Title: My Dark Vanessa

Author: Kate Elizabeth Russell

Published: March 2020

Genres: Fiction/Contemporary




2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.

2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?


NICKY'S REVIEW   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

In high school, and finding herself on the receiving end of intense interest from a teacher, 15yo Vanessa tells the narrative which revolves around the development of this complex, toxic relationship over 15 years. The language used paints a perfect, painful picture of how much it consumes her life, and brings into question the concept of victimisation, consent, and glorification. It is dark, confronting and intense, but I think this novel is well overdue. At times it made me uncomfortable, but not necessarily in a bad way. In hindsight, I realised that feeling stemmed from the detail in the dialogue, and the rarity of such subject matter being written so plainly and with nothing spared. I think that is the sign of an important novel, and I think that whatever Russell is trying to accomplish, she has.


TAY'S REVIEW   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Rating this book wasn’t easy by any stretch; I found it difficult to separate my distaste of the topic & character (we all know which one) with the story and book itself. It was disturbing and uncomfortable and CONSTANTLY made my skin crawl. There was just as much focus on the psychological abuse as there was psychical abuse. It was deeply saddening to see the “relationship’s” life-long impact on her family, career & sexuality. With all of that said, what easy way is there to write about such a topic? Her thought dialogue is fascinating and there are many powerful moments, but I would be careful who I recommend it to.

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