Windfall // by Jennifer Smith

//published 2017//

This was one of those books that just wasn’t for me, even though objectively it was a perfectly fine book.  Alice is an orphan who has lived with her aunt, uncle, and cousin since the death of her parents when she was nine.  Now a senior in high school, she spends most of her free time volunteering for a plethora of charities and secretly pining after her best friend, Teddy.  Since Alice and her cousin, Leo, are the same age, the three of them have all been really close since Alice came to live with Leo’s family.  For Teddy’s 18th birthday, Alice and Leo get him some “adult” things – Leo buys him a pack of cigarettes, and Alice buys him a lottery card.  But when it turns out that the lottery card is actually a huge winner, everything changes.

Like I said, this wasn’t really a bad book.  However, it definitely had some pacing issues.  Parts of this book were SO slow and boring, with literally nothing happening except Alice thinking her thoughts.  Other parts felt rushed, with lots of important stuff happening all at once.  It was really weird to have a book about a big event (winning the lottery) focus on someone on the peripheral instead of the actual person who won.  Throughout the story, Teddy tries to get Alice to take some of the money  since she’s the one who actually picked the numbers, but she refuses for reasons that are pretty vague and felt completely unbelievable coming from an 18-year-old.  Actually, a big part of my problem with this book was that Alice herself felt completely unbelievable.  She spends all of her time volunteering all sorts of different places because she wants to live up to some vague ideal of her parents, but it seemed almost impossible that she could have time to do all the stuff she was doing AND get perfect grades AND hang out with her friends AND be a part of her family.  She serves meals at a soup kitchen and helps kids read at the library and picks up trash etc etc etc.  All perfectly worthy goals, but it just came through as way too much.

Teddy lets all the money go to his head and basically Alice keeps lecturing him about how he should be spending it, despite the fact that she won’t take any of the money herself.  At one point, Teddy more or less says “if you think you have all these great ideas for this money, why don’t you take your half and do what you want with it” and honestly I felt the same.  Alice was such a nag, and it felt so hypocritical for her to keep telling Teddy what he should be doing while also saying that she couldn’t take the money herself because it was “too much responsibility.”  :: eye roll ::

In the end (spoiler) Teddy decides to set up this amazing charity with his money and wants Alice and Leo to help him run it.  And what does Alice say?  “Oh, thanks, but I’ve realized I really need to take more time for myself.”  What.  Even.  Like basically in the end Teddy realizes that he needs to use his resources to help people, but Alice realizes her parents were actually perfect so it’s okay for her to be more selfish.  The whole “point” of the story seemed incredibly muddled and left me feeling confused.

Despite my complaining, it wasn’t a bad story to read.  There are a lot of fun points, and there are some good lessons about dealing with grief, and about how grief doesn’t just magically disappear after a certain amount of time.  I rarely write down quotes from books, but there was a line in this one that really hit me – There’s a space between forgetting and moving on, and it’s not easy to find.  It’s so hard when you lose someone close to you, because you both want to cling to every memory you have, and at the same time to not do that because now all those memories are somewhat painful and hard.  As with most of life, it can be very difficult to find balance.

In the end, I liked this book, but felt like Smith herself wasn’t completely sure what she wanted to say.  Not a bad read, but not one I’m going to pick up again.