This is Jennifer E. Smith’s newest novel and the first one of hers that I have read. I was expecting swoony romances and heart fluttering mushy scenes, but I didn’t read that in this story. What I read was a little disheartening and slightly concerning. It did not leave me with a good feeling.
Short recap: Alice buys her best friend, Teddy, a lottery ticket for his 18th birthday. It was supposed to be a joke but actually was one of the three winning tickets. Teddy has not had the best life and could really use this money to change things for him and his mom. Will Teddy do what is right or will this money change things for everyone?
The blurb seemed like this would be one of those, “What if…?” stories. What if two kids that were down on their luck actually won hundreds of millions of dollars in the lottery? What if they were able to possibly turn their luck around? Would it change them? That is what drew me to this story. I believe it started out on the right path towards being a really great story but it derailed around the 40% mark. Why? The plot went to crap. Let me explain.
The protagonist, Alice, had a bit of a bad streak of luck when her parents passed away suddenly within a short time of each other. Alice left California to stay with her aunt, uncle, and cousin in Chicago. Nothing crazy there but then comes Teddy. Teddy is the third person in the Alice, Teddy, and Alice’s cousin (his name escapes me right now…). There was a silent romance building between Alice and Teddy but neither wanted to admit it. Still adorable, right? Here comes the kick in the gut: After Teddy wins the lottery with the ticket Alice gave him, he becomes the biggest a-hole on the face of the planet. He turns his back on those that had been there for him his entire life (i.e. Alice and her cousin). What does he do to repay them? Verbally beat them up because they don’t see things the way he does. Meaning, Teddy thinks money will fix everything and make everyone like you. He verbally attacks Alice I cannot tell you how many times. And Alice takes the verbal abuse. She does! She never defends herself but will quickly drop everything to defend Teddy. What in the actual. That bugged the hell out of me. Alice was stubborn for her own reasons, I get that but there was no reason for Alice to be Teddy’s verbal punching bag. And what was the deal with Sawyer?! The boy is introduced as a potential love interest and the *POOF* was gone without another word. Was he brought in to cause a love triangle that went nowhere? WHO KNOWS. I would have much rather read a story line between Alice and Sawyer. It seemed that he genuinely wanted to get to know her as a person, even the stuff she had a hard time telling anyone else. He would have been loads better than Teddy. The plot had huge potential but I lost interest when the above happened. The story went south for me at that point and I found myself not caring. I had a very hard time reading how Teddy treated Alice and she let it happen.
There is probably no need for me to talk about the characters but I’ll do it. I won’t like it but I’ll do it. I felt Alice needed serious professional help. She went to extreme lengths to try to be good enough for her parents after their deaths. It was sweet that she wanted to give back to the community as much as she did, but I don’t see how that helped develop her as a character. She rarely interacted with anyone her own age or did anything outside of the tons of community service she did. Plus, she did not process the passing of her parents well since she lost them at such a young age. I mean it, the girl needed help. Teddy started out humble but too much of an attention whore. I felt it was rude that he would stop a conversation he was having just to make sure he talked to everyone. I didn’t dig that. And Alice’s cousin (still can’t remember his name…) felt like a third wheel. He would try to join the two on the few outings they had but since Alice was so head over heels it was just awkward. I didn’t like the way Teddy treated Alice and the way she lapped up whatever attention he threw her way. It felt…. insulting. She deserved better but didn’t think she could do better. That bothered me.
Maybe I’m just reading too much into this story but I don’t see what everyone else saw in it. It did not make me swoon or go weak in the knees. What it did was grind my gears. I do not like stories where any character, especially the female character, is treated the way Alice was in this story. Alice thought it was normal behavior, that was wrong. I just wished she had stood up and defended herself. I also did not enjoy how Smith tried to wrap everything up in a super neat bow at the end and things were supposed to be great. Uh, no. Not everything can be fixed in 5 pages and I am supposed to just be okay with that. It was not believable.
Since this is my first Smith book I won’t believe that all of them are this way. I want to give the rest of them a chance. I just had higher hopes for this story. I feel it had huge potential but fell incredibly short. The characters should have been developed more and more thought put into the plot. How about he not be such a cliche d-bag after he wins? How about he not be ruthless to the people that have stood by him when he was at his worst? How about he not treat the girl that has had a crush on him for years like something he scraped off of his shoe? How about she voice her concerns and stand up for herself? Just some things to think about.