Friday, March 14, 2014

Blog Tour: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy {Interview + Review + Giveaway}

I am so excited today to be a part of the Fantastic Flying Book Club's tour for Julie Murphy's Side Effects May Vary. This is a novel so different from anything I've read before, and I think it's an experience worth anyone's time reading. Today I get to share with y'all my review (into which I've thrown a few favorite quotes!), an interview with Julie (which is terribly fun, if I do say so myself), AND a giveaway for a finished copy! Enjoy! :D

Release date: March 18, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: 336
Format: Egalley
Source: Publisher provided for review for blog tour
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.
First and foremost, Side Effects May Vary is not a "cancer" book. It's not romantic in the way The Fault in Our Stars is romantic and it's not necessarily a book that will make you cry. None of this means it's not a good book--in fact, Side Effects May Vary is, suffice to say, an excellent book. Julie Murphy takes the idea of the "cancer" book and turns it on its head, keeping her focus solely on the profound, and at times destructive, relationship between Alice and Harvey.

I think it's important to note that the synopsis steers you wrong here. It makes Side Effects May Vary sound like it's going to be filled with hijinks and getting back at the people who hurt Alice. Yes, these moments are there, but they're not explored in the way you anticipate. This form of revenge is not the center of the story, and these moments are fleeting. This novel is about Alice and Harvey and it's about how they have to learn to be together, despite each's own failings and need to accept the other. I can't stress this enough.

I hoped he'd never forget this year of his life. No, our life. Because, thanks to Harvey, the year I died had become the year I lived.

And oh, Alice. Alice is...a mean girl. She's not the girl I would have been friends with in high school, thriving on verbal sparring matches with other girls and causing scenes breaking up with her boyfriend. At times it's almost painful to read about what Alice says and does, especially when she's hurting Harvey, who is nothing but supportive and sweet to her. The thing is, though, Alice's meanness is appealing. The character with cancer always seems to take on this aura of being something of a martyr, an angel who is too good and too young to be struck by disease. Alice is real; she's spiteful and angry at times, pushing those who care for her away simply because their love is smothering and causing expectations she can't bear to face. She wants to be a better person, but she realizes she's simply not that person, though she can make an effort not to be quite so bad. You might kind of hate her, but you'll love reading about her.

On the complete flip side is Harvey. He is immediately totally endearing, giving Alice every bit of love and care that she is not reciprocating. He's been in love with her for years, and she knows it. Her crappy treatment of him doesn't stop his love, and while I hated that he was treated in such a way, it's lovely that he loves her so wholly and without expectation. His love is flawed, though, in that he lets her walk all over him, and he needs to learn to stand up for himself in order for a true relationship to ever work. 

When you'd loved the same girl for your entire life, it was hard to believe that there might be anything after that. When you've loved one person so wholly, do they take that love with them?

The constant switches between "Then" and "Now" are used so well. A narrative that flips back and forth in time is difficult and doesn't always work. This is not the case here. Murphy uses this to place certain events side by side, highlighting the most important moments and giving the reader the background just before it's needed, making each moment make total sense. It also gives a better view of how Alice and Harvey's characters progress through the story, making shifts all the more profound.

Side Effects May Vary is real. It's unique in its genre and, instead of dealing with sickness and death, explores how to go on living when you've already accepted death as inevitable. 

I saw what only ever haunted me in those moments when my body was asleep and my head was still wide awake. The unknown. It consumed me.

All quotations taken from the ARC and have not been checked against book's final copy.

And now, I have an interview with Julie Murphy herself to share with you! Huge thanks to Julie for answering my (always odd) questions! :D

In Side Effects May Vary, Alice works to accomplish a bucket list--including some things that are maybe not so nice. If you could "right some wrongs" like Alice, what would you right? (No consequences!)

 Hmm, I'd like to think I've come to a pretty zen place in my life, but maybe I might call up some of my gradeschool bullies and give them a piece of my mind. 

I read in your interview with OneFour KitLit that, as a sixth grader, you wrote a paper on death row and were obsessed with last meals. I have to know--and now I imagine you've given this some thought!--what would your last meal be? (Mine would certainly include meatloaf and macaroni and cheese... And creme brulee!)

Ah! Creme Brulee! You're speaking my language. Yes, it's true, I was completely obsessed (and still am) with death row. I've always been on the morbid side. (No surprise there!) I would have to go with a huge Greek feast overflowing with ziziki sauce. I think for desert I might get a pink champagne cupcake from my favorite bakery. Oh! And a bowl of lobster bisque. Just because I really love lobster bisque. 

With Side Effects May Vary releasing next week, what has been your favorite moment in your publishing journey so far?

Every moment--even the hard ones--has been so incredible, but I would have to say that the most rewarding moment was when my editor approved my final draft. It was such an incredible feeling of achievement. Plus, that meant I got to binge on Netflix for like a whole week. 

What are some of your favorite books, or books that have influenced you as a writer? (Or both!)

My favorite authors/books have also been huge influences on me. My favorite book of all time would have to be God-Shaped Hole by Tiffanie DeBartolo. I also love Tom Perotta and Kazuo Ishiguro. As for YA, I'm a huge fan of A.S. King, John Corey Whaley, and Siobhan Vivian.  

What book(s) are you most looking forward to this year?

I am incredible excited for Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King, Between the Spark and the Burn by April Tulchoke, Bleed Like Me by Christa Desir, Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker, and though I've already read it: Noggin by John Corey Whaley. That book will knock your socks off. 

Can you tell use one random, silly fact about yourself?

I have never seen any Star Wars film! *ducks*

Thanks so much for having me! These questions were so much fun! 

And thanks again to Julie for taking the time to answer my questions!

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 Click on the banner or here, to follow the FFBC Blog Tour

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.

Win (1) finished copy of Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy (US Only)
Question of the day, to earn extra entries: Were you to be given a year to live, what would you do with your final days?

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