Three teens form a tight friendship while working together at a store in small-town Alabama that sells the contents of people’s long-lost airplane luggage.
Reluctant newcomer Nell is desperate for a job when she ventures into Unclaimed Baggage. She is hired by Doris, who has her fair share of enemies in her conservative, religious town since she stopped attending church and whose best friend, Maya, who is a Jewish lesbian, is away for the summer. Nell and Doris establish a near instant rapport and eventually widen their circle to encompass Grant, a disgraced high school football star, who struggles with alcohol abuse. Plenty of emotional baggage is unpacked in alternating narrative style in this deceptively weighty novel, particularly between Doris and Grant, who have a history together that rings true to the way peer dynamics often play out in small, insular communities. Grant’s realistic experience with using alcohol to cope with anxiety is described with compassion. Doris, Grant and Nell are all white. There are secondary characters who are black, and Nell’s boyfriend, Ashton, is biracial. Despite striking a comedic tone early on, this novel lands decidedly in dramatic territory, and its overly neat ending may strike readers as pat.
Teens who favor realistic fiction will find much to like here. (Fiction. 14-18)