Blog Tour: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy (My Thoughts and Author Q+A)

Hello everyone,
Today's post is all about Julie Murphy's debut novel Side Effects May Vary. First up is my thoughts about the novel and then our interview with Julie. So, without further ado...

Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 336 pages
Release Date: March 18, 2014
Source of my copy: publisher via Edelweiss
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
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.

I don't usually pick up cancer-themed novels (I prefer my romantic-comedy type of YA contemporary) but with The Fault in Our Stars fresh in my mind, I wanted something in the same vein. But while both books deal with young adults and cancer, that's really where the similarities ended. 

Okay, to be honest I kind of had a love/frustration relationship with Side Effects May Vary. The frustration part is for Alice. Yes, life had dealt her a crappy hand but she was a mean girl. She was a very hard character to like, connect and sympathize with until almost to the very end. She was frustrating and annoying and plain old witchy with a "b." Facing death was easy for her but when she was given a second chance at living and she didn't know how to deal with it, especially because she had to face the consequences after completing her bucket list, which included getting revenge on people, the year before.

My love relationship to Side Effects May Vary was for Harvey. He was so sweet and such a great guy. We all need a Harvey in our life! He loved Alice and was there for her no matter what. But, ugh, Alice treated him so shabbily and dragged him along and took advantage of him. He deserved better than what he got from her. He sounds like a doormat, yeah? But he wasn't because he can speak up for himself. 

I did like their romance though. I liked that they had so much history together and there were some really sweet moments between them. Yes, I did think Harvey deserved better but Alice had strong feelings for Harvey. She just didn't know how to deal with them and, come to think of it, it's not like she made a secret of what she was going through. Harvey knew what she was like and loved her anyway. And this book has something you don't see often in YA (or at least I don't): the male protagonist was the one who really fought for the love of the female protagonist.

There were a lot of up and downs in Side Effects May Vary and some very strong emotions. I did like that it's a dual perspective and we get to see what's going on in both Alice and Harvey's head even though I liked reading Harvey's parts more. It also goes back and forth between the "now" (remission) and "then" (when Alice had cancer). I sort of wish it just stayed in the present with flashbacks because it was a bit confusing at times. Though the novel could've been a lot more confusing and messy with all the back and forth and backwards and forwards but I thought the story flowed relatively well. I'm glad I picked Side Effects May Vary up. I enjoyed reading it despite my issues with Alice. I'm really looking forward to Julie Murphy's next book. 

Read more about Side Effects May Vary on Goodreads 
Buy the book from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes or borrow/request it from your local library.


Julie Murphy
Hi Julie! Thank you for stopping by our blog today and answering our questions. What motto or quote do you live by?
Thank you so much for having me! I have so many favorite quotes, but one of my all time favorites would have to be: "I am a part of all that I have met." - Lord Alfred Tennyson

I love this quote so much because it reminds me to absorb every experience--good and bad--and allow life to change me.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of Side Effects May Vary? How was the revision process?
Writing Side Effects May Vary was very much a whirlwind experience. I drafted the first 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo, finished the draft in December, and revised for two months or so before looking for an agent. Including rounds with my editor, I would say that Side Effects May Vary went through five rounds of edits, not counting the smaller line edit type stuff.

Writing a novel is never easy, but what part of writing Side Effects May Vary was the LEAST challenging for you? 
Ooooh, that's a hard one! There's a scene where Alice drags Harvey (you'll find that she does a lot of that) to an old amusement park they would frequent when they were children. Because it's during the winter, the park is closed and they decide to break in. It was such a fun scene to write. The park was actually based on an old, dingy park I went to all the time as a kid, so it felt very authentic for me from the first time I wrote it.

Who or what were your biggest influences in creating Alice and Harvey's characters?
You'll sometimes hear writers say that a character came to them in one piece, meaning that they felt very dimensional right off the bat. And that's how Alice and Harvey felt, which was why I had to make them both narrators. (Plus someone had to be Alice's contrast. :)) I think, though, that because they came to me so whole, you can look at my favorite books and movies and see the inspiration. My major inspirations were: God-Shaped Hole by Tiffanie DeBartolo, Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King, Blue Valentine (movie), and SKINS, a great show out of the UK. Speaking of inspiration, you can find my pinterest board here.

What is next for you? Have we seen the last of Alice? Or are we going to see Alice or Harvey make cameo appearances in future books?
I am currently working on Dumplin', which is about a curvier girl from Texas named Willowdean whose life-long nickname is Dumplin'. Since I'm still drafting, I can't say much, but I will give these hints: secret summer affair, lies, a best friend you love so much it hurts, and beauty pageants. As for Alice and Harvey, they are character who will always stay with me, but I think that, for now, their story is over. However, there are some secondary characters (like Debora!) who I would love to play with, so you never know. A cameo may be in the realm of possibility!

Thank you Julie for answering our questions!

More About Julie
Julie lives in North Texas with her husband who loves her, her dog who adores her, and her cat who tolerates her. When she's not writing or trying to catch stray cats, she works at an academic library. Side Effects May Vary is Julie's debut novel.

For more info about Julie and her books, stop by her website, Goodreads, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Youtube and Tumblr.

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