Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 414 Pages, ARC, Paperback
Publication: May 2nd 2017, Delacorte Press
Source: Thank you to Lovereading4Kids and Pan Macmillan for sending me this book to review!
Rating: 5/5 Cupcakes!
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 FOUND MY NEW FAVOURITE BOOK. I wasn't expecting to fall in love with this book as much as I did, but once I read the first few pages, my heart had been completely captured by this heart-rending, compelling read. It's the first book I've read in a long time that has had me utterly entranced, that's had me devouring the magical inked words in a matter of hours, that had tears streaming down my cheeks and laughter bubbling from my mouth. I felt everything whilst reading this and once I'd turned the last few pages, a smile was stretched across my face and my cheeks were damp with tears (mostly of the happy kind) and my heart felt as if it was bursting with joy. This was such an incredibly powerful book and I loved every second of it. Before I picked this up I found myself in a terrible reading slump as most of the books I've read lately have been quite disappointing but this book, wow, it was all kinds of wonderful and it snatched me right out of my slump.
The problem with reviewing a book that I love is I never know what to say. Well, I do. I have a lot to say. I have pages and pages of notes but how can I string together sentences that will perfectly describe the intensity of the emotions I felt and the magnificent literary adventure I've just experienced? I probably can't. But I can compile a list of all the things contained within the pages of this sensational novel that made my heart spin with happiness. You can't go wrong with a good list, can you?
More than a couple of reasons why Windfall is one of my new favorite books ever:
- I loved the characters. I adored them. When I was away from them (not for very long though because I LITERALLY COULDN'T PUT THIS BOOK DOWN), I genuinely felt a pang in my heart. I missed them. I felt as if I'd made the most amazing of friends – they were so incredibly real and complex and I cherished every second spent with them.
- I loved Alice, the main character. Her kindness made me smile and I loved how her heart was so full of love. She had many layers, she had experienced the worst kind of heartbreak but I admired her unbelievable strength. Not only for surviving the loss of her parents but also for becoming close to people, learning to bridge the small but existing distance between her and her loved ones formed from the fear of having them ripped apart from her once she allows herself to truly love them. She was an incredible friend and so supportive but she also had her minor flaws which I loved as it made her feel all the more authentic.
- I had a tumultuous relationship with Teddy, I adored him from the moment we were acquainted, I was angry at him for the way he sometimes unintentionally deserted Alice and then by the end of the book, I was back to adoring him. He was flawed (I love flawed characters) and once again, he felt so real. He became a millionaire several times over at the age of eighteen and as he came from quite a poor background, it would make sense that he would get swept up in the romanticised whirlwind of the rich and the famous and I found myself worrying about him, as I didn't want the funny, kind, fantastic guy I knew him as to allow money to completely alter his personality. But guys, by the end of the book I just wanted to squish him into a hug because he's JUST SO NICE AND KIND AND I LOVE HIM SO MUCH.
- I loved Leo, Alice's cousin. He was so sweet and nerdy and caring and I love him so much. Also: he was sassy. So incredibly sassy. I LOVE SASS. Another thing I adored about Leo was how he could be joking around with Alice one minute and then carrying out a profound conversation with her a couple of seconds later. I love people like that; people you can laugh with and cry with and it feels perfectly natural – Jennifer E. Smith perfectly captured that kind of relationship and it gave me many emotions. This brings me to the next thing...
- The relationships in this book were perfection. Or perhaps, not perfection. Which is why I loved them so much. This book depicted the brilliant highs and the devastating lows of relationships, it displayed the incandescent happiness and serenity the right person can gift to us and the gritty darkness that somehow accompanies it.
- Family and friendship is a major thing in this book. DO YOU KNOW HOW HAPPY THAT MADE ME? I have read many contemporaries but so few actually have a strong family element and it makes me so sad because to me, family is everything. There's Alice's relationship with Leo which made my heart burst with happiness because it was literally the sweetest thing ever. They were cousins but more like brother and sister and I thought their relationship was written beautifully. It reminded me of mine and my brother's relationship – we constantly tease each other but if the other needs to have a Deep Meaningful Conversation, we're all ears. It seriously made me so happy to see family members that genuinely cared for each other. I also LOVED LOVED LOVED LOVEEEDDDD Alice's aunt and uncle (Leo's parents). Uncle Jake was funny and kind and caring and he showed emotions. I've read so many books where the father figures are uncomfortable with showing emotion and are quite gruff and uncaring characters which is just reinforcing the harmful stereotype of it not being manly to show your emotions but anyway I really appreciated the fact that he talked openly with his kids, that he cried, that he showed them how much he cared. He reminded me of my dad and I loved that Jennifer E. Smith wrote a book that had such gorgeous family dynamics as it's definitely something I don't encounter enough in my literary endeavours. Aunt Sofia and Uncle Jack were active parents who actually cared about their kids and cared about what they were getting up to. They were parents that helped their children make the right decisions, that helped them assess all the options before making a potentially life-changing choice, they were parents that their kids turned to in the face of uncertainty which spoke volumes about the brilliant bond between them. The love and kindness that they shared with each other snatched my breath away. I felt a part of their family. And although there were brilliant parent/child relationships there were also ones that were heartbreaking and disappointing. Ones filled with empty promises and and voice mail replies. There were stark contrasts between Teddy's mom (who was so incredible and I admire her work ethic so much), Uncle Jake and Aunt Sophia and Teddy's dad. It made realise again just how much I loved Leo and Alice's parents and it made me realise just how grateful I am for my wonderful parents.
