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Spoils by Tammar Stein
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Spoils

by Tammar Stein

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Richie's Picks: SPOILS by Tammar Stein, Knopf, December 2013, 272p., ISBN: 978-0-375-87062-0

"Money, get away.
Get a good job with good pay and you're okay.
Money, it's a gas.
Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash.
New car, caviar, four star daydream,
Think I'll buy me a football team."
-- Pink Floyd, "Money"

"People dream about winning the lottery and how it'll change their lives. The fact that the change will be for the better is taken for granted. Since when did copious, ridiculous, Monopoly-amounts of money not fix everything? No more fretting at that tight race between the checking-account balance and the bills in the mail. No more envious longing for someone else's cool crap. Being rich is like being famous without the stalking paparizzi. It means you're important and powerful. Of course there's a better life. Of course you're a happier person. Duh."

What would you do if you won millions of dollars?

When we meet Leni Kohn, there is just over a week to go until she turns eighteen. That's when her million-dollar trust fund will become available to her.

Leni's parents won the lottery back when she was eleven. They opted for an after-tax lump-sum payment of $22 million. All of that money -- except for Leni's trust of $1 million -- has since come and gone. Her parents have lived large, buying a huge house (which is now a mess and on the verge of foreclosure), RVs and boats, condos and failed businesses. Stuff that's stacked in the garage. Lent millions to buddies who had no intention of paying it back. Horrifyingly, we learn at the opening of the story that her parents illegally bought her a dolphin for her twelfth birthday and surprised her with it swimming around their saltwater pool. (Leni, who has long had dreams of becoming a marine biologist, insisted on the dolphin's immediate relocation to a more suitable habitat.)

Leni could use her million to attend Stanford as a first step toward her dream of earning a PhD in marine biology. But Lani's parents clearly expect that once her money becomes available next week, she will turn it over to them to spend as they choose.

Leni is the youngest of three siblings. Her brother Eddie, now in his late twenties, quickly blew his share partying. Her sister Natasha, who is twenty-four with a tea shop, now tells Leni that the lottery win was actually fixed, that she, Natasha, sold her soul in exchange for that having taken place seven years earlier, and that Leni needs to rid herself and the family of that last million because it is evil money.

SPOILS puts Leni in the position of having to make a life- and family-altering decision.

"I stand up too, and we're the same height. Our fists are clenched by our sides and both of us have chins forward in a pugnacious tilt.
"'I am going to say it, because you need to hear it. How did we get here? You and Dad got us here! I gesture at the bills but in my anger, I misjudge and knock them all over, They scatter and flutter like birds set free. We both stare at the mess. Bills and statements are everywhere, on the floor, on the counter, on the chairs.
"'Oh, crap,' I say sadly."

Into the mix, with the clock ticking down toward her birthday and her need to make a decision, comes a charismatic young man and a guardian angel.

I have a sense of what I would do with the proceeds from winning the lottery. One can't help but ponder it while reading Leni's story. In fact, I found myself discussing it at length last night with a friend, being that that I was dying to talk with someone about this intriguing tale. It was really interesting to compare perspectives.

So, what would you do?

Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com
BudNotBuddy@aol.com
Moderator http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_school_lit/ http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/people/faculty/partingtonr/partingtonr.php ( )
  richiespicks | Jul 8, 2013 |
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When seventeen-year-old Leni finds out that her family won the lottery due to a deal her sister made with the devil, she is determined to set things right.

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