Skip to main content

Grown: YA Book Reviews


Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson

TW: (from the title page of the book) sexual abuse, rape, assault, child abuse, kidnapping, and addiction to opioids 

Overview: Enchanted just wants to be a singer. Living in the suburbs, she doesn't know how this will happen until she gets noticed by Korey Fields at an audition. She doesn't make the show, but she gets taken under his wing. She just wants a career, and she wants to be loved, and she wants to be told she's beautiful. Korey does all that and more. He also has money and power- more things Enchanted lacks. She wants to be an adult and take life on, but she's fallen into the hands of an abuser and master manipulator. Coming out the other side leaves Korey dead and Enchanted trying to find her footing. Overall: 5

Characters: 5 All of these characters are extremely vivid. Enchanted is such a good main character. She has confidence and is so smart. But you can see her little vulnerabilities that Korey expertly exploits. It's clear to see, even before we learn the extent of his abuse, that Korey has really practiced his predatory skills. If you've every been coerced or manipulated in a romantic relationship  with an unequal power dynamic or read about people who have, all the small steps will feel well worn and familiar. It's a realization that all of these people have a pattern, and it's chilling. While you just want to yell, "Stop!" the whole time, Jackson draws the story in a way that makes each of Enchanted's choices understandable. 

Her parents are also crafted perfectly to suit the story. They aren't absent or inattentive. Most parents of girls who go through this on a larger or smaller scale often aren't. They both love her, but they have their own concerns and struggles along the way. They want to watch over their daughter and do what's best for her while also allowing her to make her own choices because she's almost an adult. It's an impossible balance, and they believed they were doing everything right. Their repeated failed attempts to intervene as it intensifies shows just how intense the manipulation and power hold is from the abuser. 

I also really appreciate how Jackson crafted Korey Fields's character. She managed to make him a three dimensional character without ever glamorizing, romanticizing, or justifying his behavior. We get hints at a possible why, but it's never an excuse. It never takes away from what's happening. Seeing him through Enchanted's eyes we see the charm that hooks her in, but to the reader, the warning bells are loud from the start. We, as the reader, don't have to fall for Korey to understand why Enchanted does, and that's so important. It's such a difficult story to tell well, and Jackson does it with the incredibly important sensitivity the topic demands. 

Plot: 5 This book is an intense rollercoaster. We follow Enchanted in and out of abuse. We see her in recovery. We see her falling into his traps, and we see the painful, gross, difficult realities of her time stuck with him in incredible nuance. Jackson knows when to zoom in and when to pull off and leave some moments off the page. Again, she handles this with the care that is demanded. I never felt like she exploited the topic or played the dramatic moments for shock value. She also spends the time to build their relationship so that we understand what happens next. While there's plenty of drama and gripping your seat through the first 3/4, Jackson picks up the twists at the end. She makes you question the entire reality of the book and the reliability of the narrator and before turning it back around again without giving the reader whiplash or making them feel betrayed. The end is intense as the flashbacks to Enchanted waking up at the scene of Korey's murder culminate in a fast mystery to prove her innocence before it's too late. There's never a dull moment, and everyone I talked to couldn't put down the book, just like me.

Writing: 5 Tiffany Jackson always publishes masterclasses in her particular brand of true crime adjacent thrillers. While this one wasn't technically based on the R. Kelly case, the parallels are clear. The topic is handled with so much care and careful research blended with personal experience. She creates a horrifying larger than life stories that manage to stay so grounded. Also, the pacing is just incredible. The short burst chapters keep the pages turning. Despite my hectic school schedule, I read almost all 400 pages of it in three days. It's truly a portrait of the best YA can be when it's pushing on incredibly important issues and topics. 

A couple points I couldn't fit into the above categories but want to emphasize: First, the book starts with a full page of trigger warnings, which shouldn't be as rare as it is in YA. Heroine is the only other book I've ever seen with it (interestingly also from a Harper press). Also, I wanted to emphasize some of the themes in the story that couldn't be more timely. 

First, the variation of how the police treat Korey and Enchanted. For one, Jackson perfectly illustrates why women don't report the kind of abuse Enchanted suffers. They're questioned to death with an air of disbelief like they're the guilty party. It creates added trauma, and it's not a myth that justice is rarely served. Enchanted is mistreated both as an instant murder suspect and previously as a girl reporting sexual assault, stalking, and abuse. The police generally aren't here to help women. And, as Jackson emphasizes, especially not Black women. I found the consistent narrative of emphasizing that Enchanted had the cards stacked against her a million different ways because of both her gender and her race.

