Also by this author: Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between, Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories
Published by Delacorte Press on May 2nd 2017
Pages: 418 •Goodreads
Let luck find you.
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.
I’ll admit I succumbed to major, major cover love with the purchase of Windfall. I had seen a LOT of mixed reviews, but the greens and blues were so my #aesthetic so I decided to buy it (I mean, if all else failed, I got a gorgeous Instagram photo of it). I was also intrigued to see how Jennifer E. Smith portrayed the winning the lottery premise, as another YA book released this year, Lucky in Love, also dealt with the same theme. There’s something so fun about wistfully talking about all of the things you’d do if you won the lottery, so I again caved to the wish-fulfillment promise of the plot and picked up my second lottery themed book of the summer.
Like Jennifer’s other novels, Windfall has some of her trademark elements: a quietly determined protagonist, introspective writing into the character’s insights, and a genuine warmth and sweetness and goodness that envelops you like a blanket- that everything will be alright in the end. However, these elements I loved so much were often brought on by the secondary characters in the novel- Uncle Jake and Aunt Sophia, who have served as Alice’s surrogate parents since the death of her own. Leo, Alice’s cousin who has been a brother to her and is navigating his own future and heartbreak. Caleb, the young foster child who Alice tutors in reading and develops a love for the message and relationships portrayed in Charlotte’s Web. All of these characters drove the story for me, were the glimpses I kept coming back for when I was underwhelmed by the protagonists of the story.
Alice and Teddy- the two main characters, represented by the gold bear and alligator figurines depicted on the cover of the book (which I have to admit, is a very cute touch once you realize the reference). Alice unknowingly buys Teddy a multi-million dollar winning lottery ticket as a joke present for his 18th birthday, thus serving as the catalyst for the rest of the novel. While seeing the snowball effect of the lottery win was fun, I had a really hard time connecting and empathizing with Alice and Teddy. Alice is almost too good, too wholesome- she spends almost all of her free time volunteering, constantly striving to make her deceased parents proud, gets accepted to multiple top schools in the nation, always does THE RIGHT THING, etc. This perfection honestly made her rather boring to read about (as bad as that sounds). Yet she still manages to fall in love with Teddy (the classic falling in love with your BFF trope) who is honestly quite impulsive and selfish even before winning the lottery, and does a lot of really crappy things (especially to Alice) without really facing any repercussions by the end of the book, and without Alice really taking a stand either against him or for herself and the way he’s treated her.
Overall: While it was hard for me to really enjoy a novel when I was irked by the main characters, this story does have the trademark sweetness of a Jennifer E. Smith tale. While it’s not my favorite novel by her and it dragged in some spots, the secondary characters were lovely and the gorgeous cover doesn’t hurt!