Jackpot: All Bets Are Off

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Seventeen-year-old Rico Danger is of exotic mixed parentage. She is, by her classmates’ evaluation, a stunning beauty, though she is unaware of it. Her clothes come from thrift shops. She has no friends and keeps to herself to hide her poverty. She works regularly at the Gas ‘n’ Go to help support the family. Her mother works seventy hours a week as a Hilton housekeeper and is an unwise money (and life) manager. They are constantly at risk of being evicted and being forced to return to living in their car or in a shelter. Her prideful mom refuses to apply for any kind of assistance, including Medicaid, so when Rico’s brother gets sick, he almost dies because of lack of health care.

At the Gas ‘n’ Go one day, Rico sells two lottery tickets to an old lady who lets her keep one for herself after Rico suggests using her (Rico’s, that is) birthdate as part of the number. Rico has never seen this person before and knows nothing about her, but they have a pleasant conversation before she goes on her way. As it happens, this person is the likely winner of $106 million. When she doesn’t come forward after the winner is announced, Rico goes looking for her. (Rico, by the way, is such a sterling employee that her boss gives her a $5,000 bonus for selling the ticket at his store.)

Needing help in the search, Rico reaches out to Zan Macklin, a fellow student who is the richest, hottest guy at her school and who has a reputation as an ace hacker. This is mighty surprising to Zan, because although he shares several classes with her and has admired her for ages, Rico has never spoken to him. As he assists Rico in her investigation, they develop a complicated relationship that leads to some fundamental discoveries about themselves.

This is a WILDLY unrealistic YA novel that nonetheless clearly presents the anxieties of a teenager dealing with the class distinctions between the haves and the have-nots. For that reason alone, I’d recommend the book for inclusion in a library. It also addresses the issues of addictive behavior, profligate spending, lack of equitable health care, freedom (and ownership) of choice, and the hazards of misjudging people. Sexual situations and inferences are presented but not in an explicit manner.



Categories: Addiction, Books We Recommend, Diversity, Dysfunctional Relationships, Navigating through High School, Offensive Language in YA Literature, Parent Conflict, Peer Relationships

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