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Jackpot

Book review by
Barbara Saunders, Common Sense Media
Jackpot Book Poster Image
Fun lottery ticket quest tale explores race, class issues.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The story urges the reader to think critically about class differences and how economic circumstances can affect a people's perception of their life strategies and choices. In some instances, characters rationalize behavior that may be unethical, and these justifications are made to seem sympathetic.

Positive Messages

Don't give up! Be open to possibility.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The story presents an array of mixed-race characters who are secure in their sense of identity. There are many harmonious interracial friendships, family ties, and romantic relationships. The complications of parenting and a child's duty are explored in interesting ways. 

Violence
Sex

A teen girl tells a friend that she and her boyfriend lost their virginity together. A different couple shares an intense romantic kiss at a school dance.

Language

Occasional swearing, including "ass," "s--t," and "f--k."

Consumerism

Class difference is one of the main themes of the book. Brand names are used in descriptions, without promotion, to signal people's financial status.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A girl smokes cigarettes in her car and covers her hair to keep out the smell and hide her smoking from her mother. Teens drink alcohol at a party and one blacks out.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that in Jackpot, by Nic Stone (Dear Martin, Odd One Out), a pair of high school students embark on a search for the person who holds an unredeemed winning lottery ticket. The ticket was sold at the Gas 'N' Go where Rico, a 17-year-old African American girl, works. Rico asks her classmate, Zan, a white kid from a very wealthy family, to help her hack the security camera that records the parking lot, so she can get the winner's license plate number. He agrees. They have 180 days to track the winner down before the ticket expires. In that time, they learn about each other's lives and become friends. A girl smokes in her car and attempts to hide the evidence from her mother by covering her hair. Underage teens drink alcohol, and a girl blacks out. A teen girl tells a friend that she and her boyfriend lost their virginity together. A different couple shares an intense romantic kiss at a school dance. Very occasional use of profanity includes "ass," "s--t," and "f--k."

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What's the story?

When JACKPOT opens, 17-year-old Rico is working at the Gas 'N' Go on Christmas Eve. Her family is living on the edge. Between her job and her mother's, the family is barely making rent in the neighborhood where they live for the good schools. Rico sells three lottery tickets. One of those tickets wins, but the winnings aren't claimed. Rico figures if she informs the winner, that person might give her a reward. Her classmate Zan, son of a wealthy family that makes toilet paper products, was kicked out of his last school for hacking, so Rico enlists him to hack the Gas 'N' Go security camera to get license plate numbers she can use to track down the ticket buyers. He agrees. As they try to track down the winners, Rico and Zan become friends. Rico's life expands, not just from knowing Zan, but also because she breaks out of her pattern of work-school-sleep.

Is it any good?

This is a fun page-turner, best suited for mature readers due to the social and moral complexities the author presents. Jackpot doesn't shy away from the tougher issues about class in the United States. She shows us a world where race and class issues intersect, but where class mostly trumps race. The poor family is hardworking and diligent with no addictions or other problems that would have caused their poverty. Wealthy men abandon their girlfriends (black and white) and their children -- one with hush money, one without. And the character who is an heir to a fortune feels trapped and bored in a family that's loaded him with expectations. Rico and Zan's pursuit of the lottery ticket leads them to a few scams and even to the brink of committing a crime. It's not a story of heroes -- it's about how people experience that fine line between desperation and hope.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the characters in Jackpot struggle with choices about money -- how to get it and what to do with it. How do their different values affect their choices, and how do their choices help or harm them? 

  • The author experiments with chapters narrated by inanimate object, including a Lego robot, fancy sheets, paper money, and that elusive lottery ticket itself. Did you enjoy those chapters? What do you think the author was trying to accomplish?

  • Have you ever faced a moral decision realted to money? How did it turn out? 

Book details

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