Tuesday, March 14, 2017

10-12 Book Club Report

Last Tuesday, 19 members of the 10-12 Book Club met to discuss Side Effects May Vary, by Julie Murphy, and it was quite the discussion!

This book has been on our "we're considering" list for some months now; we were all intrigued by its description, and finally picked it for this month's read. The way the book is described, Alice gets leukemia, decides hey, if I'm on my way out, no more "miss nice guy," and gets revenge on a bunch of people for a bunch of stuff they did to her before she was sick. And then, surprise! she goes into remission. Now what?

It sounded like a humorous treatment of a not-so-humorous subject, and like kind of a fun read. But in reality, the book is quite different. As she goes through chemotherapy with ever-worsening results, Alice's best friend Harvey, who has wanted more than friendship from her for years, is her constant support and companion. Before all of this happened, Alice had a boyfriend, and she had a friend from ballet class (really more of a competitor), and the two of them did Alice wrong, together and separately. Now, before she goes, Alice wants revenge, and Harvey helps her get it. Then, after going into remission, she has to face the wrath of these two people, plus she also has to figure out what to do about Harvey, because although he expects that their relationship will continue, Alice isn't so sure.

In other words, it turns out to be a lot more about Harvey and Alice than about the supposedly humorous tone set by the book's description...and Alice turns out to be not a very nice person. Out of the 19 members at book club, 18 of them really disliked Alice, and either felt sorry for or lost all respect for Harvey as the book went forward. The pranks were kind of awesome, but there were only a couple, and they were not the primary focus of the book.

Ratings were predictably harsh, and ranged from a high of 7 out of 10 to a low of 1, with the final rating being 5.75. It might be that if members had had a more realistic expectation of what the book was actually about from the beginning, some might have enjoyed it more; but most felt duped, which added to the negative effect. Blurb writers, take note!

Next month's book is Illuminae, the hefty science fiction thriller cobbled together from memos, emails, classified documents, interviews, and all kinds of tech stuff, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.

For our final book club meeting in May (last meeting of the school year, and then on to teen summer reading!), we will (finally! yay!) read I'll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson.

Other books we considered, in order of preference, were:

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli
Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
Conjured, by Sarah Beth Durst
Graceling, by Kristin Cashore
The Boy Most Likely To, by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Enclave, by Anne Aguirre
Bumped, by Megan McCaffery

This club meets next on April 4.

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