Jackpot is a wild ride. Often literally! Rico and Zan spend a lot of time in the car on their way to chase only-vaguely-possible leads. There’s also a lot of family drama and a lot of feelings.
Rico’s so stressed out about her soul-crushing obligations that it feels absolutely necessary for her to be on-edge. She’s kept to herself, committed to the grind of working extra shifts at the gas station and co-parenting her little brother. She’s given up so much of her teenage years to help support her family, financially and emotionally, to ensure some sort of stability. It feels like the obligations to her family leave no room for anything else, and she does not see that ending soon (read: ever).
She’s angry at her mom’s management of their finances and refusal to apply for welfare assistance. Proximity to Zan emphasises her outrage at the inequality of the system, keeping her frustration and disgust at Zan’s privilege constantly bubbling at the surface. I cannot express how deeply I appreciated reading her rage at the injustice, even when it’s repetitive, misguided or directed at the wrong person.
There are good feelings too: Rico begins to feel valued and loved by more people than she realized. She finally makes friends (and there is some definite, unaddressed bi-baiting incorporated into this) and then there’s Zan, who goes out of his way to be what she needs when she needs it (even sometimes when she doesn’t).
Jackpot’s charm is in the whirlwind story, the oh-my-gosh-is-this-the-moment?
But let me just say! - you’re gonna be charmed by Zan, then angry with him for the same reasons Rico is. Then you’re gonna be like, “Okay Rico... He’s rich, he’s BEEN rich. We’ve known this. He can’t change that. But he’s doing his best and really trying to show you that he cares. Give him a break.” and so she does.
AND THEN —Just when it feels like you’ve reached their golden togetherness, Nic Stone hits us with a great big plot twist that’s one MAJOR “Nope!!! Goodbye forever!!!” I honestly still don’t forgive Zan, and I don’t see how Jackpot ended on a hopeful note when he’s just done everything Rico despised him for even thinking. It felt totally contradictory to the entire journey we just went through with her.
I listened to the audiobook which is narrated by Nic Stone herself and like ??? how is she so good at doing all the voices?!
It’s super fun, I totally recommend.
Content warnings: underage drinking, and a morning where Rico wakes up after drinking the night before and does not remember what happened or why she wakes up in Zan’s arms. Rico’s grandfather died from colon cancer, so when her mom has a colitis flare-up, there’s brief concern that she may not recover. Rico’s brother gets super ill and stays in the hospital for weeks (it’s meningitis and tonsillitis, he gets better after his tonsillectomy.) Rico’s family lived in a shelter before, and their rent payment situation means they may be evicted from the home they currently live in.