Book Review: My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

My Dark Vanessa
by Kate Elizabeth Russell
Rating: ★★★★★

Published by HarperCollins Australia
Publication Date: 9th of March, 2020
Australian RRP: $29.99

“Vanessa Wye was fifteen years old when she first had sex with her English teacher. She is now thirty-two and the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student of his. Vanessa is horrified by this news, because she is quite certain that the relationship she had with Strane wasn’t abuse. It was love. She’s sure of that.

*This book and review contains mention of rape and abuse*

My Dark Vanessa was a horrifying read. It put me in the shoes of this young girl and detailed her abuse and the deep damage it left on her afterwards and into her adult life. From the very start I could see him grooming her, playing a game of cat and mouse and even pulling away from her and acting like he wasn’t pursuing her so she would be pursuing him for the pretence that it was a consensual relationship between two people.

Then, a hundred pages in, it was the first time he raped her. It was so confronting to read and very daunting as the writing changed to sharp descriptions and all pretence of the romance dropped when he achieved his goal. It’s really sickening but I can also see how she could be swayed into the abuse as a prime target for a predator, being an insecure girl with no friends. Then being made to feel special and mature, and to top it off coming up to the first instance of abuse he gave her Lolita to read. Further cementing the allure by comparing to the Humbert and Lolita style relationship she thought they would have.

This felt so wrong to read, I felt so bad for her reading this book and worse thinking that this actually happens and far worse. Overall, 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. I’m glad Vanessa realised her viewpoint and mindframe toward what actually happened to her in her teenage years when she was abused but I also feel like it was at that point not as impactful. 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.

Thanks for reading!

HarperCollins Australia, My Dark Vanessa

Click here to add this book to Goodreads
– Kirra // Goodreads

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