Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson

4.5/5 stars

2020 is a year when literature confronts the Me Too movement head-on–and Grown addresses the uncomfortable truth that, for women of colour, their Me Too moment can be very different.

Grown focuses on Enchanted Jones, a talented singer and student in Westchester, New York, who, through a chance meeting at a music competition, gets sucked into the world of Korey Wise, a much older R&B singer who promises to make her a star. Months later, Enchanted wakes up in Korey’s New York penthouse, covered in what she thinks is blood. She’s left to piece together what happened, taking the reader on a whirlwind journey through fame, control, and abuse of power.

Enchanted starts off enthralled with Korey, giving her good advice about improving her singing and believing in her dreams more than her overworked parents appear to be. When Korey offers her the opportunity to join him on tour, she accepts it eagerly, knowing the money from backup singing will help her family and her sister’s private school tuition. With a troubled upbringing and a shared affinity for Disney movies and their experiences in Black community organisation Will and Willow, she and Korey feel like soulmates. After all, her best friend Gab is madly in love with her college-age boyfriend. What’s an eleven-year age gap?

Though Grown is a YA book, much like Pizza Girl, this is a book about teenagers that isn’t really written for them–or at least not exclusively for them. The obvious parallel to Enchanted’s story is the relationship between R. Kelly and Aaliyah, down to allusions to an underage marriage, but this is a universal story of the importance of finding your voice. Even if you’re much older than Enchanted, this book captures the way abuse works, how it can wrestle victims away from the figures in their life who might be able to rescue them. It is an important and challenging read–though the downside of its YA status is that the book is written at a breakneck pace, leaving you with little time to process the horrors of what you just read.

This book will lead to comparisons between it and My Dark Vanessa, another book exploring the legacy of child sexual abuse and manipulation that feels like love. I think both books have something important to say–My Dark Vanessa on the legacy of trauma, and Grown on the toxic power of gaslighting. They make great companions to read together, especially to understand the intersectionality of abuse and the misogyny that affects Black victims of abuse in different ways.

Tiffany D. Jackson is set for great things–as Grown proves, she isn’t afraid to confront difficult topics and find a way to tell a compelling story at the same time.


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