Meet Rico: high school senior and afternoon-shift cashier at the Gas ‘n’ Go who also takes care of her younger brother. Every. Single. Day. When Rico sells a jackpot-winning lotto ticket, she thinks maybe her luck will finally change, but only if she—with some assistance from her popular and wildly rich classmate Zan—can find the ticket holder, who still hasn’t claimed their prize. But what happens when have and have-nots collide? Will this investigative duo unite. . . or divide?
Told from Rico’s point of view, Jackpot highlights the difficulties of living in poverty. Many readers will sympathize with Rico’s struggles and relate to her insecurities. Rico is an interesting, well-developed character who believes poverty has stolen all her opportunities. In contrast, Zan has never had to worry about money. Despite this, Zan feels his only option is to work for his family’s company.
In the end, both characters realize, “Everyone has choices. Are some of them hard? Yes. But if you want something bad enough. . .” Rico and Zan’s relationship gives both of them a new perspective and the bravery to take control of their lives.
Even though Rico and Zan are completely opposite from each other, they each have universal teen conflicts that readers will connect with. Neither character allows others to see their true selves. Zan has closed himself off because he is afraid others will take advantage of him due to his family’s wealth. On the other hand, Rico’s life has been so consumed with work — schoolwork, her job, and caring for her brother — that she has no friends. In addition, Rico feels inferior to her wealthy classmates. Being friends with Zan teaches Rico that not having money doesn’t mean you’re not as worthy as those who do.
Many teen readers will connect with Jackpot because of the interesting characters and universal themes. While readers will sympathize with Rico’s situation, Zan is the real star because his quirky behavior is humorous and endearing. Even though Rico and Zan are realistic characters, the conclusion is not quite believable. Despite this, Jackpot’s focus on class will leave readers thinking about how one’s class affects every aspect of life. In the author’s note, Stone explains that Jackpot reinforces the idea that “there’s a whole lot more to people than how much — or how little — is in their bank account.” Readers who want another book that explores classism should check out I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Kimberly Jones & Gilly Segal and Class Act by Jerry Craft.
- Zan goes to see Rico at work. As he’s leaving, he “yanks” her forward. Rico collides “with his chest—then he’s wrapping his arms around my waist and lifting me off my feet. . .” Afterwards, she is “legitimately hot all over.”
- Rico’s grandfather was “a white guy. . . he had a one-night stand with an . . . escort he’s pretty sure was black, then ten months later, my mom was left on his doorstep.”
- Rico’s mom got pregnant when she was in college. “She spent a month in Spain and came back pregnant. . . she didn’t know about his wife and kids. . .”
- Rico’s friend Jessica says, “Timberlake’s old news, but I’d totally have his babies if I weren’t so bent on having Ness’s [her boyfriend].” Later, it is revealed that Jessica and Ness are sexually active.
- Rico goes to a friend’s house where she’s surprised to see Zan. When Zan sees her, she describes how “he rushes over and scoops me up in what I can only describe as THE HUG. . . he holds me by the shoulders and basically eats every inch of my body.”
- After getting drunk, Rico wakes up next to Zan. Even though they are both fully dressed, Rico thinks that they hooked up and she just can’t remember it. An older woman tells Ric
- o that after her first marriage broke up, she met Lionel. “Lionel really knew his way around a lady, if you catch my drift.”
- While Rico is working, an adult buys a Playboy magazine from the convenience store.
- Rico’s brother asks if she’s had a wet dream. He explains what he means. “They’re dreams where you’re doing it with somebody, duh. Mason’s big brother has them all the time and he pees out sticky stuff in the bed, so that’s why they’re called wet.”
- Jessica and her boyfriend are kissing when someone tells them to “get a room.”
- Rico and Zan pose as a couple in order to look at houses for rent. As part of the ruse, Zan tells the real estate agent that they “’had a little too much fun after winter homecoming, if you catch my drift.” Zan winks and pats Rico’s belly.
- Rico has an emotional moment and begins to cry. To comfort her, Zane “draws me in to him. The more I cry, the closer we get until I’m curled in his khaki’s lap like a toddler, sobbing into the neck of his perfectly pressed polo shirt.” After snuggling for a few minutes, Zane says, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you should probably get off my lap now.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- Zan thinks Rico is acting “high strung.” He tells her, “We need to get you some good weed or something.”
- Jessica’s mother “drinks away most of her paycheck.”
- Rico goes to a friend’s house. The teens there drink alcohol and get “a bit tipsy.”
- Jessica wonders which one of the cheerleaders is in “therapy and on anti-anxiety meds.”
- When Rico’s brother has a fever, she gives him ibuprofen.
- Profanity is used often. Profanity includes variations of ass, asshole, bitch, crap, dumbass, damn, hell, pissed, shit and motherfu–.
- Lord, God, Jesus, and other religious names are used as explanations often.
- When Rico wakes up next to Zan, she thinks, “Might as well have a red letter T for tramp tattooed on my cheek.”
- Rico thinks someone is a douche-jackass and a son-of-a-bitch.
- Zan is Catholic and goes to mass “when [his] grandma makes [him].”
- Rico thinks about God. “The whole God thing has always been a little suspect to me.” Rico’s mom would listen to the “sermon station” but this just made Rico question God’s goodness. “But for as long as I can remember, Mama has prayed without ceasing, and . . . well, I find it tough to believe this God character is so great when we continue to barely scrape by despite how hard Mama works and prays.”
- At one point, Rico thinks that God will “smite us [her and Zan] for all these lies we’re telling.”
- While at a wedding, Rico looks at Zan and thanks “whatever God is worshipped in this church for the fact that I’m already sitting.”
- Rico’s boss has heavy security on his computer. Rico explains, “He got new software just after the store was broken into and trashed by anti-Muslim douchefaces last August.”
- Rico goes to Zan’s house to eat dinner with his family. Zan’s father prays, thanking God for the food and his successful business. Then he says, “Lord, we thank you for our young Alejandro [Zan], and for the light that has recently graced his life, pulling him out of darkness—” Zan’s father was talking about Rico.
- Zan’s grandmother invites Rico to mass and then asks if Rico is a believer. The conversation gets interrupted before Rico can answer.