Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Format: ARC e-book
When you write about someone winning the lottery, there are certain places that your mind goes. The winner spends frivolously on a yacht and a robot butler, runs into trouble with credit card companies, and after losing a significant chunk of cash, realises that they should channel their inner Ellen and pay it forward to the deserving public.
That’s pretty much what happens to Teddy. ‘Windfall’ does nothing new with the plot of rags to riches. More dramatic things could have happened in regards to his big spends, but in the end, it works out fine for him. He’s got tons of cash. The end.
Here’s what went wrong:
1) Saint Alice.
The lottery ticket she gives to her best friend for his birthday is the winning ticket and she feels absolutely NO jealously whatsoever! Surely, you’d feel just a modicum of regret and loss that you weren’t the winner? Also, she volunteers at a soup kitchen for the homeless, helps children learn to read, and loves helping charities. She’s the most selfless teenager ever. While that’s commendable, her character fell completely flat because she didn’t have any passion. She was ready to judge Teddy for how he was spending the money, but she declined any share of it (without thinking about how her Aunt and Uncle would feel missing out on not having to pay for her college education – she risks putting her family in debt, just so that she can be on the higher ground? Uh….no.) so she has no right to be disappointed when he doesn’t immediately start helping charities.
Goodie-two-shoes characters are never fun to read about. They can come across as judgemental and have a superiority complex because they’re just SO selfless. This was Alice to a T.
2) Gay Sidekick trope.
Leo is Alice’s cousin and his boyfriend Max wants him to go to Michigan uni so they can be together but Leo wants to go to art college. This sub-plot didn’t fully emerge until half way through and I feel like it was only included so there could be more conflict. Leo was reduced to Alice and Teddy’s sidekick even though they were supposed to be a trio of best friends. While having a gay character is still more than Jennifer’s other novels, it wasn’t the representation he deserved.
3) ‘I’m doing this for my parents and I’m doing this for me.’ Uh, no, girl, you’re clearly doing this for a boy.
I know we were supposed to believe that Alice’s decisions were made based on what she wanted (and what she wanted was to make her parents proud) but I honestly felt like everything she did was so she could be closer to Teddy, so she could improve Teddy’s life. The fact that the whole romantic concept of this book is: ‘girl fawns over guy, guy doesn’t know/treats her like crap but she still loves him. Better guy comes on the scene but her heart is only for douche-guy who she must work to save’ was so cliche and made me lose a lot of respect for Alice.
Teddy, really, is a bit of a jerk. He only gives money away because he feels he has to, not because he genuinely wants to. It’s obvious that a character arc is forced upon him. He needs to go from frivolous douche to lovable idiot for this whole thing to work, right? He’s so naive, but we don’t get to see him objectively because of Alice’s rose-tinted glasses. Although I appreciated his character development in terms of plot, it was predictable.
Things that worked:
1) Alice’s homelife.
Her parents might have died when she was nine, but she is so loved by her Aunt and Uncle and I really liked the revelations that Alice had at the end, even though they came way too late, and family should’ve been a much bigger theme in the book.
2) The message of send-it-on.
This doesn’t come into play until the end, but I think it had a strong message about money and charity and just being kind. I just wish we’d got that sooner!
Overall, I thought this story could have been pushed a LOT more. The ending was sweet, and the character relationships were interesting, it’s just the characters themselves that fell flat. This is a story that relies so heavily on dialogue, and when it’s the same repetitive conversation of ‘take the money’, ‘I don’t want the money’, ‘Fine, I’ll spend it how I like’, ‘No, you can’t! Be good with the money.’, ‘Okay then, take the money.’, ‘I don’t want the money’…I just lost interest. So, ‘Windfall’ isn’t my favourite Jennifer E. Smith, and it definitely doesn’t portray healthy male-female friendships, but the premise was a blast and I had fun thinking about what I would do with all that money. I’m pretty sure Kasie West has written a book with a lottery winning girl protagonist too, so I’ll have to get my hands on that for a comparison!
What would you do if you won the lottery?
What’s your favourite romance trope?