MY DARK VANESSA by Kate Elizabeth Russell





TW: sexual abuse


Exploring the psychological dynamics of the relationship between a precocious yet naïve 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 victim-hood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of RoomMy Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself. (


How can I even review this book? This was a whirlwind. Maybe a rollercoaster. Or a journey? No. Maybe. A realization? An awakening? A 300+ page book filled with anxiety, sadness, heartbreak, paranoia, fear, lust, distrust, TRUST?, outrage, ANGER, hopefulness.. I seriously could go on.

It’s hard to write my thoughts into coherent sentences on this book. The beginning of this book made me uncomfortable. Made me feel rage. And disgust. I couldn’t keep up with the emotions. I felt exhausted? I had to take a break. But I didn’t want to leave Vanessa. Vanessa needs this story to be heard. Who am I to say I’M uncomfortable?

The middle is when it hit me hard. Truly. I was brought to tears several times just from a sentence. A word. A feeling. I wanted to jump into this book, grab Vanessa, and say “What the HELL is wrong with you? This isn’t LOVE. It’s ABUSE. It’s WRONG. You’re a VICTIM.”

The other part of me understood her though. I understood why she thought this relationship with her teacher was love. She was manipulated. She was lonely. And alienated. And she believe her teacher saved her.

Am I making sense here? Point is, this book is important. It’s important because we don’t hear or read this side of a story. We don’t go in depth of the feelings and thoughts of a 15 year old girl who believes she’s in love, but then comes into a realization 15 years later that she was abused.

This book is so moving, in a completely different way. I was pissed off, upset, but also thankful that I was reading this. It’s a different perspective. It’s a realization of the inner thoughts from a victim.


Actually, from a human being who experienced such trauma. I won’t call her a victim, or a survivor. Vanessa hates those words. She’s just, Vanessa.

MY DARK VANESSA is now available in stores everywhere! If you are interested, this book is now available on my Amazon storefront! No extra cost to you, but it does help support my blog when you purchase it through my link! Take a look!

Yours bookishly,


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