Reviewed by Colleen Turner

The Slocumb women are superstitious about the number fifteen and, given their experiences, they should be. When Ginny “Big” was fifteen she gave birth to her daughter, Liza “Little”, and had to leave her parents, church and town behind to escape their censure and disdain. When Liza was fifteen she gave birth as well and, weeks after bringing her baby girl home, ran away in the middle of the night without so much as a word to Big.

It was over two years later that Liza came back with daughter Mosey in tow and sick with a drug addiction. While they seemed to do a fine enough job repairing themselves and keeping their lives stable in the years between, that fifteenth year always looms above them, foreshadowing havoc. So, as Mosey got closer and closer to turning fifteen, both Big and Liza became more apprehensive about what would happen next. If only they knew this strange rule of fifteen would take a different turn in putting a devastating kink in their lives.

Right before Mosey’s fifteenth birthday Liza suffers a stroke. The Liza Big and Mosey remember, the feisty and fun woman who men couldn’t take their eyes off of, has retreated far into herself and seems to only glimmer out of her one good eye in flashes that soon disappear. As if that isn’t enough, when Big hires someone to pull up an old willow tree to make room in their yard for a pool they can use for Liza’s therapy, a silver box is unearthed and the secret hidden within will change all of their lives, and their relationships, forever.

While what is found in the box is revealed early on, I am not about to give it away here as it is such a pivotal point in the story. What I will say is, while the contents are devastating to everyone involved, their revelation does allow some good to come from it. Mosey, a young girl who has been fighting against this Slocumb curse since as far back as she can remember, is able to seek some independence from her family and grows as a person while also realizing what a wonderful family she actually has. Liza is forced to fight through her affliction and improve her health in order to help her family and make sure the facts surrounding her secrets are told in light of their discovery. And Big, who has long felt that Liza’s wild behavior and the problems that surfaced from them were a result of the lax parenting her being a dumb teenage mother produced, is able to not only be the strong, solid parent she always needed to be but is able to grow as a woman in her own right and reclaim the love she gave up for her family years before.

There is just something so enjoyable about Joshilyn Jackson’s colloquial writing style and A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty is no exception. I find that her descriptive abilities allow you to put yourself fully into the characters instead of just witnessing what they are saying and going through. I especially loved Mosey’s dialogue and was completely convinced of her as a true representation of a confused, unconfident, smart-mouthed teenager.

The Slocumbs are what many would call a typical American family, meaning they are unique in their own right and full of problems. They also love each other and would do anything to keep each other safe. I can only hope that Jackson writes more families like the Slocumbs as I thoroughly miss them already.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Grand Central Publishing. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.