A narrator who may or may not be reliable.
The murder of a beloved musician.
A Black woman finds her voice.
Whew! GROWN is one hell of a read. This book kept me racing through it until the very end (read: I finished this book in one sitting). Jackson DELIVERS a heart-pumping (and breaking tbh) story revolving around the #MeToo era and a 17 year old girl who just wants to sing. Readers, I'll warn you -- this story is triggering but it is such an important read. We need more stories about Black women and girls that take their trauma seriously and this book highlights an incredibly painful truth -- when you look a certain way, sometimes the words out of your mouth go unheard or dismissed.
GROWN follows the story of a 17 year old girl named Enchanted who's desperate to be a singer and (un)fortunately runs into her 28 year old musician hero, Korey Fields. Even though he knows she's only 17, Korey takes an interest in Enchanted's singing career. Maybe you'll see where this is going, but of course the relationship quickly turns romantic, with Korey telling Enchanted that their relationship is just 'their secret'.
What I love about Jackson's portrayal of Enchanted is that there's enormous amount of empathy for her character. Enchanted is honestly your average high school kid with a dream too big for her parents to accept (and a hell of a lot of talent). So when Jackson throws Korey Fields into the mix and he offers Enchanted a dream come true, it's not hard to understand why a kid would jump at a chance like that, even with the glaring red flags. Or why her parents would think that this is the time to support their child in following a dream that now seems very achievable. I think that's actually the brilliance of this book -- even though the alarm bells are ringing nearly from the get go, there's always just enough to make it seem as if maybe the reality of abuse Enchanted is experiencing isn't quite as bad, until it is bad. There is a line between abusive behavior and not, but Jackson's story of Enchanted reveals that where that line is drawn varies. Enchanted saves herself, but even then she must convince the police, her friends, her family, and her community of the trauma she knows she experienced.
Jackson rips apart the rape culture and misogynoir Black women in America face every day and deftly unravels the truth of how unprotected Black women and girls are in a society unwilling to listen or believe what they have to say. Not everyone may be familiar with what abusive behavior looks like, but Jackson leaves no room for vagueness -- the reality of what happens to Enchanted cannot be denied or ignored because of what it ultimately results in. But how Enchanted's society, family, and friends respond to it is a flaming indictment of the gaslighting and continued trauma survivors experience even after they've escaped their situation. Jackson wraps this into the aftermath of Enchanted's escape by leaving her with memories that everyone tells Enchanted are unreliable. These memories, however, are the key to the truth that could potentially save Enchanted and in a world that has effectively abandoned her, Enchanted must truly examine the truth of what happened.
GROWN is a heart-wrenching read I couldn't race through fast enough and one that reminded me just how far we still have to go in supporting survivors of assault and abuse, especially when they've been hurt by those who are powerful enough to control the narrative of what happened. Jackson is a FABULOUS writer who gives Enchanted the depth and humanity she deserves in telling such a traumatic story. GROWN is a book that frighteningly echoes a reality we currently live in and above all demands that we do better when it comes to believing and protecting Black women and girls.