Jennifer E. Smith is, somewhat surprisingly to me, one of my favorite young adult/teen (YA) authors. I say surprisingly because her books are all about romance, and teen romance isn’t usually my bag; full of drama and without the sex scenes – what’s the point? But there are a few distinct differences in a Jennifer E. Smith teen romance that I heartily approve of and that’s what keeps me coming back for more. First and foremost, there’s always more to the story than straight romance, and the romance is not usually the main point of the story tension or drama. The relationship is usually a more unique type of romance and the story between the two lovers genuinely builds throughout the course of the novels. Also, Jennifer E. Smith started as an editor, and so her writing is so tight, it’s a beauty to read. There isn’t a comma or dangling participle out of place. Lastly, even if there isn’t a “happily ever after””-type of resolution, the stories do wrap up without leaving anything hanging, which always provides its own satisfaction. Previously, I reviewed The Geography of You and Me, though I also absolutely LOVED her The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. Today, I’ll be talking about Windfall.
9780399559372, hardcover, $18.99, Random House, Pub. Date: May 2, 2017
Short blurb: Luck impacts everyone in different ways. Bad luck can cause massive change, which is what happened to Alice after the death of her parents when she was a child. Now 18, Alice is about to learn that good luck can bring about some pretty major consequences as well. It’s up to her to decide how she’s going to react to what luck brings into her life.
Synopsis: Alice, Leo, and Tony have been best friends since Alice first moved in with her aunt and uncle and Leo (her cousin) years ago due to the bad luck that befell Alice’s family. Unfortunately for Alice, she then had the bad luck to go and fall in love with Tony. Despite her lack of belief in good luck, Alice buys Tony a lottery ticket as a gag gift on his 18th birthday, and of course, the impossible happens – Tony wins. From there follows the series of events that one would imagine would occur when a not-out-of-high school kid wins the lottery – Tony goes overboard with everything. Especially considering that’s a bit of his personality to begin with. While Leo wrestles with decisions about art school – apply to Michigan where his boyfriend is going or the Art Institute of Chicago which has been his dream – and Tony buys everything not nailed down and loses (temporarily) sight of what’s truly important to him in life, Alice struggles to accept that change is inevitable, that decisions about life, love, and college need to be made, and that the most important thing is to follow her heart, not to live her life for anyone else (even her deceased parents).
Personal notes: FYI – if you have read other Jennifer E. Smith romances, this did not have quite the same feel as her others. Full disclosure: I can’t quite put my finger on why. It might be a little more serious than I was expecting, or it might not have had quite the same convoluted happy ending storyline that I’ve come to expect based on her other books. While the story held up, it left me wanting a little bit more. And – SPOILER ALERT – when Alice chooses not to go to Stanford in the end, but to go to Northwestern instead, I really didn’t see a reason good enough other than the fact that she had decided to take her aunt’s advice instead of follow in her mother’s footsteps. Which, to me, and maybe I’m being a bit too judgmental here, doesn’t exactly equal the personal growth I was looking for from Alice. Overall, I thought that in the personal growth department, there was a bit more telling than showing, and that disappointed me, too. Teddy’s character took a gigantic leap of growth but you don’t witness the process, only hear about it afterward, and then with Alice, you hear a LOT about her thought process, but other than that big decision she makes, you don’t see any real evidence of the growth. That complaint aside, however, I found it thoroughly enjoyable as a relatively lighter, i.e. no real love triangle or other type of drama, romantic teen read. And – SPOLIER ALERT -always hooray for a well-written, happy-ever-after ending for a gay (even secondary) character (yay Leo and Max!).