Saturday, 29 February 2020

Book Review: Jackpot by Nic Stone

Jackpot is about a teenage girl, Rico, who lives just above the poverty line and works as a gas store clerk to help her mother earn enough money to keep their heads above water. Between all the shifts she has to do, looking after her younger brother Jax when her mom's at work, and her mother's refusal to try for benefits, things aren't going well.

But then Rico sells a lottery ticket worth over $100 million dollars, and thinks she knows who bought it. She's determined to track down the kindly lady in the hope that she'll share just a little of her fortune - but needs help to do so. In steps hacker Zan, a super-rich and popular classmate of hers. Can the two hit the jackpot?

I'm a huge fan of Nic Stone's, having loved Odd One Out and Dear Martin, but in many ways this actually surpassed the high expectations I had for it. Rico and Zan are an absolutely wonderful pairing; one of my favourites for years in YA. She's easy to cheer on because she's trying so hard in an awful situation to support her family, and Jax is adorable - the sibling relationship here is another excellent one. I also thought her issues with her mom were really well-done, with her mom's tendency to want to get treats and things for them clashing with Rico's fear of spending money they couldn't afford. (I'm far more similar to her mom in this case - I have little impulse control - but given the dire state of their finances and their lack of health insurance, it was easy to see how frustrating this was. Meanwhile, Zan clearly cares deeply for Rico and despite his family's riches has problems of his own. I thought the way he treated Jax was really sweet. Zan's friends Jess - who's a popular girl, but lives in the same building as Rico and has her own money worries - and her boyfriend Finesse are well-developed supporting characters as well, as are Rico's boss at the gas station and one of her regular customers.

In addition to the majority of the narrative, told from Rico's POV, there are interludes from inanimate objects - the ticket itself, a pile of bills, Zan's sheets, and many others. They're quirky but they do a really good job in developing character and letting us know things Rico couldn't know herself.

The two main plot strands are the quest for the jackpot-winning ticket, and the developing "will they, won't they" romance, both of which are well-handled and kept me guessing, building up to a great climax. The book also does a fantastic job of dealing with lots of heavy themes including the struggle to survive in poverty, class differences, parental expectations, making tough decisions, planning for the future and moral dilemmas. 

As great as Dear Martin and Odd One Out were, this is my favourite of Nic Stone's books, a massive recommendation - and I'm so excited for her upcoming MG with Knights Of, Clean Getaway!

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