Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson rips a page from the Mute R. Kelly movement to create a traumatic storyline that brings a teenage girl in the crosshairs of the dangerously famous life of an R&B crooner with a penchant for attracting underaged girls.
Enchanted Jones sees herself as a mermaid. She swims on her high school team and fosters a golden voice. One day her best friend Gabriella tells Enchanted about a showcase where she can win an opportunity for the singing career of her dreams. Enchanted tricks her mother into driving them to the showcase where she sings her heart out onstage but doesn’t get a coveted spot on a singing competition show. But 28-year-old R&B sensation Korey Fields does notice Enchanted and hands her his phone number when her mother isn’t looking.
That transpires into a flirty text message exchange with Korey dropping promises to catapult Enchanted’s career. Her parents agree for Enchanted to spend time with Korey in his home studio. Those experiences bring Enchanted and Korey closer while her parents are wondering why they can’t come into the session or why she’s staying hours longer. Once their relationship goes public thanks to a viral video Korey released without Enchanted’s knowledge, Enchanted joins Korey on tour. Her parents aren’t sure, but Korey’s female assistant Jessica agrees to be a guardian for Enchanted. Jessica is a woman, so the parents trust her to watch over Enchanted. But of course that’s not what happens.
Enchanted is transformed into the adult singer Korey wants her to be but so is another girl from the showcase that Enchanted finds in Korey’s mansion. They both are locked into their respective rooms. Jessica tells Enchanted she can’t leave the room for any reason—even going to the bathroom in which she’s given a bucket. The fairy tale romance Enchanted thought she had quickly is going south with Korey controlling her every move. She eventually breaks away but not before she’s a suspect in his murder.
The story mirrors what we know of R. Kelly’s alleged sexual predatoriness on teenage girls. Enchanted is promised the singing career of her dreams by the famous Korey Fields as he lures her into a manipulative relationship.
One factor here is that other characters around Enchanted are embarrassed by her faux pas of spending time with Korey such as her Will & Willow friends. The Black social group mimicking the real Jack & Jill have text exchanges throughout the book judging Enchanted and her parents for what’s taking place in the limelight. They say their parents are judging Enchanted’s parents for signing off on the tour and losing contact with their daughter. Enchanted’s younger sister Shea is totally embarrassed at Will & Willow and at their predominantly White school about what Enchanted has done. Gabriella demands Enchanted leave Korey alone, which puts stress on their friendship until Gabriella disappears from Enchanted’s life. And when Enchanted tries to find Gabriella after leaving Korey, nobody believes Gabriella even exists.
The trust Enchanted and her family have for Korey in the beginning also stems from the celebrity status. Korey is a known figure, so why would he hurt Enchanted? Like the real R. Kelly, the fictional R&B singer had allegations against him in the media brought by women who had inappropriate relationships with him when underaged, but his success overpowered that news. People confuse celebrity for trust because these individuals are famous and they wouldn’t break the law with so many eyes on their every move, but the last several years have taught us that a lot of men kept secrets pre-#MeToo movement and when their secrets rose to the public surface, they were quashed.
The edge of eighteen is another issue explored in this book with Enchanted getting too excited to enter adulthood and make her dreams happen instantly. Usually adults learn quickly that dreams don’t happen in a snap, but teens desire that freedom on the highest level. And many girls find themselves in the grasp of men who promise them that freedom, and in this case, that dream if they engage in a sexual relationship with those men. They believe it’s their only hope while they also get their hearts involved, which is what Enchanted does when she feels like she has to protect Korey’s feelings especially when he’s dramatically displaying them and blaming the outbursts on his past.
Overall, this book has triggering elements but heightens the sexual, physical, and emotional abuse a girl can go through while in a relationship with a grown man.