My Dark Vanessa - Kate Elizabeth Russell

My Dark Vanessa

By Kate Elizabeth Russell

  • Release Date: 2020-03-10
  • Genre: Literary
Score: 4
From 788 Ratings

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“Russell manages a brutal originality. . . . [an] exceedingly complex, inventive, resourceful examination of harm and power.” —The New York Times Book Review, Editors’ Choice

“To call this book a ‘conversation piece’ or ‘an important book’ feels belittling . . . [it] is so much more than that. It’s a lightning rod. A brilliantly crafted novel.”—The Washington Post

A most anticipated book by The New York Times • USA Today • Entertainment Weekly • Marie Claire • Elle • Harper's Bazaar • Bustle • Newsweek • New York Post • Esquire •  Real Simple • The Sunday Times • The Guardian 

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 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.


  • Page turner

    By frezz
    Great read of a tough subject.
  • Absolutely incredible

    By PmcCord95
    This book was amazing. It was extremely heavy and brought out a lot of emotions. Definitely a trigger if you’ve dealt with something like this before. Regardless, it was incredibly written and I couldn’t put it down
  • A novel I’ll never forget

    By kquirk
    First I have to say, this is one of the best written books in modern day history. This book sent chills down my spine. Honestly I can relate to this character and to her story, so maybe I’m biased. But truly an excellent written book. It was triggering, yet amusing. I had to stop myself from reading it in one day. I could see every inch of this story play out in my head. Always a sign of a great novel. You have to read my dark Vanessa. Trust me.
  • Loved!!!!

    By Mlawyer112
    My Review: Wow, wow, wow, this book took my breathe away!!!!! I haven’t read a book like this in a very long time. This story will stay with me and forever impact me. This is definitely my number one book I read for this year. It was just that good. This book was about a teenage girl who was lost and confused. She was seeking love and attention in all the wrong places. She was forever impacted by the choices she’s made. I want to start by saying that I was amazed by this debut novel. With a debut novel you expect flaws but with this one I found none. It was so beautifully well written. It really felt as if I was there living the story with all of them. It was so descriptive and I loved that. Even the plot kept me going. There was never a dull moment and you really felt for Vanessa and what she was going through. You also wanted to shake her at some parts and tell her she’s a victim and to stop blaming herself for what happened. It was not her fault that an older authority figure took advantage of her at such a young age. Now that brings me to the teacher who thought he did nothing wrong. I felt nothing but hate towards this man through the whole entire book. He was a master manipulator but acted like he did nothing wrong. He wanted to be able to live with himself for what he did and knew it was wrong. He did get what was coming to him in the end. Not the best of justice but it would do. This one of the best books I’ve read in my whole life and I’ve read a lot of books. It did live up to his hype and I’m so glad I read this great debut novel. Between the plot, characters and all the twists in this book it made it an easy and fast read. I would definitely recommend it and happily give it 5 Hearts❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
  • My Dark Vanessa

    By cssghyudwgb
    Zero stars. Worst book I’ve read in a long time.
  • My Dark Vanessa

    By Readingbythesea
    Sad story, I felt sorry for her. He knew she was weak and alone with no friends away from home. Her parents should have investigated into the teacher, Vanessa was not the first. Well written story.
  • Hard to put down

    By heyloserrrrrr
    This book was provocative, erotic, disturbing, frustrating and hopeful. I was immediately engrossed in the story and couldn’t put it down. Vanessa is a complex character. She’s delusional about being abused but she had to make her own truth to survive just like her abuser, the English teacher. It’s a well written story that flashes back and forth in Vanessa’s life. I love the writing style and think this would be a great book club book. So much to discuss and analyze. I really enjoyed it!
  • Good... but about 100 pages too long.

    By Red Baroness
    The book is sharply written and presents an insight I’ve never seen in a novel before when it comes to such delicate subject matter. There’s nothing about abuse that can be neatly packaged but while the book gave us insight, I wish it would have given us lessons and cautionary takeaways instead of repetitive references to Nabokov’s Lolita. Also, I feel like it missed the mark in terms of exploring the protagonist’s own mindset before the abuse. There is some proof that she is academically gifted (which doesn’t always translate to success in the world of work) but there seem to be a lack of familial support which may point to other issues which compounded her situation.
  • Entire book is about a pedofile

    By Vrpena
    Don’t do this to yourself. I waited the whole book for some mystery. The only mystery is why I paid to read about this sick teacher and his young girls
  • Worth it

    By amycubs7
    The raw honesty in the story was difficult for me. Vanessa is a fully developed character, and the story moves at a good pace, yet allowing you to be in Vanessa at all times. You feel what she is feeling. The writing is excellent.