Hi friends! Today I’m here again to bring you another “She Says, She Says” discussion post! A little while ago, my friend Mollie and I buddy-read Jennifer E. Smith’s new novel – Windfall! We were both really excited to get into this one, so we decided to chat about it together and share our musings and fangirling with y’all!
We talked over four nights, discussing the characters and themes and things that had been happening in Windfall since we spoke previously. Let me tell you – we had a lot of thoughts! Don’t worry, all of them are spoiler free. In short, we both adored Windfall and it’s a must-read for all fans of contemporary.
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.
Buddy Read // Session 1
S: Hi Mollie! Thanks so much for joining me! I’ve adored reading Windfall so far. Let’s firstly talk about luck! We’ve read up to part 2 already, and we can see that luck plays a big part in regards to the lottery ticket. Personally, I don’t believe in a luck that ‘controls’ us or acts like fate – I think that we make our own luck through the decisions that we make and the way we choose to live. Do you believe in luck?
M: I think that there isn’t such a thing as luck personally, because we can usually choose our own path in our decisions and we can usually change and pick most of the things we choose and at the end of the day they affect the ‘luck’ we have I guess.
S: I completely agree! And I loved the whole idea with the lottery ticket. I feel like it’s something a lot of us fantasise about – winning millions of dollars and never having to work again – but surprisingly I’ve never read about it happening in a YA book before! If you were to win a million dollars, what would you do with it?
M: This is a tricky one! Obviously half of me would want to donate a fair bit to charity just because I feel like I could for one not even spend that much in the first place on myself, I would probably also probably buy something for my mum and dad cause just to be cheesy and let’s be real a lot of books would probably be bought, what about you, what would you do with a million dollars?
S: I love all your ideas! It’s so sweet that you’d buy something for your parents. I’d definitely want to donate some to charity, possibly animal shelters or to support mental health organisations. And then I’d like to buy a place to live in – not too fancy, but comfortable. And then, of course, I’d need some books for my new house! Oh, and a personal library. You know, all the essentials! So how are you finding Windfall overall at the moment? I know we’ve only read about 70 pages, but do you feel connected to the characters so far?
M: I love all your ideas too! I really do like it so far, I really like Alice as a main character and really feel for her as a character and I also particularly like Leo as a character and also the fact that he is LGBTQIA+ (he is isn’t he that wasn’t just me?) but I so far just love the whole plot centring around luck and the lottery and can’t wait to see where it goes! How are you finding it? Do you like where the story has started off and the characters so far?
S: Is it strange that I always seem to take a while to feel connected with the characters and really get to know them? For me, the plot is the main thing I focus on in the beginning. I want to really understand what’s happening, where the story is set and where it’s going. Up until the half-way mark, the characters are always reasonably forgettable to me! But Alice is cool enough so far. And because of that, I didn’t even know Leo is a part of the LGBTQIA+ community! I’m excited to read more about him now.
M: That’s such a cool concept to go into books with wow, to me I always have to look at the characters at least a little first to see if I’m going to like them because if I don’t I tend to not be as invested in the story and them as much.
S: No way! It sounds like we’re complete opposites! So where do you think the story will go now? I know that, of course, nothing’s going to be a walk in the park. All the talk we’ve had so far of them fearing losing the ticket is already stressing me out! If they lose the ticket, I swear to god…
M: I feel like things are about to change between Teddy and the others pretty dramatically once he has all that money especially for Alice who is still trying to capture his attention and I feel like a lot of twists and turns and hard times are to come!
S: I think so too! I really like the prospect of Alice’s and Teddy’s relationship changing, and I hope things work out between them. And I mean, they say that money can’t buy you happiness, but maybe it could buy them love?
M: I can only hope! I really hope that Teddy will see that Alice is there and always has been and doesn’t fall for all of the ‘fake’ relationships that I’m sure will come with his newfound fortune.
S: I hope so too. I guess we’ll just have to keep reading! Let’s read up to Chapter 22, which is roughly halfway through the novel, and chat again! Sound good?
M: Sounds awesome!
Buddy Read // Session 2
S: Hello again, Mollie! For those of you reading this, we chatted last night about what we read up to Part Two, and now we’ll be discussing everything that’s happened up to Part Four! Spoiler-free, of course. No naming-and-shaming. Let’s start by talking a little about our emotions in regards to what we’ve just read. I’m feeling a bit angry, but also frustrated because of the way that Teddy’s been acting in regards to him becoming a multi-millionaire overnight. How are you feeling about that?
