As many novels have done before and will do again, Joshilyn Jackson’s A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty explores familial bonds, the ties that bind and that destroy, and the intricate relationships that evolve from these complex connections. For the Slocumb ladies, every fifteen years seems to provide a family curse. Pregnant at age fifteen, Jenny hopes for a better future for her daughter, but her struggle to create a loving environment for Liza sets her down a dangerous path. Eventually, Liza also becomes pregnant at age fiftenn and presents the world with Mosey. Now that Mosey is that magic age - fifteen years old - Jenny can only pray that the curse will not rear its ugly head. However, certain circumstances occur which force Jenny to realize that her curse is still alive and kicking, and she must show her mettle in an effort to protect her family at all costs.Ms. Jackson is known for strong female leads, and all of her characters in A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty definitely live up to those standards. As the matriarch, Jenny is fiercely loyal and quite the force of nature. She will do everything in her power to protect her girls, and it is difficult to imagine this feisty woman as vulnerable or incapable. Mosey, as the youngest, still retains the artlessness unique to youth, although glimpses of her lively personality leave a reader with no doubts that she will grow up to be the same supremely confident woman as the others in her family. In between is Liza, a woman struck essentially voiceless due to her stroke but who retains her spirited personality and makes that fact known. Hers is the most tragic story of the three women, but she never appears a victim nor desires sympathy. Just like her mother, she remains devoted to protecting her daughter. Together, this dynamic trio of women create such a strong presence in any scene that one knows they are more than capable of tackling any problem and will do so with aplomb.The story behind A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty pales next to the women’s vibrancy and determination. The unfolding of past actions and their relation to the current day’s proceedings are anemic and slightly predictable when compared to their dedicated and unpredictable personalities. While the discoveries of Liza’s shady past and Mosey’s true origins are interesting, they just cannot stand up to the maturity and devotion among the three that prevails in the present day.Typically, authors narrating their own works tends to be uncomfortable, if not outright disastrous. Sure, they know the voices of their characters, but being an author is not the same thing as being a performer. Thankfully, Ms. Jackson proves better than average at narrating her novels, having done so with previous stories and then again with this latest. While her voice tends to fall into a nasally whine at times, her performance makes up for this deficiency in its enthusiasm. Her differentiation between characters is slight but effective, and she is able to maintain the world-weary innocence within Mosey that any parent of a teenager knows so well. Her infectious Southern charm infuses an average performance with enough vigor to please even the most discerning audiophiles.A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty is a true Southern novel. Its plot is slow and leisurely, meandering through subplots knowing that it will arrive at its denouement in good time. The only thing missing is the hidden mysteries, only seen when right on top of them. Alongside this unhurried narrative are three extremely energetic and forceful women about whom there is nothing genteel or demure and who stand in direct counterpoint to the seeming gentleness of the story. The storyline does have its moments of excitement but for the most part, the vitality of the main characters is what drives a reader’s interest. In that light, A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty is the best kind of character-driven novel. They may not completely grown and change, but their personalities drive the novel. All a reader can do is hold on for the ride.