Seventeen-year-old Rico Danger (pronounced "DON-gur") doesn't have a life outside of "school, work, and sleep" because she pulls 10-hour shifts at the Gas 'n' Go to help support her mom and nine-year-old brother. While at work one evening, she sells a lottery ticket that she later learns is a winner for a multimillion-dollar jackpot. Which of the lotto buyers could it have been: the middle-aged white guy who pays for his purchases with $50 bills? The cute elderly black lady with a light-up Christmas sweater? To find the winner and make sure they get their jackpot, Rico enlists the help of 18-year-old Alexander "Zan" Macklin, "varsity quarterback, all-around teen dream, and heir to the booty-paper throne" (his family owns a toilet paper company), who was also in the store that night. Zan and Rico's quest slowly moves their relationship beyond friendship, and Rico learns that, while money is a necessity, it doesn't necessarily buy happiness.
In Jackpot, Nic Stone (Dear Martin) excels at shedding light on low-income family struggles that aren't always obvious: Rico's mama won't apply for public assistance because "the stigma makes punches at her dignity"; Rico feels a "sense of unworthiness" whenever she's around Zan and "his nice clothes and... nice car." Stone also illustrates how the lack or excess of money can both offer freedom and restrict it. While having money would allow Rico a "normal high school experience," it keeps Zan from going to college ("a waste of four vital fiscal years," says his father). Smart, humorous and hopeful, Jackpot examines the effects of money and privilege on individual choice and relationships. --Lana Barnes, freelance reviewer and proofreader