M: I think the main emotion that I’m feeling would have to be frustration for how Teddy is acting, as well as sympathetic for Alice as a few different and new things were revealed about Alice in the parts we read today about her past that really helps us to understand more about her actions and just her as a character!
S: I completely agree! I think the main thing I was surprised to find was that there’s a bit of a love triangle going on. If you know me at all, you’ll know that 9 times out of 10, I hate love triangles! The obvious excuses are, of course, with Will and Jem in The Infernal Devices and the classic Edward and Jacob. What are your thoughts on the love triangle we’re seeing forming?
M: To me, the love triangle seems to be a little one sided so far and I’m not sure how long the other side will last and I’m still not 100% how I feel about that but the main thing that I feel about it is that I like that it isn’t sort of the main aspect like it doesn’t take away from the story as of yet at least and as long as our main character is happy in the end with the one she chooses I guess that is the main thing! What about you Sarah?
S: Very true! I always hate it when the love triangle seems to be the main focus of a narrative. I do hope she’ll end up with Teddy, but at the moment, I’m feeling quite unsure about him. Some of his recent actions have been really questionable and I’m not liking the way he’s handling some situations. Do you think his change in behaviour and attitudes were warranted from him winning the lottery?
M: I think a lot of his actions made in the current parts we recently read were for sure from his lottery win, I think that after not having so much money and then all of a sudden having so much that he is kind of just trying to get used to the fact that this is his life and to be a winner at such a young age too probably makes it a lot more harder to act normal about it too, I think he has made a lot of bad decisions but at the end of the day I really hope that he does some massive redeeming to all those that he has done wrong too. How do you feel about it?
S: I really hope he redeems himself to. I mean, it’s scary, right? He’s the same age as us and he’s making such massive decisions and using his position in the media in a way that could trail him for the rest of his life. I’d like to hope that I’d act more responsibly in his situation, but you can’t really know how you’d act unless you were in his shoes. It would be hard not to let that fame and attention get to you, wouldn’t it?
M: It would be hard to not let the fame get to your head I guess! How are you feeling about the trio’s friendship in the last 2 parts that we have read? Do you think it is a healthy relationship at the moment or are you also beginning to see the cracks begin.
S: Their friendship dynamics have definitely shifted – understandably, too. I feel like they have some tough times ahead and the only way they’re going to get through them and remain friends is by communicating with each other truthfully, and I feel like that’s not happening enough at this point. If you could say one thing to Alice, Leo, and Teddy, right now, what would you say?
M: To Alice, I would probably assure her that change is good and she can’t keep going on forever the same and I think she would find that if she just let some more people in she would find herself a lot happier. To Leo, I would probably remind him that there are ups and downs in life but not to worry about being ‘cursed’ or ‘the universe’ making up what happens because in the end what happens is mostly our own choices and decisions in the end. And to dear Teddy, probably just let him know a lot of things but mostly to just open his eyes to the amazing friends he has by his side and that he is loved and doesn’t need to feel like he doesn’t belong. What about you?
S: I love your answers. I think that instead of telling them each one thing, I’d grab Alice and Teddy and shove them together, refusing to let them out of the room until they talk to one another and stop hiding how they’re really feeling. It just frustrates me so much! So I guess what I’d say is: “You’re not leaving this bunker until you communicate with one another. I will be right here, eating pizza, and you can’t have any until you’ve worked through your differences and become a cute couple like I want you to be.” Haha!
M: Haha! Couldn’t agree more! How do you feel about the upcoming battles that are probably going to come up in the next few chapters? Do you feel as though it’s going to bring Teddy and Alice closer or further apart?
S: As much as I don’t want to admit it, I think that Teddy and Alice have a hard time ahead of them both, especially in regards to their relationship. I feel as though, in order to make their friendship work and for it to transform into something more, they have to work through the hard stuff first. And it’s undeniable that these kind of situations make for unputdownable reads! Do you like reading books with this kind of tension? Do you get as frustrated as I do?
M: I love them but I also get so super frustrated that I can’t stop reading if that even makes any sense haha!
S: I feel exactly the same! Last question for tonight – At the moment, what other books would you recommend for people who are enjoying Windfall like we are? Have you read any of Jennifer’s other novels?
M: I don’t think I’ve read anything like it in the sense of the lottery plot, but I have read This Is What Happy Looks Like and I really enjoyed it and I think that this book definitely has a lot more meaning and values to it than that book, at the moment I would probably say people would probably like Jenny Han’s books if they liked Windfall, what about you? Have you read anything like Windfall before?
