(4 stars) Wayward Son (Simon Snow #2) by Rainbow Rowell
I was pretty excited for this one, and it mostly held up to the weight of my expectations. It’s hard not to draw parallels between Rowell’s characters and J.K. Rowling’s, but they’re certainly there. I do love some Penelope Bunce (because I love me some Hermione Granger), and she gets a chance to shine here.
“But it was a mistake thinking of that as an end. There is no end. Bad things happen, and then they stop, but they keep on wreaking havoc inside of people.”
Concerned about their friend Agatha (and rightly so), our heroes from Carry On decide to tackle America with an old-fashioned road trip. With absolutely no clue as to the size of America, they fly into Chicago and drive to San Diego. This takes forever, of course, and they get into quite a few scrapes along the way. Simon, who has lost his powers but kept his wings and tail, has been in a horrible funk since they beat the Humdrum. Baz feels tormented by his inability to help, and Bunce has a broken heart, but throwing the three of them in a convertible and asking them to fight American monsters seems to be the ticket to happiness.
I enjoyed the change of scenery, and the idea of magic in America (and how it would differ greatly from British magic). The three characters (and a new one who gets added to the mix) work well together, and the glimpses we get of Agatha are enough to keep the narrative gripping. But I spent a lot of the book feeling like Simon was obviously suffering from a pretty major depressive episode — and maybe needed some professional help, not just a road trip.
(3 stars) Jackpot by Nic Stone
Rico is a high school senior, balancing schoolwork with a job that literally supports her family, and helping her single mother (who works two jobs) care for her little brother. Rico’s mother moved them to a part of town where it’s harder to make ends meet, but her children will have the very best education available. Unfortunately, Rico spends so much time working and worrying that thoughts of going to college haven’t even crossed her mind. Then one night, Rico sells a stranger a wining lottery ticket — but the stranger never claims it. Teaming up with a classmate named Zan, Rico does everything she can to find that stranger and help her claim the winnings.
I’m pretty torn on this one. I liked so much of it, particularly the main character (Rico) and how the author contrasted her life against her rich classmate Zan. I thought it was a really look at how different levels of poverty look, and clear examples of how people struggle in different ways. But the ending was VERY predictable, and while I wished for Rico to get her happy ending, I also felt it was a little too pat. I think the best part, though, was Rico learning more about her classmates — the book does a lot of help tear down assumptions made about the various characters.