Grown: A Review

“Because if I keep denying the memory, it’ll make it untrue.”

Grown by Tiffany D. JacksonEnchanted Jones thought she had everything figured out. She isn’t what anyone would call happy at her new school, but she makes it work. She has swim team and she has her best friend Gabriella. With Gab’s help Enchanted auditions for BET’s version of American Idol. It doesn’t go well.

But it does bring her face to face with legendary R&B artist Korey Fields who is even hotter in person and could be Enchanted’s own ticket to stardom. It starts with secret texts and flirting. Then there are singing lessons and an invitation to go on tour.

It ends with Enchanted beaten bloody and Korey Fields dead.

Enchanted wishes she could forget the events leading up to Korey’s death. But she can’t do that any more than she can remember what happened that night.

Did Enchanted plunge the knife into Korey’s chest? Was she the only one who wanted him dead? With more questions than answers Enchanted will have to piece together the pieces before Korey’s livid fans–or the police–do it for her with Enchanted as the culprit in Grown (2020) by Tiffany D. Jackson.

Find it on Bookshop.

Jackson’s latest standalone is a tense mystery as Enchanted navigates her sudden infamy while still trying to process the abuse she suffered at Korey’s hands. (Please note the content warnings in this book for: mentions of sexual abuse, rape, assault, child abuse, kidnapping, and addiction to opioids.) The case in the book is heavily influenced by the sexual abuse allegations leveraged against R. Kelly over the past two decades as covered in the documentary Surviving R. Kelly.

Grown is a crushing read. It’s easy to see the red flags in retrospect with the shifting timeline that starts with Enchanted discovering Korey’s dead body. It’s much harder for Enchanted to see them as she is drawn in to Korey’s orbit and desperate to be seen as a young woman instead of the little girl her family still sees.

Grown offers a scathing commentary on how quickly the media is willing to blame young Black girls like Enchanted saying they are grown and know what they are doing while excusing predatory behavior from influential Black men like Korey. While this story is by no means an easy read, Jackson’s writing is on point as this taut and suspenseful story builds to one surprising twist after another.

I do also want to talk about how mental illness is explored in the book. This is a spoiler so click read more to my thoughts or back away to avoid them:

A lot of Grown focuses on Enchanted not remembering what happened. As she tries to put the pieces together herself and is interrogated by both the police and her own lawyer (and family), Enchanted begins to wonder if she can trust herself. Her grandmother has a history of mental illness (we see this with the grandmother interacting with hallucinations only she can see and telling Enchanted that her pet turtle is being funny–the turtle is dead and has been so for long enough that it is decaying) and I took this as an assumed factor for why Enchanted and her family move out of the grandmother’s apartment in Far Rockaway to buy a house in the suburbs.

As Enchanted explains her side of things, she starts telling the police to find her best friend Gab. But there is no record of Gabriella anywhere leaving everyone, including Enchanted herself, to wonder if Gab was an elaborate hallucination. This adds a lot of suspense to the plot, but it also felt like one step too far with a story that was already filled with a fair number of surprise reveals. The spoiler being that Gab is very much real with some less than plausible reasons for why she was impossible to find when Enchanted needed her.

I was glad this plot thread resolved the way it did but that doesn’t change that Chant’s grandmother does have a very real mental illness that is very much not treated. I get living with hallucinations being possible but not with the filth (not to mention the dead turtle!) and I suppose her refusing treatment is a layer of the family moving out but it felt strange. Similarly, I wonder if we as readers shouldn’t try to move past using mental illness (or lack thereof) as a plot twist. Finally, having Enchanted spending the summer with her grandmother while she’s clearly not well and while Enchanted herself is still recovering from everything that happened felt very strange.

Possible Pairings: Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles, Spin by Lamar Giles, They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman, Little Peach by Peggy Kern, Sadie by Courtney Summers, On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

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