S: I’ve actually had three of Jennifer’s novels sitting on my shelves for the past three years! I’m terrible! But because I’m enjoying Windfall so much, I’m definitely thinking I’ll have to get onto her other novels ASAP. While I haven’t read anything similar in regards to the lottery element, her writing style does remind me of Morgan Matson. I adore her books, and Second Chance Summer particularly comes to mind when thinking of books for fans of Windfall!
M: Good answer! I love Morgan Matson too! Also totally recommend getting around to reading those other Jennifer books afterwards!
S: Will do! It was great to chat tonight. Let’s talk again when we get to Part Five! I’m going to go and binge-read this now – it’s brilliant!
Buddy Read // Session 3
M: Hello again Sarah! Now that we have both read up to part five, how are you feeling about the direction that the plot is going? Can you see a happy ending for anyone coming?
S: Hey Mollie! The last part we read was definitely intense – I’m not sure if we have enough pages left to resolve anything! What happened has left things in quite a mess and while it did provide for the opportunity to see some things start to look better, for everything that looked like it was going up, there were three things that could potentially end in a wreckage! I just hope my OTPs get together by the end. That’s all I want at this point! What about you? Is there one thing in particular you’re scared of happening (without spoilers, of course!)?
M: I agree! This last part we read was stressing me out ah! I feel like a lot of paths were opened and also a few endings to paths were closed and I’m honestly just hoping that my OTP ends up together and everyone is essentially happy in the end! I’m just scared that some characters aren’t going to get the happy ending they deserve honestly is my biggest thing I’m scared of!
S: That’s a reasonable fear to have at this point in time! I think the most dramatic thing to happen in the last part we just read was the emergence of a parental figure in the story. While the parents of our protagonists have been relatively absent for the entirety of the novel, one person in particular seemed to be thrust into the spotlight. How do you feel about them showing up? Did you have bad feelings all along, and do you think we need to see more of everyone else’s family?
M: I definitely had bad feelings with a certain parental figure that turned up in this part, all along I felt not very good vibes to them and just didn’t really want to believe that anything good could come of them sadly. I feel as though I would really love to see more of Aunt Sophia (?) especially because she hasn’t been as evident in the story as I would like and I feel like they are very important to Alice’s life and would really like to see more on her and hear more of her thoughts and moments with her and Alice. What were your thoughts on this mysterious parental figure that was in the spotlight of this part?
S: I had hoped that they were genuine, but it was hard to ignore that feeling that they were up to something. Sadly, this was quite a heartbreaking part of the book, but I’m satisfied with the way one particular protagonist handled the situation. I’ve got one particular scene in mind that was especially heart-wrenching, and I couldn’t help but hold my breath for the poor characters. Thankfully, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Soon after, there was a part that made me feel as though this character was showing the potential to redeem themselves and it definitely made me look at them in a different light. How did you feel about that particular scene, and has your opinion on this character changed from the beginning of the novel?
M: In reference to that scene, I think it showed a different side to the character involved and it was a side that I myself was waiting to come and I was thankful for it being the way it was that’s for sure! Also in this part, we find characters making decisions on things like universities to go to, do you think they have so far made good choices on them or do you feel as though changes could be quickly made?
S: I do think that a lot of the decisions made throughout the narrative have been rushed or not thought out completely, but maybe that’s just the side of me that likes to plan to perfection talking. I mean, I probably wouldn’t make a list of pros and cons for every dollar I spent if I won millions of dollars in the lottery. However, I’m liking how the characters seem to be thinking more rationally at the end of the part we just read and I have high hopes that this will continue into the penultimate chapters. In relation to one particular breakup, how do you feel about this and what are your hopes for this character? Were you as heartbroken for them as I was?
M: I wasn’t so much heartbroken because I feel as though they may come together in the end but that may just be me being the stubborn person I am and I go into denial when some of my faves breakup, I just really hope things will be sorted soon so my heart can be a happy sunshine again. I just feel as though there is still a lot of love there and that the breakup was again a rushed decision and let’s just hope for the best I guess! That now concludes our chat for tonight, thanks Sarah for your great answers, now we will read until the end of the book and then come back again for a final wrap up of our thoughts!
S: Thanks for chatting again with me, Mollie! Fingers crossed everything works out in the ways that we hope for. Talk when we reach the end!
Buddy Read // Session 4
M: Hey Sarah! Welcome back, now that we have both finished Windfall, how are you feeling? Were you satisfied with the ending?
