Title: Unclaimed Baggage
Author: Jen Doll
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
I have a confession to make: Unclaimed Baggage was my young adult book club pick for September, and I just finished it last night. The first time I tried to read it, I only made it eighty or so pages and was bored, so I dropped it. But when I went to book club a few weeks ago, everyone had read it and begged me to, in order to participate in the discussion. So, as soon as I was finished with Wonderbook, I dove in, excited to read the story and compare my thoughts to those of my friends. I’m so happy to report that this time around, after being convinced to give it a chance, I liked it a lot more! Unclaimed Baggage is one of those books that makes me fall in love with the contemporary genre all over again. Hilarious, heartfelt, timely and thought-provoking, I really enjoyed it, but there were a couple of snags that I just couldn’t get past. Nonetheless, Jen Doll’s first novel was a great debut, and I’m so happy that I actually read it in full this time.
Doris, Nell, and Grant all have two things in common: living in small-town Alabama, and working for the resale store, aptly named Unclaimed Baggage. Doris doesn’t believe in God and isn’t shy about expressing that opinion, Nell is a reluctant transplant from Chicago, her friends, and most important of all, her boyfriend, Ashton. She misses her old life, but soon discovers that she can start a new one, with new friends and meaningful bonds. And lastly, there’s Grant, the town golden boy fallen from grace after a tragic accident, trying desperately to redeem himself and become a better person. All three kids find out secrets, about the town, their families, and themselves in the process.
I really enjoyed this book the second time around. I was laughing, crying, and cheering the whole time; the pacing was good, and the transition between the kids’ voices were smooth. The small town setting was one that felt all too familiar: everyone knowing everyone, old prejudices and petty feuds. It was claustrophobic, to say the least. I loved Doris, Nell, and Grant the most; their characterization was absolutely incredible. But I also adored Stella, Nell’s parents and brother, and Grant’s mother and siblings; this felt realistic. But there were quite a few snags that really ended up bothering me. I wish that more had been fleshed out, particularly in Doris’s and Grant’s families; it felt like there was just too much that ended up unresolved. Nonetheless, Jen Doll has penned a fantastic debut, and I can’t wait for what she does next! The bottom line: Funny and heartfelt but lacking in detail in some spots, I really enjoyed Unclaimed Baggage! Next on deck: Gideon The Ninth by Tamsyn Muir!