A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson is a story of mothers and daughters. Ginny, also known as Big, had her daughter Liza when she was a teenager. Liza, in turn, became a teenage mother to Mosey. This story takes place in Mosey’s fifteenth year, the year her mother suffers a stroke, and the year in which a handyman uncovers Liza’s box with baby bones in their backyard. It’s no mystery to Big and Mosey that Liza’s biological daughter died, but the mystery is who Mosey is.
Like just about every book I’ve read recently, this book alternates narration from character to character: the supremely motherly Ginny, the recovering-addict-and-recovering-stroke-victim Liza, and the angst-ridden Mosey, who embarks on a search for her real parents. Jackson captures the voices incredibly well, from the Big, the struggling Liza, and the confused Mosey. What I very much appreciated about the characters is that they weren’t quirky for the sake of being quirky, which I sometimes feel when I read contemporary Southern novels.
The actual plot or actual mystery is not the main draw of this book: this book is not about suspense about Mosey’s actual parents or about Liza and her deceased daughter. This book is about the characters, how they care for each other, and how they help each other through the incredibly rough patches they are going through. Jackson is very good at capturing the voices of her three main characters, especially Big and Mosey. The main villain is not so fleshed-out, but that’s not a hindrance to the story. Another thing I loved about this story is that the side characters like Mosey’s friends were well-rounded characters, not just wisecracking sidekicks. That’s not to say that this story or its characters are humorless: there’s plenty of humor throughout the book that keeps it from being relentlessly bleak.
I’d recommend this book most to people who like smart, teen-angst-tinged stories, be they books, movies or TV shows.
A GROWN-UP KIND OF PRETTY by Joshilyn Jackson
Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: January 25, 2012
Source: Publisher via NetGalley