My Dark Vanessa, a review by Kristin

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My Dark Vanessa
By: Kate Elizabeth Russell

Publication Date: March 10, 2020
Published By: William Morrow
395 Pages

Find It On: Amazon | Goodreads

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“When we’re together … it feels as though the dark things inside me rise to the surface and brush against the dark things inside you.”

Trigger Warning: SA; Pedophilia, Suicide

In the year 2000, Vanessa Wye is a 15 year old girl attending a private, boarding high school. She engages in a relationship with her 42 year old teacher, Jacob Strane. Now it’s the year 2017 and Strane is being accused of sexual assault by another girl and asking Vanessa to come forward and tell her story. Vanessa grapples with the decision to remain silent or tell her version of the events that occurred. Vanessa never viewed herself as a victim, but as a willing participant. Is the man that transformed her and stayed in her life really the monster everyone is making him out to be?

I don’t even know where to begin my review of this book. It is captivating, compelling, dark, disturbing, indulging, mind blowing, and all the other descriptive words that I cannot come up with right now that says this book is amazing.

This book is told in alternating timelines, the years when Vanessa is young, and when she is older. Russell really pulled me back into my teenage years and remember what it was like to be a 15 year old girl. The writing is done so well that I felt every little thing that Vanessa felt, her love, her disgust, her yearning, her indecisiveness, her sadness, and her struggle. I absolutely understood why Vanessa didn’t feel like a victim. While mentally, I know it is wrong for a 42 year old and a 15 year old to be in a sexual relationship, getting inside Vanessa’s head and heart made me emotionally not always believe it.

This takes place during the height of the #MeToo movement, and this book really needs to be read by everyone. It explains why some girls come forward, and some don’t; it explains a bit about the point of view of some the girls/women that are involved with predators.

This is not an easy book to read, but it should be read. A great debut novel by Russell; I can’t wait to read her next book.


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