eBook - 2020
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A hard story to read and a harder one to put down . . . a well-constructed package of dynamite. --Stephen King Exploring the psychological dynamics of the relationship between a precocious yet na ve teenage girl and her magnetic and manipulative teacher, a brilliant, all-consuming read that marks the explosive debut of an extraordinary new writer. 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? Alternating between Vanessa's present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of Room, My Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself.
Publisher: [Place of publication not identified] : WILLIAM MORROW, 2020.
ISBN: 9780062941527
Branch Call Number: eBook OverDrive
Characteristics: 1 online resource.
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc

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My god, this was a hard read. Not in the sense of density, or quality of writing; I found myself choking back the words at a breakneck pace, barely coming up for air, always instantly transported into the story. But holy, the subject matter. The utterly heartbreaking and enraging things that this book is's very challenging to look back on it now even.

Told from Vanessa's perspective in both her teenage years and her thirties, My Dark Vanessa tells the story of the titular character's grooming and rape at the hands of her teacher at boarding school. Vanessa doesn't realize she's being groomed, nor can she anticipate the effect this relationship will have on her psyche. Raw, real, and painful, this book details how Vanessa deals with both the aftermath and the continuation of this affair.

This is so hard to review, because on the one hand, I want to scream FIVE STARS THIS IS INSANE READ THIS BOOK and on the other hand I want to quietly shelve it on my bookshelf and never look at it again. The world absolutely needs books like these. But be warned, is it messed up.

I think what's most disturbing about it overall is how real it all feels. How timely it is, how our world is finally acknowledging the horribleness of these abusers and trying to bring them to justice, but how there are always those who blame the girl. Who blame themselves. And it is such a slap in the face to be confronted with it again and again over the course of the narrative here. Vanessa is so convinced of her own role in everything that it made me feel sick. She's so wrapped up in the version of herself that Strane crafts that she can't see who she is beyond it. Getting into her head is so ultimately exhausting because it's hard to keep your own perspective clear and not get dragged into hers.

The believability of it all comes into play for me just thinking about how Vanessa gets groomed into this. At 15, I was so awkward, a horse girl, never wanted anything to do with other people because I had no self esteem and was convinced no one could ever like me like that. And to see that portrayed, and then taken advantage of, so intensely here was an experience like nothing else I've ever gone through. It was painful, heavy, and panic-inducing. It hurts to think about girls going through this. It is absolutely maddening to think of men who do this to those girls.

At the end of the day, though, this is a necessary book. This is a book that anyone who has ever blamed the victim needs to read. It's so hard to read, but it's important, and, with all the necessary trigger warnings, I think that I would feel safe recommending it. Sure, it's a slap in the face, like I said. But I hope it opens some eyes and reflects some experiences for those who need that catharsis.

May 06, 2020

Wow. So, I read this almost entirely in one sitting and was absolutely blown away by it. Yet another book that tackles the intricacies of abuse and how things aren't always black & white. While as a reader it is easy to condemn Strane and even to see where Vanessa went "wrong," the novel also delves into the impact of grooming and how it can impact one's thought processes for life. It faces head-on the idea of agency in young women and why some people may opt to see themselves as something other than a victim. This is unbelievably compelling and unbelievably important.

Apr 29, 2020

Couldn't put it down. When is a rape not a rape!?

Apr 03, 2020

This book wasn't an enjoyable read by any means but it was certainly engaging. I would absolutely recommend giving this a read and then spending some time absorbing it.

LoganLib_Kirra Apr 02, 2020

My Dark Vanessa was a horrifying read. The author has done a fantastic job creating this alluring and dominating relationship as he cons her into believing they have this joint uncontrollable attraction. It’s so intense to read such vivid and frank writing that spares no detail but also it makes for such a compelling read. It’s a book that will leave a mark.

IndyPL_LeahK Mar 31, 2020

This is perhaps one of the most unsettling and uncomfortable reads yet as difficult as it is to read, it is impossible to put down. Kate Elizabeth Russell's debut novel is a psychological study of sexual abuse that asks hard questions. What is consent? Who is a victim? Who is the abuser? And how can psychological grooming look like seduction? Russell has spent 18 years writing this book which makes it all the more powerful a read. Russell explores the character Vanessa alternating in time when she was a 15 year old high school student who was abused by her 42 year old English teacher and the year 2000 as a 32 year old woman in the current #metoo movement still suffering from that abuse. The character development of Vanessa is masterfully written and profoundly realistic. There are moments that the novel reads more like a biography especially the adolescent chapters. Reader prepare yourself for an intense and disturbing experience that will at times make you feel a voyeur to the abuse.

JCLColleenO Mar 31, 2020

3.5 stars-This was hard to read, but gave a good interpretation of how the experience affected Vanessa’s life for decades. The author did a very good job of portraying how Vanessa’s trauma was so ingrained & powerful. My lower rating was because I felt that the book was way too long.

Mar 20, 2020

Loved this read it in a couple days

Mar 15, 2020

Vanessa felt she was truly loved by her high school English teacher. He was in his late 30’s. She was 15 when Mr. Strane professed his love for him. Others at the elite boarding school weren’t so sure it was love. Forced to leave the school when she lied and said she made up the story about her love affair, she returned to live with her parents in a small Maine town. She convinced herself that her teacher was only doing what she wanted him to do, she was a willing partner. But when other girls made claims about the same professor molesting them, she is forced to reexamine what her relationship truly was. This book is so aptly titled and is at times difficult to read without wanting to shake Vanessa and tell her things weren’t quite as she remembered. This forbidden relationship impacted her into her adult life and adult relationships. This is an unsettling book, but important to read for it shows how pedophiles groom their victims.

JCLGreggW Feb 18, 2020

This literary debut novel about the relationship between a young student and her much older teacher is a dark, glittering gem, tackling tough issues with an even hand. Socially and culturally timely yet elegantly and intimately crafted. One of the year's best.

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