Three confessions pre-Windfall:
1) I am not the target audience for this book, which comes as a surprise to no one who knows that I am the mother half of this mother-daughter blogging duo.
2) Even though I enjoy a lot of YA fantasy/dystopia, I struggle with YA contemporary; but I will never turn down a buddy-read with my kiddo, contemporary or not.
3) The only thing I’ve read by Jennifer E. Smith is the short story "A Thousand Ways This Could All Go Wrong" in the Summer Days and Summer Nights anthology – but it did happen to be one of my two favorites in that book.
Three confessions post-Windfall:
1) Target audience means nothing. Any book that can make me feel like this book does means it’s a book for me.
2) When a contemporary revolves around a unique concept like winning the lottery and contains YA characters like Alice, Leo, and Teddy, and adult characters like Jake, Sofia, and Katherine – then it’s a book to love regardless of its genre.
3) Up until now, the only thing I’d read by Jennifer E. Smith was a short story in an anthology; but now I’m going to read ALL the Jennifer E. Smith books I can find.
The lottery. That magical random drawing of numbered tickets that makes some lucky person’s dreams come true. I love a certain HGTV show about lottery winners finding their dream home. Mckenzie and I love making plans with what we’d do if we had our own windfall, starting with taking care of friends and family, then giving to charities, then splurging on lots of fun things for us. My dear friend Teresa and I talk about winning the lottery and the library that we’d share and how we’d read and talk books all day long and never worry about having to go to work again. It’s fun! Who hasn’t thought about winning the lottery at some point in life? Having your entire life change in an instant? Alice. Alice hasn’t. Because Alice has already had her whole life changed… her world turned completely upside down, in fact. Alice became an orphan at the age of nine. After her mother died from breast cancer, her father was killed in a car accident one year later. So at nine years old, Alice went to live with her Uncle Jake, Aunt Sofia, and cousin Leo. She and Leo, along with their best friend Teddy, have been inseparable ever since. For Teddy’s birthday, Alice buys him a lottery ticket and tells him how she truly feels about him in a card. The card gets lost. But the ticket? The ticket is a winner, and it makes Teddy a millionaire overnight. And Alice’s whole world shifts again.
Alice is a character I would crawl through the pages for just to be able to pull her into a big hug. Then I’d search out Leo, because that is one adorable guy. Everybody in the world needs a friend like Leo. And Teddy. Teddy gets a hug, too. Sometimes he gets a gentle elbow in the side… but mostly he gets hugs. These three friends are some of the most endearing YA characters I’ve had the pleasure to read about.
I adore the author’s writing and the way she tells this story so stunningly. This book touched my heart, it made me laugh, and it made me tear up… more than once. It’s full of heart and a really great message, too. There’s so much I could tell you about that happens in the pages of this book, but I just want you to read it. I want you to meet these characters and fall in love with them just like I did. There’s more than one kind of lottery out there; and I love that this book is a reminder that, because of the people we love who love us back… we’ve already won.
Windfall is a book like none other I've read; it's such a unique concept. This isn't just a regular contemporary high school novel. There is so much more here than just a boy and a girl in high school. And Alice and Teddy are not typical contemporary characters. Yes, they're in high school; and yes, Alice is in love with her best friend; but those are the only similarities. Those are the constants. Because once Alice buys Teddy a winning lottery ticket for his birthday, everything else changes.
These characters. I'm honestly not sure where to begin on just how much I loved these characters. Alice is the best friend we've all always wanted; she's the most lovable, unannoying, genuine lead character I've found in a contemporary. She has such a beautiful heart and carries so much grief inside it; this is one of those cases where I feel the urge to climb inside the pages and tell the character everything is okay and that she deserves the world. Teddy was an incredibly enjoyable character and love interest. He brought humor where it was much needed and always managed to make Alice (and me) smile; but he carried grief of his own, and my heart broke for him, as well. Leo, however, may be my favorite. I firmly believe everyone needs to have a Leo at some point in their lives. He is the voice of reason and he's always looking out for Alice and Teddy, but he is also kind and caring and the sort of friend one is very lucky to find. And I'm so grateful he and Alice and Teddy had each other.
One of my favorite aspects of this book was the lack of character description. The only physical detail we get about Alice is her blonde hair when she first arrives to live with her aunt and uncle as a little girl, and we find that Leo and Teddy have brown eyes and brown hair. But that is all we get for appearances. Because that is not what this story is about. In all honesty, it's not what life is about. I really appreciate a book that forces the reader to think like that, to focus more on actions and personalities of the characters than on the mental image the descriptors in a book conjure up. Reading a book like this, putting yourself in that kind of mindset, shows what really matters, that appearances have no bearing on what happens in a person's life or what kind of person they are. I think that's a message the world really needs these days, and I'm grateful to Jennifer E. Smith for subtly reminding us all of it.
Windfall was a beautifully emotional story filled to the brim with heart and hope, and I am so glad to have picked this one up. Not only is the writing captivating and brilliant, but these characters are so very important and are ones every reader needs to know. I implore you to give this book a chance, even if you think it's not your genre, or that it won't appeal to you in some other way. Take my word for it. Take our word for it. This book is special.
Thank you to the publisher for providing us with a copy of this book in exchange for our honest reviews.