And, because this was a high profile incident, the comment section of the world weighs in, and I appreciated that Jackson tried to cover the public backlash as well. Enchanted is a victim to both racist and sexist attacks. Mirroring real life, the main comment whether they're condemning Korey or not is: Why didn't she know better? Why is that always the question? Even with as stark of an age difference and power difference between a poor 17 year old girl and a 29 year old influential millionaire, people still refused to point the finger (or entirely point the finger) at the known abuser. Enchanted gets skewered even with a small army of fellow victims of Korey Fields standing with her. It definitely humanizes and deepens the conversations both around power imbalances and their roles in relationships and abuse, how society pins the blame, and how our culture has a tendency to side with famous people and artists. She also brings up the idea of separating the art from the artist. While I generally fall on the side of saying that isn't possible, I feel like it shouldn't even be a conversation around known serial abusers. People who abuse their platform, celebrity, and privilege shouldn't be enabled by continual public support. 

Anyway, Tiffany clearly struck a nerve with this book, and I think that's 100% what she intended to do. The book is quite heavy and intense, so use caution before picking it up and know that it's okay to put it down at any point, but it's such a timely and important read. It's easy for your eyes to glaze over seeing these horrible stories in the news. It lights a different fire in you to have to live it through a book. I hope we can keep this conversation moving past specific events in the news and books like this because these topics are too important to keep ignoring. 

And, as a piece of literature alone, this book more than earned its place on the NYT list (even though that metric only has significance because we've all decided it does). Regardless of how you frame it, Tiffany is running the game. 

More From This Author...

Monday's Not Coming


Subscribe on YouTube

Links of Interest:

This Is All Your Fault: Blog Tour Stop

Swimming Lessons Poetry Review

Into YA with Kristina Forest

How It All Blew Up


Popular posts from this blog

Swimming Lessons By Lili Reinhart Poetry Review

Swimming Lessons by Lili Reinhart Overall: 5This is the first poetry book I've ever read in its entirety outside of Shel Silverstein, so I've checked off one of my reading goals for the year with this one. I've now read a graphic novel and a book of poetry. I've been anticipating Swimming Lessons so long that I can't believe it's actually in my hands. I've been a fan of Lili since Riverdale, and I've continued to be a fan of hers even when the show got a bit too ridiculous for me to keep watching every week. I've been excited for the chance to get to see something completely created a controlled by Lili. I'm not sure what I expected from Swimming Lessons. I think I had almost no idea what it would be like or the topics it would cover. After the first couple poems, I was completely hooked. In the intro, Lili prefaces the collection by noting that poetry has always given her solace in knowing other people felt the same specific emotions that she d…

How It All Blew Up: YA Book Review

How It All Blew Up by Arvin AhmadiOverview: Amir left before graduation. He just drove out of town and got on a plane to New York and then another on to Italy. Instead of paying the blackmail money or facing his conservative, Iranian family's reaction to him being outed as gay, he runs. In Rome, he stumbles into a found family of gay guys, many American, who take him under their wing. With these new friends in Rome, Amir feels like he can truly be himself for once in his life. With the money from editing Wikipedia pages, he wonders if he can just stay in Italy forever. But when he can't ignore his family's calls and drama starts up in the friend group, Amir realizes that you can't keep running forever. Overall: 4Characters: 4 Amir is well developed, and I enjoyed living in his brain. He's lost and constantly scared, but he also has a fearless streak that gets him to Rome in the first place. Most of all, he's confused. He feels like his identities contradict eac…

This Is All Your Fault Blog Tour Stop

Hi, everybody! Today, I'm a part of a book tour for Turn the Pages Tours letting you know about Aminah Mae Safi's book, This Is All Your Fault. If you've always dreamed about working in a bookstore, this new book will be perfect for you. It's about a group of teen booksellers who have to band together to help save the store. Check out the full description down below to get to know the book and learn more about Aminah through her author bio and the links to her social media! If you want to pick up the book right now, I'll leave a link to the book on Bookshop here which helps support the blog because it's an affiliate link, which means the blog might get a small commission from your purchase at no extra cost to you. It's a great way to support the blog while shopping for books! If you'd rather not shop at Bookshop, here's the general purchase linkDescription: Set over the course of one day, Aminah Mae Safi's This Is All Your Fault is a smart and…

