Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Synopsis: Alice doesn’t believe in luck—at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday—just when it seems they might be on the brink of something—she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes.
At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall.
As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined . . . and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect.
Hi readers! Guess who’s on spring break? This girl! And you know what the best part about spring vacation is?? I FINALLY HAVE TIME TO READ. And you know what I just so happened to pick up during my time off? Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith!
I received my ARC copy of Windfall for review in exchange for an honest review by the lovely people from Delacorte Press at Penguin Random House Publishing ❤ I noticed this novel on bookstagram one day and decided that I loved Jennifer E. Smith and I needed this book in my life as of right now.
What really caught my attention was the concept of the novel. Winning the lottery, you say? It’s one of those things that I haven’t really seen any of my favorite YA authors try to tackle such a rare but monumental occasion. Therefore, I was already hooked by the synopsis.
After the enormous monster that was my Caraval review
I still adore all 5,000 words of it I decided to write a much more concise review for Windfall, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot to say. . .
I’ll begin with a mini spoiler-free review! At first, Windfall was slow and somewhat hard to get into. Eventually the story evened out and I couldn’t put it down, but for a while I set it aside after 30 pages which itself felt like a mental workout.
Otherwise I really liked the pace of Windfall, from the first chapters on the story flows well and I was able to read it in a single sitting (oops.) What? I couldn’t help it!
The side characters such as Aunt Sofia, Uncle Jake, and Leo were evidently featured within the novel but I would have preferred just a bit more story to really make them stand out. Beside Teddy and Alice, the rest of the cast just sort of fell behind their spotlight, even if those two are the main characters. (But that doesn’t give them a pass, in fact quite a few things about Teddy bugged me but I’ll save my rambles for the spoiler section.)
The setting in Chicago was really cool, since I visited the city once and have a serious hankering to return sometime in the future. I totally would’ve liked to see a little more of the city within this book, although in hindsight that probably would’ve just made me a little homesick for Chicago. . .
Overall, Windfall was a sweet novel about friendship and first love with a couple (million) dollars in between. Relationships were questioned, credit cards were maxed, and ships sank
literally and metaphorically? So if you want a little break from real life then slip into Alice’s world for only the small cost of a brand new hardcover this May 2nd 🙂
END OF SPOILER FREE SECTION
a piece of unexpected good fortune, typically one that involves receiving a large amount of money.“windfall profits”
relevant definition is relevant
The novel opens with Teddy’s eighteenth birthday at his apartment, and Alice is preparing to give Teddy her gift to him: a card and a lottery ticket, which neither of them isn’t aware is a winning ticket.
Dramatic irony, anyone?
With most of my book reviews, I always begin with issues that bugged me at certain points or just problems carried throughout the novel. While Windfall turned out to be a pretty spot-on book, the beginning bothered me for a little bit. Let me explain why.
It was the cliches.
It’s always the cliches.
It opened with common cliches such as 1) an orphan main character 2) desperate pining for your best friend
this one particularly had me eye-rolling 3) typical teenage raging party 4) questionable love interest. . .
Yes, Alice is an orphan who secretly pines for her best friend, Teddy. At first seems like your average recipe for YA contemporary tragic character, right? That’s also what I thought. But Alice is portrayed as a character who is given nothing but bad luck, so I suppose this was set up from the start.
THAT BEING SAID I actually really enjoyed the characters within this book. You have your typical band of YA contemporary characters: your MC with a tragic backstory, narcissistic teenage boy, gay best friend
or cousin, in this case. My personal favorite was Leo, I wish he had become a larger piece of the story and I enjoyed how his romance with his boyfriend Max was portrayed realistically and was drawn out instead of simply dismissing Leo as gay and moving onto the Alice “pining for my best friend”
As I said, typical. A beautiful detail of Windfall was the family aspect. Alice viewed her Aunt Sofia and Uncle Jake as her own second pair of parents since they raised her for over half her life, and Teddy did everything to help out his mother when he could. This was YA done #right I have to admit.
I also really appreciated the charity included within the novel. Alice was a regular at the soup kitchen, as well as a generally rational and kindhearted character. While the whole “dead parents” YA cliche had me hesitant
plus the whole “I love Teddy and he doesn’t love me” pity did get old at times but she was actually pretty likable. (Can’t blame a girl for her unlucky circumstances, right?) And she even showed incredible strength and resilience dealing with Teddy after he won the lottery, refusing to leave his side even when he abandoned her. So yeah Alice was a solid A main character.
