THE PLOT: ‘Grown’ by Tiffany D. Jackson is a young-adult novel about a 17yo girl who wants to be a singer. Enchanted Jones spends her days looking after her four younger siblings, swimming competitively for her fancy white private school, and – unlike the other kids – hoping her parents can afford the fees. However, her real dream is to become a star. When she signs up for a singing competition, she meets famous rapper Korey Fields. At first, it’s a fairytale as Korey flirts with Enchanted and promises to change her life. But when he starts to get controlling, Enchanted finds her dream has turned into a nightmare.
RATING: I have no other way to describe this than “the wand chooses the wizard”. After a stressful situation, this book told me it was the right time to read it. I raced through it in a couple of days and it held me and uplifted me when I needed it. This book is for Black girls who are not seen as the perfect victims. It is a nuanced nod to the victims of R. Kelly, but also to a society that wilfully ignores young women and privileges older men. It’s got a great message, engaging characters and a pacy plot – everything you need from a YA novel.
GOOD BITS: This book has lots of great elements but I will be emulating this book’s pacing in my own writing. It has short, dialogue-heavy chapters that keep you turning the page long after bedtime. Sometimes, I did have to turn back as I was either reading to quickly or the setting/scenes jumped without clear breaks. However, this did not deter me because I was so keen to see how Enchanted and Korey’s relationship developed. There is a prologue, which sets out the demise of Enchanted and Korey’s relationship, and the book infrequently jumps between ‘then’ and ‘now.’ It adds to the pacing by creating a mystery but I think a linear structure would have worked too.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: For the first 60% of the novel, I totally understood all of the character motivations and actions. However, towards the end of the novel I found some of Enchanted’s decisions a bit implausible. No spoilers, but I feel a relatively sheltered 18yo would be more terrified in the face of police and authority figures. However, I guess the beauty of reading fiction is gaining an empathy and understanding of how different people react in the face of trauma. Additionally, it’s important to acknowledge Enchanted’s mistrust in authority because of the abuse she goes through.
OVERALL: I’d recommend this book to lovers of ‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Thomas, ‘The Places I’ve Cried in Public’ by Holly Bourne and ‘Meat Market’ by Juno Dawson. It’s an important concept which is brilliantly executed by a master of her genre and craft. Highly recommended to anyone writing YA or who is a fan of the genre.