Crown Books for Young Readers, October 2019
Jackpot by Nic Stone is the YA jewel I didn’t know I needed. Rico is tough and serious, in her determinedly matter-of-fact way. She knows all she will ever need to know about each of her classmates. Without having an actual conversation, Rico knows what their home lives must be. She can tell what type of people they are. Rico is so grown, she even knows exactly how each of her peers sees her.
So, it’s not such a big deal for Rico to stay out of that basic, high-school drama; she’s truly got no time for it, anyway. Mama is hounding her to pick up extra shifts at the gas station. The purest person on the planet, her little brother, Jax, seems to stay sick. And she does still need to graduate.
Zan, rich-boy-because-of-daddy’s-toilet-paper, is not someone Rico ever envisioned approaching. Truth be told, she hid when he popped into her Gas ’n’ Go on Christmas Eve, just so she wouldn’t have to be polite to him. But now, his mad-hacker-skills may be exactly what Rico needs.
Something else happened that night-before-Christmas. Rico sold a winning lotto ticket, but the prize has not been claimed. Rico vividly recalls chatting with the sweet little lady who mentioned being forgetful. She will do everything possible to track this woman down in time to claim the jackpot.
While the sullen Rico is stuck with the inexplicably cheerful Zan, she grows annoyed by his habit of asking the questions that most folks would just mull over, silently. Replying to his sneaky, probing, seemingly-innocent queries got Rico thinking.
More time together meant more self-realization and Rico began to wonder if her earlier assumptions were not entirely accurate. Maybe, being part of a family that is financially well-off does not necessarily mean having whatever you want. Perhaps someone can be decked out in all-Nike-attire and still legitimately need food stamps. Maybe money is a blessing. Or, it could be a curse.
Ms. Stone’s characters are authentic enough to feel familiar, but fresh enough to be invigorating. Day-to-day life, even when infused with Something Different, is realistic and relatable. The occasional appearance of unexpected and unlikely narrators elevates the entire book in a way that I find intensely delightful.
Reviewed by jv poore, June 2020.