S: Hi again, Mollie! Wow, those last few chapters were a rollercoaster! I’m really happy with the way things ended up, but you know me, I will never be satisfied. If I love a book, no amount of pages will ever be enough! And I would have loved to know more about what will happen next and to get some confirmation on where things are headed, but sometimes those semi-open endings are the best ones. They’re so accurate, right? Did you feel as though there was too much left up in the air? Or just the right amount?
M: I feel like I was a little unsatisfied, but that is mainly for the fact that I will forever be wondering what happened next and it kills me that I will never actually know for sure, which shamefully happens a lot for me and I get a little frustrated over it but overall it wasn’t a bad ending at all and I guess that I was for the most part fairly satisfied with it.
S: I completely understand that feeling. Without giving too much away, do you think you were happy with where our protagonists ended up? For me, seeing their growth was really moving and I loved going on this journey with them. We laughed together, cried together, and I definitely won’t be forgetting about these two normal teenagers who had their lives turned upside down because of a string of numbers. How did you feel about their overall development?
M: I really loved watching the development of the characters, I think it was really realistic and I felt as though I could feel the emotions of the characters myself which is always a sign that I am loving and connecting to a set of characters. I also found a good contrast of sad and really significant scenes and also just sarcastic scenes to be a real rollercoaster of emotions and it was just all round such a good plot that had some really different and quirky characters. What is message that you found important in Windfall, and what does it mean to you?
S: Ooh, I love that question! I think the main thing that I gained from Windfall was the message to always be myself, even when it’s hard. There’ll be times in life when the wind tries to push us one direction and, sure, we’re allowed to change, but we can’t be forced into being something we’re not because of our circumstances. Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but I think it’s always important to remember the person you used to be and the person you want to be. Don’t let others change you into someone you can’t recognise. What did you take from Windfall?
M: I completely agree to your answer! I found that the main message was about change too, that change can’t be just thrown upon a person and also that it is okay to change and we can be our own people and we don’t have to live in the shadows of who people want us to be. I think the lottery was a very good way to approach this topic too because it is going to inflict change upon a winner it’s just up to the winner to decide which path of change they wish to take. Who was your favorite character to follow in Windfall and why?
S: I really loved Teddy, but not for all the obvious reasons. Sure, he was a pretty adorable love interest at times, but at other times, he was really infuriating. I always knew that he had a heart of gold and it pained me to see him act rashly sometimes and do things that would make me want to shout at him through the pages, but ultimately, I knew he was a good person. But watching him grow into a great person was honestly one of the most rewarding parts of reading Windfall. The generosity that had been in his heart the whole time, but may have gotten buried along the way, eventually rose to the surface and allowed Teddy to redeem himself for every stupid thing he did. He was frustrating and annoying and made mistakes, but I loved him because of that. No one’s perfect – he’s far from it. But even in the end we see all his potential and we’re left with the feeling that he will go on and do amazing things. (Which makes me wish there was a sequel!) Who do you think you saw yourself in most?
M: Love your answer there, completely agree! For me, I think I saw myself the most in Alice, because I do love to help people and if I won that money I feel like the most of it would go to helping those in need of it most, I also found that I agreed with a lot of her actions and in that sense I guess we relate too. I would also say I relate to Leo in the dog/animal loving department because as we all know I love animals and am obsessed haha, what about you?
S: Honestly, those two are the people I saw myself the most in too! They’re both people I found really easy to connect to because I could see a part of myself in them, which always helps when trying to write relatable characters. The characters were definitely my favourite aspect of this novel and I loved being taken on this journey with them. Okay, last question! If you had to describe this book in three words, what would they be?
M: Ooh this is a hard one! Probably, meaningful, bittersweet and addicting. This book was for sure one full of ups and downs but also had moments where you couldn’t help but be left in awe. I also found it be a big page turner and just wanted to keep on going. How would you describe Windfall in three words?
S: Those three words are perfect! I’d have to go with “hopeful”, “heart-warming” and “poignant”. After reading Windfall, all I want to do is binge-read the author’s other novels!
M: I totally recommend you do that! Though I did find Windfall to be fairly different in the way that it had more meaning and a very different sort of spin to it I do recommend you go check them out! Thank you for reading along with me Sarah! It was an absolute pleasure!!
S: I definitely will! And thank you! It was so fun to be able to chat with you (mostly fangirl, let’s be honest) and I hope we can do this again soon!
Have you read any books by Jennifer E. Smith? Does Windfall sound like a book you’d love to read? Have you read any books with the ‘friends to lovers’ trope? I’d love to know!
Thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!