Jackpot by Nic Stone – Book Review
- Title: Jackpot
- Author: Nic Stone
- Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
- Release Date: October 15, 2019
RATING: 3.5 STARS
Rico, her mom, and her little brother struggle to stay afloat. Despite the difficulties, Rico’s mom insists they live beyond their means in order to reside in an affluent area known for the quality of its schools. Rico’s mom prioritizes access to quality education, but Rico herself has been unable to take full advantage of the opportunity before her. For instance, she must work to help her family make ends meet and avoid returning to the homeless shelter where they once lived. With all these aspirations and challenges swirling, Rico sells a lottery ticket to an elderly woman during the late shift at the Gas’n Go on Christmas Eve. Believing she sold the $109 million winner, Rico embarks on a journey to find the woman. When she enlists the help of the popular, handsome Zan Macklin (heir in the family that owns a toilet paper company), Rico’s life changes in ways she could never have imagined.
Jackpot by Nic Stone provides readers a raw, unfiltered look into Rico’s hardship as she struggles to support her family while simultaneously hiding her poverty from her affluent peers. Her economic woes provide a window or mirror into an all-too-realistic situation for so many young people today. As a character, Rico is authentic and bold yet vulnerable. The story vividly portrays her trying to juggle the realities of her life with the image of it she projects to others. All the while, Zan’s wealthy, seemingly perfect situation sharply contrasts with Rico’s circumstance. In setting them side-by-side, Stone is also honest with readers. It is apparent that the grass, even if not perfect, may indeed be greener on the other side, a truth that adds to the authenticity of Rico’s conflicts.
While some may tire of the novel’s materialistic references, they do serve to remind readers of simple but important truths about society. Primarily, there are haves and have-nots, and the have-nots are often keenly aware of the distance between them and the differences in experience that distance creates. At the same time, the story does dwell on the universality of high school angst. As the relationship between Rico and Zan unfolds, it embodies those familiar feelings. The way it ends – in a surprise twist – may leave readers with a bittersweet feeling about the pair’s adventures, motivations, and relationship. It also may raise more questions for readers than it answers, another example of the way the novel treats complex topics in a forthright manner. Overall, Jackpot is a fantastic young adult novel with ample opportunities to explore larger societal issues of poverty, wealth, inequality, the lottery, and race, among many more. Nic Stone’s story will stay with students and adults alike, long after Rico’s ends.
- Cross-curricular Study – Teach the novel in conjunction with a nonfiction study of the history of the lottery OR a Math unit on odds and probability.
- Book Club or Book Exchange – Share the novel with students that enjoy reading realistic fiction.
Nonfiction Connections: The list below outlines topics that will enrich your students’ understanding of the novel.
- Wealth and inequality
- Class conflict
Book Companions: The following are great books to pair with Jackpot. In parenthesis are the specific aspects students could explore when synthesizing across the texts.
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (Character Connections, Themes)
- Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds (Character Connections, Themes)
- The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (Character Connections, Themes)