Book Review: Windfall

Published By: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Page Count: 414
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Young Adult - Contemporary

Alice hasn't been the luckiest in her life. At the age of nine, she had lost both parents in tragic ways. Her life in San Francisco was uprooted and she had to move in with her Aunt Sofia and Uncle Jake in Chicago. While Alice loves her aunt and uncle as well as her cousin, Leo, she feels like she isn't truly a part of their family unit. She always feels like she is lingering just outside of their cozy little bubble. She craves high school graduation and an acceptance letter from Stanford, so she can return to the West Coast and the city she feels is still her home, even after all the time away.

The novel begins on a snowy evening in Chicago as Alice and Leo are buying birthday gifts for their best friend, Teddy, who has just turned eighteen. Like Alice, Teddy hasn't had the best luck in the parent department. While his Dad isn't dead, he is just as absent as Alice's parents in many ways. Teddy's father has a gambling addiction and after blowing through the family's savings, he took off leaving Teddy and his mom to pick up the shattered pieces of their life. The result of his Dad's actions lands Teddy and his mother in a tiny apartment in an unsavory neighborhood. Teddy throws himself into high school athletics to avoid thinking about all the things he does without because money is a constant issue no matter how many hours his mom works at the hospital. To celebrate Teddy's burgeoning adulthood, Alice buys him a lottery ticket using numbers that are significant to their lives while Leo buys him his first pack of cigarettes. Little does the trio know that those gifts will forever alter the course of their lives.

The morning after Teddy's birthday party, he and Alice discover that her gift turned out to be a winner. Teddy will be the youngest lottery winner in history and he will be rolling in the millions. In an instant, Teddy's life changes, but Alice isn't sure that all the changes are positive. Like most teenage boys would Teddy spends his money on frivolous purchases like electronics, clothes, and a sports car. He doesn't seem to have any interest in using his funds for college or contributing to the greater good. Alice tries to encourage him to use the money for more worthwhile items, but this causes a rift in their friendship. To make matters worse, Alice is trying to find a way to tell Teddy how she truly feels about him, but the money keeps getting in the way which makes it perfectly clear to Alice that Teddy will never be interested in her as anything more than a friend.

Money truly does change people. I am a firm believer in that statement and I watched it play out with Teddy throughout the course of the novel. There were moments when I didn't understand why Alice put up with him, but eventually he seems to grow up a bit. He starts to see the money as a responsibility that needs to be used wisely rather than just something to fund frivolous larks for people who only want to take advantage of him. 

Windfall is part grief, part elation, and a whole lot of love. I enjoyed that various forms of love aside from the romantic kind (although that plays a role in the novel) were showcased. There is the friendship between the trio as well as the love and support of family. This is not one of those YA novels were the adult authority figures are absent and oblivious. Jack and Sofia are nurturing and caring parents who want the best for both Leo and Alice; they truly see Alice as their daughter rather than a niece that they took in under tragic circumstances. Teddy's mom also does her best to raise him in a loving, secure home in spite of his father's actions. These are the sort of parent I aspire to be.

I was also constantly thinking about the notion of luck as I read this one. Does it truly exist? Are there people who are inherently lucky or unlucky? Is fate predetermined or does the universe throw out luck at random intervals? I have to agree with Alice that fate isn't sitting around waiting to dole out all of the bad stuff to certain people. She certainly didn't deserve to lose her parents the way that she did. Sometimes things happen in life that just suck and there is little we can do to prevent them. Alice's circumstances reminded me to hug my loved ones a little tighter, to slow down and savor life, and to focus on making the best memories possible. As Alice learns, I don't want to be an island or a peninsula with my family.

Jennifer E. Smith has long been one of my go to authors when I am in the mood for a contemporary read. Windfall is just another example of why I love losing myself in her stories. I become so attached to her characters and I always love the mental vacations to various cities that she chooses as settings. I've read several of her novels, but I think this one is my new favorite. By the end, I truly loved Alice, Teddy, and Leo as if they were my old friends. I will certainly be returning to this novel in the future.

P.S. - This cover is perfect! I love the bear and gator. It'll make sense once you start reading. 

One Last Gripe: The envelope under the fridge lurked on the edges of my brain the entire time I was reading. If this happens to you too, have faith, there will be a resolution.

Favorite Thing About This Book: The relationship between Alice and Leo

First Sentence: When the man behind the counter asks for my lucky number, I hesitate.

Favorite Character: Alice

Least Favorite Character: Teddy's Dad

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.


  1. This sounds great. I'm drawn to the cover, just never got around to reading it. I'm not sure if wealth is a curse, but I'm willing to take the chance! lol

  2. This sounds like an interesting premise, though I also don't like YA books with completely oblivious parental figures. It usually falls somewhat flat for me. I am curious though about the cover's connection to the story...

  3. What a fun back story! I added it to my wishlist. It's true that YA novels sometimes have absentee/distracted parents, but I teach middle school and -- sad to say -- that's a reality for MANY kids.


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