Yellow cover of Grown with an illustration of a Black teenage girl with a shaved head and a large gold earring

About the Book

Title: Grown
Published: 2020
Swoonworthy Scale: 1

Cover Story: Montell Jordan
BFF Charm: Big Sister
Talky Talk: Heart-to-Heart
Anti-Bonus Factor: R. Kelly
Relationship Status: Bonded

Content Warning: This book depicts an emotionally and physically abusive relationship with brief scenes of rape. 

Cover Story: Montell Jordan

GIF from Montell Jordan's music video "This Is How We Do It"

This cover is STUNNING, from the portrait of Enchanted, our main character (complete with her shaved head), to that bold, blingy earring. With that said, there’s a certain irony to this artwork given that Enchanted, who looks so powerful and strong in this image, falls victim to a serial predator. Or maybe that’s the whole point?

The Deal

At first, it seems like something out of a fairy tale. Seventeen-year-old Enchanted Jones auditions for Music LIVE, BET’s version of American Idol, and though she doesn’t make the final cut, she gets something seemingly better: interest from platinum artist Korey Fields. Sure, he’s eleven years older, but he believes in Enchanted, and so when he offers to let her record with him, she jumps at the chance to collaborate with her superstar crush. It’s a dream come true… until it’s a total nightmare fueled by Korey’s abusive, controlling behavior. 

Caught between her genuine love for Korey and fear for her life, Enchanted doesn’t see a way out until the morning she wakes up, with zero memory of the night before, and discovers Korey dead. She believes herself to be innocent, despite a very clear motive, and in the face of fans and police hungry to lock her up, she sets out to free herself from doubt–and from the weight of Korey’s abuse. 

BFF Charm: Big Sister

BFF Charm Big Sister with Clarissa from Clarissa Explains It All's face

It’s awful to watch anyone suffer at the hands of another, but Enchanted, with her lively spirit and creative spark, makes it especially terrible. As the only Black girl at her school, she’s struggling to find herself, especially since her family moved away from her touchstone of a grandmother, so she clings to music and swimming when she’s not busy taking care of her younger siblings (“the Littles”). That extra responsibility makes her seem mature for her age, but Enchanted is still a teenager, and it’s heartbreaking to see how Korey manipulates her trust and affection. Take, for example, her initial feelings on Twilight:

“It’s like… she lets this super-old creepy vampire come stalking into her life. Purposely puts herself in danger, risks her life for a guy who should know better and leave her alone.” 

Then, after she falls for Korey, she thinks: 

I should be happy. Korey is like Edward from Twilight, doting over Bella with his overprotectiveness.   

Gaaahhhh I can’t tell you the number of times I wished I was the biggest, baddest sister there ever was so I could kick down the door (er, page) and get Enchanted the hell OUT OF THERE. Thankfully, she didn’t need me to give her strength–she found it on her own. 

Swoonworthy Scale: -100

Technically, the lowest score we can give is a “1” due to the way that field is coded BUT Korey Fields, you are so, so, SO far from a “1”, and I can’t bring myself to list the HUNDREDS of atrocities you commit. The one thing I will say is, I’m glad someone stabbed you.

Talky Talk: Heart-To-Heart

Enchanted’s voice is immediately engaging and vibrant, like you’re hanging out in her bedroom, trying on makeup together and taking turns as the DJ. And it’s that authenticity, that warmth, that gives this book its potency and makes the impact of Enchanted’s story so devastating. She feels real enough to reach out and hug, and consequently you come away with a nuanced understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence, because she’s not some faceless name, she’s someone you know. Tiffany D. Jackson, who in the Author’s Note discloses her own relationship with a 22-year-old man when she was 15, pulls from her experience along with the headlines (more on that below) to paint a compassionate, complex picture of a victim of abuse. So when Enchanted thinks, “And if I love him hard enough, maybe, just maybe, I can keep the dark side away,” you don’t shake your head in judgement; instead, you shake it with empathy, because even though you know she’s mistaken, you understand.

A minor aside: the “mystery” aspect of this book plays second (okay, more like fourth) fiddle to the main plot driven by Enchanted and Korey’s relationship. I understand why Jackson framed the story around the murder, but unraveling it feels drastically less compelling than Enchanted’s personal journey.

Anti-Bonus Factor: R. Kelly

Korey Fields is, obviously, a fictionalized version of R. Kelly, and most (if not all) of his worst actions towards Enchanted are lifted directly from the experiences of Kelly’s accusers. If you’re still listening to his music, Grown will put a stop to that RIGHT QUICK. Tiffany D. Jackson also includes a link in her Author’s Note to muterkelly.org, where you can find more facts on this piece of shit predator. Or just take a look at the news, because asshole is finally on trial!   

Relationship Status: Bonded

Book, I’m not gonna lie: our time together wasn’t easy, and it sure wasn’t fun, but it mattered. Your story moved me and educated me, and I believe it’s vital that your message be spread far and wide. (Which is why you’re an FYA Book Club pick, natch!) Because, as Tiffany D. Jackson says in her note:

This book is about the abuse of power. It’s about the pattern of excusing grown men for their behavior while faulting young girls for their missteps.

And we have to fight against that abuse as hard as we can.

FTC Disclosure: I checked this book out from the library. I received neither money nor cocktails in exchange for this review. 

Sarah lives in Austin, TX and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.