Fear of Missing Out

Fear of Missing Out by Kate McGovern 
Overview: Astrid has a form of brain cancer called astrocytoma that causes a star shaped tumor to form near her brainstem. Though she was in remission, two years later, the cancer comes back, and Astrid becomes convinced that she won't beat the disease. She starts to pursue options that will allow her to have a life in the future, namely, cryopreservation. After essentially freezing her body, she hopes to wake up when there's a cure for her cancer so she can rejoin the world and see some of the milestones she fears missing.
On the road trip to tour the Arizona facility, though, Astrid makes other realizations about her life and eventual death that alters how she sees her original plan. Overall: 4 

Characters: 4 Astrid is relatable. She has a touch of dry, witty humor that makes her relatable. She loves her friends and family deeply, but she also has a conviction to follow what feels best for her. I appreciated how she always tried to stay ho…

September 2020 Wrap Up

I've honestly been stuck on what to write for this wrap up. I guess I'm surprised that September is finally over? It's been another boringly eventful month. I've been much busier trying to balance two blogs, YouTube, and college. I feel like I'm managing everything okay, but it's still a lot to process on some days when you factor in everything else going on in the world. I'm in a weird place of feeling totally lost and stagnant and also like I'm making some major strides towards getting where I want to go. It's hard to remember that it takes a long time build something up, and the process is something to enjoy too. I'm trying not to dwell on what's out of my control. Reflecting back on the month, I've accomplished a lot more than I felt like I did when I sat down to write this. A lot of what I'm most proud of myself, I'm not going to talk about in a ton of detail yet because I'm super superstitious about talking about things…

Books I'm Looking Forward To: October 2020

October means fall, Halloween, and some brand new books! This is a short list this time with a couple books I've had my eyes on for a while. As always, if you want to preorder a copy of any of these books (it helps authors a ton), I have preorder links to Bookshop through my affiliate page. That means shopping these links might give me a small commission at no cost to you! It's a great way to support the blog. Let me know in the comments which books you're looking forward to most in October. Also, I'd love YA thriller recommendations. I'm looking forward to doing another Halloween post like two years ago featuring some newer thrillers/creepy books. Let me know if you have a favorite. Also, don't forget to check out my September Favorites YouTube VideoOne Way or Another by Kara McDowellOctober 6Get a CopyI'm in the middle of reading this one now! In just a couple days, Kara will be releasing a brand new book. Paige has an impossible choice. Go with her lon…

Clap When You Land: YA Book Review

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth AcevedoTW: sex trafficking, sexual assault, grief, loss of a parentClick Here To Get a Copy! Overview: Camino and Yahaira are sisters, but they don't know it yet. Camino's dad spends most of the year in NYC making money to send back to the Dominican Republic. Yaharia's father always spent the summers away doing business in the Dominican Republic. They don't know that when their dad is gone, he's really visiting the other daughter until his plane crashes into the Atlantic Ocean. The aftermath and grieving process bring them together. While the grief and loss leaves a giant hole, it also opens new possibilities. Overall: 4Characters: 5 Yahaira and Camino are both super relatable. Their voices are so similar yet distinct, and you can see how growing up in two different cultures, yet still heavily influenced by each other, developed their points of view. Camino has a lot of assumptions about her American sister, assuming their rich and t…

Into YA with Kristina Forest

I'm super excited to bring you another edition of Into YA, this time with one of my new favorite YA authors, Kristina Forest. While I'm sure you've already heard about Now That I've Found You, you can get caught up by reading my review here. Thank you to Kristina for taking the time to chat with me, and I hope you enjoy our conversation. If you want to help support the blog, please consider grabbing a copy through my Bookshop affiliate link here1. In Now That I Found You, all of your main characters are famous. Evie and her family are huge in the film industry, and love interest, Milo, is on the rise with his band. Did that require extra research to write about for either the music or film industries?
It didn’t require much research. I’ve always been interested in old Hollywood and I’m a big fan of movies and music, and I’ve watched dozens of documentaries and/or biopics so I felt pretty prepared to write the story without having to do additional research.
2. Once Ev…

Is YA For Me?

I've seen a lot of different conversations taking place on Twitter that all come back to a central theme. The YA space is controlled by adults. For the most part, they are the ones with the purchasing power, they have jobs in the industry, they are in a better position to amplify their voices about how they feel about different books and the category as a whole. I've been thinking about these conversations as a whole, and it really does come back to the intended audience not owning the space and what that means for the category and the conversations around it.
As a teen who's heavily involved in the YA community, I sometimes feel awkward reading all the different, slightly varied takes from adults. Some make blanket statements for themselves and some work with teens and try to be a conduit to add them to the conversation. Very rarely do I come across a real teen who gets an amplified voice in the conversation (definitely go check out Vicky Who Reads on Twitter because, as…