When the lottery ticket Alice gives to Teddy, the boy she’s secretly loved for years, wins him a fortune, they discover money really does change everything.
Orphaned at 9, Alice has grown up in Chicago with a loving family: her dad’s brother, Uncle Jake; his Latina wife, Aunt Sofia; and their son, Leo. Uncle Jake—white and fair, like Alice, is a painful reminder of her dad. Struggling to live the life she believes her parents would have chosen, remembering them as passionate altruists, Alice tutors an orphaned foster child and volunteers at a soup kitchen, refusing emphatically when Teddy, who is also white, tries to share his winnings with her. For years, since his gambling-addicted father wiped out their savings, Teddy and his mother have shared a cramped apartment. Generous and impulsive, spending lavishly, Teddy enjoys his new fame. Leo, who feels unjustifiably blessed, having lucked out with great parents (they even made coming out as gay easy), views Teddy’s win as just compensation for a bad-luck childhood, whereas Alice refuses to see good or bad fortune as anything but random. Now, unable to prevent the changes fortune brings, she must learn to weather them. While the feel-good ending feels forced—a shoe that doesn’t quite fit—this compelling read, gracefully told, raises issues seldom explored in popular fiction. How can we rationalize life’s inequalities? What do we owe, and to whom, when blessed with good fortune?
Smart and entertaining, as to be expected from Smith. (Fiction. 12-17)