Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson
You can’t start a conversation about this book without talking about this cover. It’s absolutely gorgeous and drawn by Detroit artist Rachelle Baker (check her stuff out here https://www.rachellebakerdraws.com). It embodies the maturity that Enchanted Jones seeks so desperately but also catches her innocence. Her shaved head also helps with her swimming and a seemingly innocent dress code policy that states “no distracting hairstyles” at her preppy high school. She’s not super confident in her ever-changing body but the hair she likes. It gives her confidence when auditioning for a chance to appear on a singing show (think American Idol), and while there, she catches Korey Fields’ eye. THE Korey Fields. She can’t believe that he’s interested in a nobody like her. It’s too good to be true.
And, let me tell you, it is too good to be true. This is the crux of Jackson’s story- an older man's ability to prey on someone like Chanty. His predatory behavior is a honed skill at this point, supported by the industry that lets it repeatedly happen because he makes them money. He’s a master manipulator, gaslighting her and her family at every turn, allowing them to think Chanty will be the next Beyoncé, and he’s just the person to make it happen. In reality, he’s controlling and impressionable to a girl like Chanty. Her inability to see what is happening to her, or recognize that it’s wrong, is frustrating but expected in an experienced abuser's hands. There are physical, mental, and sexual instances within the pages, but none felt graphic or gratuitous.
Grown is a page-turner of a story, but it’s also like a trainwreck you can’t look away from (Not the writing! It’s fantastic!). You know something terrible will happen; you just don’t know when so you read with hesitation and excitement at the same time. It’s also a story that will make you full of rage for what is happening to Chanty and that no one stops it or believes her when she has the chance to tell someone. Jackson’s ability to make Chanty’s abuse (and that’s precisely what it is) readable and accessible is one of her strongest traits as a writer. She’s so good at making you question the narrator as you go, it will feel like her other stories, but this one is just different enough. If you read this book with major R. Kelly vibes, you won’t be alone in that thought, especially if you read her author notes.
Sorry, dude. You are NOT the victim here.