My Dark Vanessa

“There must be a point where you’re allowed to be defined by something other than what he did to you.”

Thank you William Morrow Books for gifting me a copy of MY DARK VANESSA by Kate Elizabeth Russell.

“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?”

I finished reading this book last week and I am still attempting to process the storyline. It’s given me such book hangover that I did not finish the book I tried read directly after— I just couldn’t stop thinking about MY DARK VANESSA.

The fact that this is a debut novel from Russell just astounds me. She is truly a talented writer and a master at creating a memorable storyline. I was completely blown away by how Russell could write a work of fiction that felt like non-fiction. She makes it very clear from the beginning that this is not a factual story and that MY DARK VANESSA is a work of fiction in no way a reflection on her personal experiences.

The way that the storyline alternates back and forth between 2000 and 2017 made it even more powerful. As a reader, I was able to see just how what happened to Vanessa when she was 15-years old impacted her as an adult. The decisions that she makes in 2017 are due to what happened to her as a child. It made me feel sick to my stomach just thinking about the correlation between the two and all of the ways her life may have been different if she had never met Jacob Strane.

This novel is disturbing on levels that I haven’t experienced before with a book. It took me days to read it as I could only read bits a time— the content was heavy enough that it weighed on me even after I put the book down. Yes, the book did give me a book hangover, it wasn’t because it was such a heartfelt story that I would remember it forever, it was because it was such a heartbreaking story that will stay with me for a long time. I said it earlier, and I will say it again, Russell is an immensely talented author.

While I do highly recommend reading this book, I want you to know that I do so with a warning that this could be triggering for you if you, or someone you know, have experienced something similar to this story. It is not an easy read and in no way will you close the book and feel infinitely better; however, it is a brilliant book and I can’t praise Russell’s writing enough.

Thank you William Morrow Books and Kate Elizabeth Russell for the opportunity to read this book before its release date.

MY DARK VANESSA will be published on March 10th and is available to order now.

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