appreciate it. Alice did 'attempt' to redeem herself, but not in anyway that matters. I didn't get the right confrontations, I didn't get to see her understand how screwed up she made everyone, she never got to understand how wrong she was to treat Harvey the way she did, not in a way that counts. I didn't get closure, I was more angry by the ending than anything.

Rating: 2/5.


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