Jackpot is a Winner by Georgia Parker
I hit the jackpot (pun intended) when Nic Stone’s latest novel landed in my mailbox. I’m a huge Nic Stone fan, and her YA realistic fiction. I adore her debut novel Dear Martin in which Stone brilliantly uses a combination of prose and an epistolary style to give voice to her protagonist, Justyce, as he expresses his internal and external struggles with the attitudes of race by his mostly white classmates. Stone’s sophomore novel, Odd One Out, is totally different and deals with relationships and sexual identity and is told from three distinct teenage voices by the main characters Cooper, Rae, and Jupiter.
In Jackpot Stone has done it again, but this time she incorporates an element of mystery in her latest novel. She is spot on with the voice of her main character Nico, a high school senior working to help keep her family afloat financially. She works at the Gas n’ Go, and instead of enjoying her senior year, she has to supplement her mother’s meager income. When she isn’t working, she helps take care of her younger brother. Her dedication, loyalty, and love of family make Nico an admirable character, but it’s her resentment of her situation that makes her authentic and believable.
When Nico sells a winning LOTTO ticket on Christmas Eve, she waits impatiently to see which of her customers is the lucky winner. When the ticket isn’t claimed, she is determined to find the forgetful, little, old lady she believes is the ticket holder. In the process Nico forms an unlikely alliance with Zan, a popular, rich guy from her school. The two work together to locate the missing ticket and its winner. As they piece together the mystery behind the lost jackpot, they discover that, despite being from seemingly different worlds, they have more in common than they realized. Before long they find themselves using the search for the lost ticket as an excuse to spend time together. During the course of the story, Nico and Zan learn to trust one another, as well as, who and what are really important to them. This story has an unexpected but satisfying ending.
All three of Stone’s novels have an element of romance, but more importantly her characters voices are clear and believable, and they depict the intricacies of relationships between characters who are different from one another. From race in Dear Martin, to sexuality in Odd One Out, or the socio-economic disparities between the characters in Jackpot, Nic Stone is not afraid to write about sensitive issues, and she approaches them with tact through authentic voices.
Georgia Parker teaches 8th grade English and a YA Literature elective for grades 8-12 at Trinity Preparatory School in Winter Park, FL. She is Co-Director of the Trinity Prep Author Festival and holds the Diane and Michael Maher Endowed Chair of English.