Grown: A Librarian’s Perspective

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I saw a list on Facebook recently. You know, those lists from sites like Buzzfeed or Cracked or whatever. I don’t remember which one it was from, but it was about famous men who dated underage girls. Some of the men were in their 50s, dating girls who were 15 or 16 at that time. I am familiar with most of the men and women in the list–almost all of them are famous people–but I’ve never heard anything about any of the men getting into legal trouble over their problematic “relationships.”

This book is so needed right now.

AUTHOR: Tiffany Jackson
SERIES: none
PUBLISHER: Katherine Tegen Books
PUBLICATION DATE: September 15, 2020
PAGES: 384
GENRE: mystery, realistic fiction
SETTING: present-day; USA (multiple locations)
GIVE IT TO: HS

SUMMARY

17-year old Enchanted Jones loves to sing. When she goes to an American Idol-style audition, she isn’t sent through to the next round. But she does get noticed. R&B producer and artist Korey Fields approaches Enchanted after her audition and offers to help her polish her act. It isn’t long before Enchanted and Korey are in a secret romantic relationship, one that quickly grows abusive. Mostly told as flashbacks between “Now” (Korey’s murder scene) and “Then” (the development of Korey and Enchanted’s relationship).

THE SHORT VERSION

Though I didn’t quite “buy” the murder scene and how it really went down, I still loved this book and its message about abusive men who prey on women and teens. It explores how women are often not believed or are blamed for their situations, as well as how society and certain industries protect men who do bad things.

WHAT I LIKED

Enchanted and her family are fantastic. I always love seeing a strong family in YA fiction, but sadly, it seems to be the exception rather than the rule. A strong black family makes it even better. Enchanted is often “in charge” of her four younger siblings, and while she loves them, there is also a bit of resentment there. Many young people will identify.

I love the connection with the #metoo movement and how women–especially Black women–are often not believed when they report a crime. Victim blaming and shaming is also addressed beautifully in this book.

Author Tiffany Jackson based this story on pop artist R. Kelly’s multiple accusations of abuse and sexual misconduct with women and teens. I love that this was pulled from the headlines–it makes Enchanted’s story feel even more real. With the #metoo movement gaining both increased support and fervent denial, this book could not have come at a better time. Today’s news is full of stories of famous people (men, mostly) taking advantage of impressionable underage women. Too often, it’s seen as the teen girl’s fault, that she brought the situation on herself. Seriously, what kind of 28-year old man thinks it’s appropriate to be with a 17-year old high school girl?

I especially love that Enchanted isn’t perfect. She doesn’t do everything right because she’s a teen girl in love and a human being. Korey–a 28-year old man–is majorly in the wrong, yet his record label and employees protect him with all they’ve got. They see Korey’s manipulations and abuse, but if Korey goes down, they go down with him. They have everything to lose with Korey’s bad publicity, court settlements, and possible jail time, so they choose instead to look the other way.

Pacing is excellent. I was never bored with the story and read the whole book in two sittings.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

The entire story revolves around Korey’s murder, which looks pretty incriminating for Enchanted. She was in his hotel room at the time of the murder. She’s covered in his blood. She doesn’t remember what happened.

The mystery, of course, is whether Enchanted killed Korey and if she will be found not guilty due to his abuse. Several people have a motive to kill Korey, and police say early on that there was a third person in the room when Korey was murdered.

Once the events of the murder are revealed, I felt a bit let down. The two most important clues felt too contrived and convenient. I liked the way the story ended, but it didn’t feel strong enough. I wasn’t convinced, like the explanation went too fast and left out too many details. I still had questions.

DIVERSITY

Enchanted, her family, friends in Will and Willow, and Korey Fields are Black. Enchanted’s best friend Gabi is Hispanic.

COVER/ARTWORK/ILLUSTRATIONS

LOVE that cover! Gorgeous with the yellow and Enchanted’s bald head and her gold hoop earrings. Eye-catching and totally fierce.

LIBRARIANS WILL WANT TO KNOW

Themes: abuse, victim blaming, rape, lying, secret relationships, family, pop stars, musicians, singers, siblings, #metoo, rape culture, misogyny, murder

Would adults like this book? YES! I loved it–Tiffany Jackson is one of my favorite authors.

Would I buy this for my high school library? YES–This is an easy booktalk, and the author is popular.

Would I buy this for my middle school library?: NO–I think it’s too mature for MS. It could work for mature 8th grade readers, so I might have it available for those students in a special collection.

TRIGGER WARNINGS

Language: I lost access to this during a long internet outage after a hurricane. I don’t remember a lot of profanity, but I’m sure there was at least some.

Sexuality: medium–kissing, sex tape (not explicit, just the idea of it), statutory rape, teen girls romantically involved with 28-year old man, oral sex (no details given, just a mention that it happened)

Violence: medium-high–controlling behavior, physical abuse, murder (knife), character at murder scene “covered in blood” and sees blood everywhere

Drugs/Alcohol: medium–“drunk” character; force-feeding a drugged drink; codeine addiction

Other: romance between multiple underage teen girls and a 28-year old man; record label protects and covers up illegal activity

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