Cover of Jackpot: A cartoon girl and guy stand in a white background looking at the reader.

About the Book

Title: Jackpot
Published: 2019
Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Cover Story: It Isn’t Black And White
BFF Charm: Yay
Talky Talk: Conversational
Factor: The Lottery
Anti-Bonus Factor: Awful Grownups
Relationship Status: I’d Bet On You

Cover Story: It Isn’t Black And White

While I love the look of the paperback cover with the lotto numbers in the girl’s hair, I can appreciate the simplicity and bold strokes of this stylized version. It’s eye-catching because it’s sort of plain. There’s good detail to the drawings that make it clear attention was taken to make it authentic to the characters’ styles.

The Deal:

On Christmas Eve, Rico—part-time gas station employee, friendless high school senior, girl struggling to get through everyday life with her sanity intact—sold exactly three lottery tickets for the $212 million dollar jackpot. When she realizes that the unclaimed winning ticket is in the possession of the sweet old lady—who by her own admission has memory problems—Rico decides that it’s her civic duty to track down the woman to make sure she understands what she’s carrying. After all, if Rico herself held that kind of financial freedom in her hands, she’d cry with happiness. And if the lady happens to feel grateful enough to throw a reward Rico’s way…well, sometimes good deeds pay off.

But in order to track down this mysterious woman, Rico is going to need the help of a hacker, and it just so happens that one of the most popular boys in school—heir to a toilet paper company, snazzy dresser, family richer than God—is just the person she needs. Before Rico knows it, or particularly likes it, she has a partner in her investigation. But is Zan helping because of her, or because he wants the money for himself?

BFF Charm: Yay

Yay BFF Charm

Rico has had to grow up long before her time. Her mother works two jobs to support Rico and her sweet little brother, Jax, because she moved them into a neighborhood out of their price range so they could go to better schools. But even with two jobs they can’t cover all the bills, so Rico is forced to work a job herself and put all her paycheck towards their monthly budget. (So much for time to do homework for that “better” education.) She is constantly worried about money and is the very definition of “surviving, not thriving”. She knows there’s no way she can go to college in their current financial situation, so she clings to the idea of this lottery ticket like a drowning woman with a life preserver. When she’s not thinking in dollar signs, Rico is tenacious and funny, which I liked about her.

I did personally struggle with Rico at times because she is so damn proud to a fault. After holding everyone at arm’s length for so long, any whiff of an action that smelled like “charity”—like driving her to school or paying for her lunch—was rotten. I wanted to shake Rico and tell her that not everything is a transaction, that, yes, some people ARE that giving, though I know that, unfortunately, she hasn’t had a lot of opportunity to witness that in her short life.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

My favorite moments of the book were Zan’s blatant flirting and Rico’s complete inability to deal with it. Her cluelessness definitely got to be a bit much (especially near the end, like, does he have to jump off a cliff to prove himself to you??), but Stone knows how to write excellent “first love” tingles, and I was swept away regardless.

Talky Talk: Conversational

Much of the writing is from Rico’s perspective, relying on her stream of consciousness and snarky internal observations she doesn’t often share out loud but made me giggle out loud. It gave the story a breezy, snappy wit and kept the action moving at a brisk pace. Occasionally, there were some PSA breaks where Rico had explain to Zan why his rich, (mostly) white male perspective reeked of privilege, which can be a good reminder for us all. Being in Rico’s headspace gave us unfettered access to the sheer mountain of anxieties and worries she had on her mind ALL the time. It was exhausting to read in how real and (sadly) relatable it felt (though that’s nothing compared to actually living it).

There were a few chapters not from Rico’s perspective where we saw through the eyes of things like a cab or the lottery ticket in question. Stone mentions in her author’s note this was an homage to authors like A.S. King (and also reminded me a bit of Nicola Yoon’s omniscient storytelling segments) who used inanimate objects in their own books to give the reader some different insight to their fictional world. I personally thought it was fun, but YMMV! 

Factor: The Lottery

Nic Cage holding a large check from the movie It Could Happen to You

Mo’ money, mo’ problems? Zan and Rico often debate the merits and demerits of the lottery system as they watch the first winner who came forward to claim their half of the money get his own reality TV show to display his newfound wealth. For Zan with his uptight dad, money is a prison of obligations and threats, while for Rico, a sudden influx of wealth would solve 95% of her problems. Zan’s argument that giving that much money to a poor person means they’ll blow it on frivolous things is harsh and classist, and makes me wish we had better education in our country that taught young people of all walks of life how to consistently manage their finances from a young age (and I don’t mean just one paltry semester of “home ec” in high school). 

Anti-Bonus Factor: Awful Grownups

Boxtrolls characters

Rico’s narcissistic mom got my blood boiling, and she’s one part of the story’s ending that I really wasn’t satisfied with. It was maddening with how unfortunately real her actions felt. Rico has to explain to a new friend who has a similar family financial situation that her mom refuses to apply for any kind of government assistance because she think it’s demeaning and like they’d be “giving up”. I can completely understand Rico’s mom’s fear about the stigma of being on welfare and how accepting it may unfairly look differently for Jessica and her family (who are white) versus Rico’s family, but…I’m also not a big enough person to forgive her for those fears when her daughter cries herself to sleep at night and has given up hope of living any different kind of better life (among many other things that I won’t get into otherwise this part will be way too long).

Zan’s unhappy, patriarchal family was a whole ‘nother level of craziness. Run while you can, Zan!

Relationship Status: I’d Bet On You

Things may feel hopeless right now, Book, but with your humor and heart, I think you’ll end up going far. Once you realize what kind of power you hold, I’d gladly take that bet on you ruling the world someday.

Literary Matchmaking

Windfall

If you’d like some more lottery wish fulfillment, check out Jennifer E Smith’s Windfall.

The Sun Is Also a Star

And speaking of Nicola Yoon earlier, if you haven’t read The Sun Is Also a Star but you enjoy a sweet romance, then I encourage you to try it!

I’ll Give You the Sun

This book may have come to mind because of the similarity of the name and cover to the above, but if you’re feeling in the mood to dive into a story about a different, but still complicated family dynamic, then check out Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun.

FTC Full Disclosure: I borrowed my own copy of this book from the library! I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Jackpot is available now.

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.