Teddy is rather difficult for me. On one hand, he is this sweet, kind guy who holds Alice as she cries right outside her old home in San Francisco. But he is also the guy who slams the door and runs out and abandons Alice during their boat race at school. He was such a sporadic character that I think a dual POV would’ve fit this novel well to smooth the issues I associated so closely with Teddy. It was hard to like him so unconditionally when he was such a “hot and cold” kinda guy.
In fact I wrote “dick / sweetheart?” in my review notes, classy yeah? 🙂
And he constantly acted extremely rashly and out of line. While there are very few people who can truly comprehend the idea of going from a hundred dollars to a couple hundred million overnight, the money would have easily belonged in the hands of someone much more grounded such as Alice compared to Teddy. I know, trust me, I know, that Teddy was. . .built this way to “develop his character” and all that fancy author jazz, but he was the only character that just bugged me maybe every other chapter. The “the higher you are the farther you fall” cliche was definitely evident—especially when Teddy was already kinda high even before the money arrived at his doorstep.
BUT TEDDY DID REDEEM HIMSELF. Kinda. In the one scene around chapter 34 where Teddy’s father has been brought back into the picture, after vanishing from his child’s life for years due to heavy gambling issues. Alice is wary to trust Charlie (Teddy’s father) and she has every right to be: the man vanishes for years and returns when Teddy just so happens to come across millions upon millions of dollars? NUH UH I WASN’T BUYING IT. But Teddy did. He had “faith” in his father that he has “changed” but unfortunately the facade fell and Charlie begged Teddy for money.
It did hurt me a little to see Teddy damaged after he held so much hope for change in his dad. After a day of persuading Alice that Charlie wouldn’t ask Teddy for a chunk of his money and held a stable job, Charlie breaks his promise and pleads for financial help.
The “character development” I was droning on about a couple paragraphs ago on Teddy did actually occur right here. You see, Teddy is a pretty loyal gal. He’s practically a puppy—cute, loyal, kind. . .But when his father steps over the line, he tells his dad that he won’t get his hands on any of Teddy’s newfound wealth.
Charlie, to no one’s surprise, goes off on Teddy against helping family to which Teddy responds, “‘You barely raised me at all. You threw away our savings, our home, our family for a few rounds of poker'” (p. 286). Teddy doesn’t trust his father, and neither do I. So that shift from “he’s changed, I promise” to “you just came to get money” assertiveness is what I really appreciated in Teddy’s character.
OKAY I think that’s enough rambling about Teddy for this review. He could have an entire review to himself
which I feel like he would prefer, actually but alas this book held more than just a conceited, super angsty teenage boy.
How about Alice? I’d like to say our MC is important to Windfall, yes? Well anyway I’d like to start off declaring that Alice was unbearably selfless. She placed others above herself, clearly. I like this, but also when she experienced little bursts of assertiveness I realized just how little these experiences occur.
When the cute junior is falling for her, Alice drags him along even when she doesn’t have feelings for him like he does to her. I understand this, she didn’t want to hurt his feelings. Makes sense. But eventually she realizes that she has to break things off or he’ll be even more hurt in the end.
And for the longest time, Alice placed her late parents on a pedestal as these superhuman gods that devoted their lives to giving back and charity, but they fought and cried and struggled to afford education just like any normal parents do. Alice, unable to break the idea that her parents weren’t the shining picture perfect people she remembered, falls apart in San Francisco with Teddy by her side.
But overall I really liked Alice. She was the girl who gave and gave while the world continued to take and take from her. The whole “lucky” motif
HA motif, psh, motif, what am I, an English major? Actually, gimme two years and that’ll be correct was something that I really enjoyed. ESPECIALLY WHEN LEO GOT A DOG AND ALICE NAMED HIM LUCKY. That was cute.
I loved the contrasts within this novel. Maybe you don’t know, but contrasts are my favorite thing to discover in books! In Windfall, there seems to be a clear contrast between realist Alice and idealist Teddy, despite their similar difficult upbringings. Another contrast was when comparing whether she should enroll at Stanford or Northwestern, Alice refers to this as comparing the “present and the past” which is an A++ metaphor in my book (punnnsss.)
That’s all I have to say! With a wonderful setting in both Chicago and briefly in San Francisco, colorful side characters, and 141.3 million dollars, I truly enjoyed the novel Jennifer E. Smith has written for us this time. I’ve been a reader of Smith since spring 2014, so jumping back into her well-crafted worlds is like returning home.
Although there’s one thing I’d like to point out: how does an author with the title The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight also write a novel about winning the lottery? THESE ARE VERY CONFLICTING STORYLINES.
Okay, I’m done.
I hope you enjoyed my review! If you won the lottery, what’s the first library you would buy? COMMENT BELOW.