- Another thing I loved about this book was the glorious friendship. Teddy, Leo and Alice had the kind of friendship that allowed them to break in front of each other, to lay out all the baggage and expose their scars – knowing that once they lifted their head cradled in their hands they'd see each other, sitting by their side, allowing them to break and letting them stitch each other back together. It was the once in a lifetime, brilliant kind of friendship that I think everybody always wishes for. I loved it.
- Even though my life is vastly different from the characters in this book, I felt as if though I saw myself and parts of my life in each character. Whether it be unrequited love, a desire to do good, the pang of loss, the crushing sense of disorientation when the place you thought was home causes you to realise you're homesick for somewhere you can never go back to – I think many people will be able to relate to these characters and I love that the author subtly painted them with experiences and emotions that so many people will be able to recognise.
- I love how all of the characters, every single one, had an important role in the story and in the emotional, mental growth of the main characters. I loved how all the storylines were entangled in the most beautiful of ways.
- Generally with contemporaries there can be a lull in the action and the book fails to grab my attention temporarily but I'm happy to announce that this book had me utterly captivated the entire way through. I adored all the small subplots that were woven throughout the book. I LOVED the random acts of kindness movement that the characters engaged in. Lately, I've been on a mission to try to show strangers kindness, I've been wanting to find charities I can volunteer at and this book inspired me all over again to do my part, albeit small, in order to make the world a better place.
- Windfall makes you think. It makes you re-evaluate your life choices. It makes you realise how your life – or the lives of your loved ones – can end in the blink of an eye. It makes you think of all you have to gain – and all you have to lose. It makes you think about your happiness and the happiness of others. About your past, your present and your future. It makes you realise the importance of learning to accept and learning to let go. As well as the importance of learning to not accept and make a change. It was a truly thought-provoking book and it definitely put life into perspective for me – our lives can change, end or only just begin in seconds, we mustn't waste it.
- This book is so incredibly relatable, seriously. There were so many phrases that Jennifer E. Smith included in this novel that made me wander if she had somehow reached into my mind and printed my thoughts onto paper. Whether it be about romance, homesickness for not a place, but a moment in time that you can never return to, loss, feeling misplaced, the enormity of certain decisions, the terrifying uncertainty of this life and the breathtaking but utterly petrifying nature of change. I loved how it felt as if this book had chipped away parts of my soul when I wasn't looking and encapsulated them in blackened ink.
- There is a ship that I ship very much so but no spoilers. ;)
- The dialogue flowed naturally and smoothly. It felt genuine. It felt real. There were moments of profound thought pondered to one another and moments of sarcasm and witty quips that had me laughing out loud.
- This book reminded me of all the good things in the world – the dance of snow, the sound of rain, the glow of the sun, the warmth after performing an act of kindness, the scent of spring and the fizzing, bubbling excitement of new beginnings. Finishing this book my heart felt full, it felt happy, I felt calm – accompanying the brilliant characters, the exquisite writing and the fabulous plot was an ignited sense of inspiration within me, the softening and disintegrating of anxiety that my heart had been harbouring a lot recently, the feeling of contentment, belonging and hope.
- I also love how clean this book is. There's practically no swearing/blaspheming, no sex, the characters don't get drunk or do drugs – DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH THIS MEANS TO ME?? Like I know a lot of people want characters that do that stuff because it's “realistic” but I'm not like that at all and I'm real (I think. Are any of us real? If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? HAHA). There are teenagers out there who don't get blind drunk/do drugs/party/swear/have sex – WE DO EXIST. Thank you so, so, so much to the author for having teenage characters that have the same kind of outlook as me as a lot of the time I'm so put off by a book because the characters do stuff that I could never imagine myself doing. YAY FOR CLEAN READS!