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Literature / Side Effects May Vary

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Side Effects May Vary is a 2014 USA Young Adult novel. It is about a girl called Alice and her tag-along friend Harvey. He loves her, but is too afraid to show it; she knows it, but keeps him at arm's length because she doesn't have the commitment to him. She starts a fling with Luke, a known heart-throb, but it hits a dead end when they accidentally witness her mother's infidelity. Luke swiftly dumps Alice for her rival, Celeste, and betrays that secret to her. The same month, Alice is diagnosed with leukaemia.

Once she's told of her survival chances, Alice decides to use her remaining time to plan revenge on Luke and Celeste, and she exploits Harvey's affection for her in order to do so. She succeeds, and feels ready to die… but then she goes into remission. Now, she needs to learn to live again, while facing the consequences of her actions.


This novel provides examples of the following tropes:

  • All Women Are Prudes: Subverted with Alice, who is rather unwilling to sleep with Harvey, especially in the "Then" sections although it does happen eventually., but is eager about other guys' advances, though she never actually carries one through. Averted with others, as Alice's mother initiates her own affair, Celeste gets Luke to cheat on Alice with her, and though Mindy hasn't yet managed to win a beauty contest in all her years of trying, she's never in want of boyfriends.
  • Alpha Bitch: Celeste and Alice more than qualify.
  • Anachronic Order: The book interlaces the "Now" chapters, set after Alice's remission, with the "Then" chapters describing the period when she thought she was going to die.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Alice wants to smoke marijuana before death and Harvey reluctantly obliges her. Then, when she's cruel with Celeste and Mindi again, Harvey reveals that he couldn't get real pot and what they smoked was a legally bought pine-flavored tobacco.
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  • Gallows Humor: Alice makes plenty ofjokes about her impending death in the "Then" chapters.
  • Camp Gay: Tyson Chapman, a guy who came out a year before the events of the book is closer to the effeminate gay stereotype, as he's been into ballet for a while before settling into opera.
  • Disappeared Dad: Harvey never knew his father, and he often wonders … At the end of the book, Alice helps him find his grandfather.
  • Hidden Depths: Celeste turns out to be more than just Alice's Alpha Bitch rival when she displays genuine concern for Mindy and even steals a pregnancy test from the school's nurse for her.
  • Moment Killer: There are three moments in the book when Alice is about to have sex with a guy she doesn't know much but is interrupted. The first time is when she's is in the car with Luke outside her home and notices her mother is unexpectedly early. The second time she's with another Harvey knocks at the door. The third time she simply becomes disgusted at her behaviour and stops.
  • Morality Pet: Harvey essentially acts as one for Alice in the "past" sections of the book. Things are more complicated in the present.
  • Pet the Dog: Literally, when Alice saves a dog that is due to be euthanized from a pet shelter.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Harvey's friends Dennis and Debora. Dennis is a never-do-well, while Debora is very intelligent and studious.
  • Precision F-Strike: "A dream, this was a bad dream. The kind where your feet are stuck in quicksand and your throat is dry and you can't scream because if you could fucking scream it would all stop." Said by Harvey of a moment when he finds a "memorial" to Alice created by Luke and Celeste, with her eyes crossed out and words "bitch" and "whore" written across each picture.
  • Really Gets Around: Mindy, friend and sidekick of Celeste, has been with at least two different guys over the timespan covered by the book.


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