Windfall – my third Jennifer Smith novel – makes it to my 2017 Good Reads Challenge. It’s the 4th book I’ve read so far this 2017 where I challenged myself to read 12 books at least. Jennifer Smith is a YA (young adult) writer and yes, WindFall is a young adult novel. I still read YA novels from time to time especially when I find the plot interesting.

WindFall Defined

According to Oxford American Dictionary, it’s a piece of unexpected good fortune, typically one that involves a receiving a large amount of money. 

And yes, this novel is about that. The hero of the story, Teddy becomes the youngest lottery winner in the history of lotto and it was all thanks to his best friend and the heroine of the story, Alice who picked out the winning numbers and bought the ticket as a present for his 18th birthday.  

The Plot

It’s a typical story – the part where the girl is secretly in love with her guy best friend who doesn’t seem to notice that said girl best friend has been harboring romantic feelings for him. What makes it an interesting story is really winning the lottery – winning a big amount of money at such a young age!

Imagine winning millions of dollars. What would you do with all the money?

I know I’d probably buy a whole lot of shoes and clothes. And I’d travel first class all the time. I’ll take my friends and my family to explore other countries like Europe and US because I’ve always wanted to go to those places and maybe someday I will when I have enough cash on hand to travel to those places comfortably.

I’d go buy a house in a village in Makati so I could have a place I could call my own because I’ve always wanted to live in a village and I can’t imagine being far away from Makati. It’d be a big house with a pool and a nice garden where I can have friends over. I’d have a room with my own bathroom that has a bath tub and a shower. Plus a huge bed, like those you see in hotels and a walk in closet like that of Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, Carrie Bradshaw in the Sex and the City movie or Princess Mia’s of Princess Diaries 2.

I’d be wise about my money too and not go spending it all on stuff. I’d save some and invest some. I’d even use it as capital for a business. This is the responsible, adult part of me talking. In reality, while I have some money stashed away, I know I still need to up my financial game more – meaning I need to stop almost living from paycheck to paycheck and getting out of debt particularly with my mom!

I didn’t care much about their love story to be honest. I don’t know if it’s because I’m already in my 30s so I can’t relate to teenage romance anymore or it’s simply that I didn’t think they had much chemistry to begin with.

The Characters

Teddy didn’t come from a well off family. In fact, from the way he was described in the book I’d say he was poor. But he’s Mr. Popular Guy who fleets from one girlfriend to another (as most heroes in young adults do). He was raised by a single parent as his father ran off on them after his gambling addiction got way out of hand and only kept in touch on rare occasions such as his birthday.

Ali was an orphan whose parents died a year apart. One from sickness and the other in a car accident. She was raised by her aunt and uncle (her father’s older brother) in Chicago though she was originally from San Francisco.  She was very active in doing charity work because of her parents. She’s also smart.

The problems these two faced in their personal lives as teenagers are quite heavy. When Teddy’s dad ran off on them, he and his mom were forced to leave behind the good life they once knew. And even though his dad was a rare presence in his life, Teddy loved him a lot. It was specially obvious how much he loved his father when he returned to his life – their lives – after Teddy won the lottery and he was just so willing to welcome him back in his life. He was ready to just believe his story about curing his gambling addiction and finally holding down a good job.

Alice had to deal with the loss of both parents and moving far away from the place she once called home.

But I like how the author, Jennifer E. Smith, was able to show that both the hero and heroine of the story grew to conquer the challenges they both faced. I liked that Teddy was able to:

1) Learn to how to manage the money he won and even do some good with it. I was afraid for a while back there that he might fall into the curse of lottery winners. All that money gone simply because he failed to see that even such a big amount can dwindle down to nothing.    

2) Learned the art of tough love. It’s not easy to refuse someone you love especially when they’re suffering or in need I’m sure. And it certainly isn’t easy to refuse – especially in Filipino culture where we have the utang na loob concept – when you know that you’ll be hearing harsh words spoken about you like being called selfish should you refuse to lend money when they know you have so many! But I’m glad Teddy learned that the best probable way to help his dad was not to rescue him from the trouble he put himself in.

3) And okay, I thought it was sweet of Teddy to notice what one thing he can at least give to Ali, his best friend that she would not refuse. It was sweet to think that he wanted to change for the better, to become a better version of Teddy in order to earn the love of Ali. It was also very considerate of him to not jump into a relationship with her so soon when he was still trying to figure things out for himself in order not to hurt his best friend.

As for Ali, I like that:

1) She was finally able to embrace openness. Ali was a closed off person. She didn’t feel like she belonged to her family because they weren’t her real parents and Leo was not her brother. She had her eyes set on going to Stanford for College which was all the way in California because she felt like it was what her mom would’ve wanted for her. She did so much volunteer work because she felt like she should follow in the footsteps of her parents who did a lot of charitable work. Basically, she was living in the past.

To borrow from my favorite how-to-cope-with-a-break-up movie, 500 Days of Summer, when Ali looked back, she only saw the good things. I’m glad she eventually was able to look back to see the other side of things for a better perspective.

Actually that one thing’s all encompassing and pretty much sums up Ali’s life story.

Overall Verdict

It’s a good read. I haven’t encountered a Jennifer E. Smith book I didn’t like just yet and like I said this is already my third (Statistical Probability of Love and What Happy Looks Like)! So yes, go buy the book and read! The book is available in National Bookstore.

Photo credit: Ryan Torrejos (IG: @ryaughn)