Review: Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson

“Mr. Thomas is talking about the Civil War. But there’s a different kind of war going on inside me, the kind that will take an infinite number of battles to win.”

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Notice: I received an ARC of this book for free from Epic Reads in exchange for an honest review.

Korey Fields is dead.

When Enchanted Jones wakes with blood on her hands and zero memory of the previous night, no one—the police and Korey’s fans included—has more questions than she does. All she really knows is that this isn’t how things are supposed to be. Korey was Enchanted’s ticket to stardom.

Before there was a dead body, Enchanted was an aspiring singer, struggling with her tight knit family’s recent move to the suburbs while trying to find her place as the lone Black girl in high school. But then legendary R&B artist Korey Fields spots her at an audition. And suddenly her dream of being a professional singer takes flight.

Enchanted is dazzled by Korey’s luxurious life but soon her dream turns into a nightmare. Behind Korey’s charm and star power hides a dark side, one that wants to control her every move, with rage and consequences. Except now he’s dead and the police are at the door. Who killed Korey Fields?

All signs point to Enchanted.

TW: pedophilia, rape, abuse, sex trafficking, drugs, violence

Note: from what I see from other reviewers, this book is largely inspired by the true stories of victims of the singer R. Kelly. However, Jackson makes it clear in her beginning author’s note that while the book is inspired by that situation, it is not solely about R. Kelly. Rather, Jackson wants the book to highlight how women are often faulted for the predatory behavior of men, and how no matter what, it is never the victim’s fault.

Grown features a backwards murder mystery. It begins with 17-year-old Enchanted Jones waking up next to Korey Fields’ dead body and then shows the progression of how she got there.

Although reading this book made me uncomfortable from start to finish, it hits on practically every predatory tactic that men in positions of power use on their victims. From the initial smooth talking, making the victim feel special when they have low self-esteem, promises of giving them a better future….all the way to the verbal and physical abuse, sexual abuse, and kidnapping.

What pained me most about this book was seeing the ways Enchanted initially justifies Korey’s behavior towards her. It was sickening to witness her go along with everything because she didn’t want to jeopardize her “chance” at success. However, it was also relieving to see how she works her way out of the situation and back to the safety of her family.

Overall, I breezed through this book once I really got into it around 30-40%. It is definitely NOT a lighthearted read, but it is a good story about what abuse looks like and the systems surrounding abusers that keep them in place.

Despite me enjoying the fact that this was an easy read, I also felt disconnected from the world outside of the situation at hand. Grown feels like a book about two characters and two characters only. The people who are supposed to surround both Enchanted and Korey felt 2D and only came in when there needed to be a distraction or an added aura of tension. Although Enchanted’s parents do make desperate efforts to retrieve their daughter, I didn’t feel connected to them outside of viewing them as Enchanted’s parents. Likewise, Korey has “friends” that surround him, but they are never built into people of their own.

There’s also some psychological twist element to the story that felt completely unfounded and just confused me more than shocked me, which I think the intent was.

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