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?
Upon coming across the summary of Side Effects May Vary, I was immediately hooked. I mean, fine, it sounded a little cliched, but the synopsis made Alice sound like a sweet, charming girl who was about to fall for her adorable best friend. I guess I was wrong.
Alice was one of the worst heroines I have ever come across. She’s not horrible in the way that others are (which is usually because they’re too weak, clingy or just plain annoying), but because she was such a bitch to everyone and used other people to get what she wanted. She was a manipulative, insensitive asshole who didn’t deserve all the love and care other people gave her. There were a few times where she redeemed herself (like in the ending), but overall I did not appreciate her character and hope not to turn out like her when I grow up. Here is a quote by someone who was talking to Alice:
And indeed she was. I would’ve liked it better if Alice were a petty, attention-seeking bitch rather than a heartless and cold manipulator. Oh wait! She was a petty, attention-seeking bitch as well! Which brings me to another problem regarding Alice: she was so friggin’ moody. One minute, she would cling to Harvey as if he were a magnet and she were a piece of metal, and in the next instant she would be flirting with another guy and completely ignoring Harvey!
“It was perfect except that she was dying and I was living and I didn’t know how we could do both at the same time.” -Harvey
Oh dear, sweet Harvey. I could do nothing the entire book but pity him. He kept chasing after Alice despite knowing that she was only using him. I couldn’t even think he was sweet or nice, because all I could think about was how bad I felt for him! If only he were a bit smarter with his choices, then I would’ve really liked Harvey’s character, since he portrayed the kind-best-friend-in-love, which I usually swooned over.
The story itself was a bit cliche but rather endearing. A girl with cancer asks her amazing (ex)best friend to help her fulfill her odd bucket list. The chapters alternated (not really) between then and now chapters which gave us two perspectives to consider–the time when she was horridly sick, and the time when she was free (mostly) of her illness. I liked some cute scenes here and there, but nothing was particularly unique about the novel or its premise.
If you’re a fan of John Green or A.S. King, I would still recommend that you give this one a shot.