My Dark Vanessa - Kate Elizabeth Russell

Updated: Mar 16

Here we go, my very first review. Naturally, I had to start with one of the most devastating books I have ever read, My Dark Vanessa.

I don’t know Kate Elizabeth Russell, but she has hurt me. My taste in books consists of thrillers, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, true crime, or pretty much anything that will hurt my feelings and leave me feeling broken for days after. “I have no choice but to pretend I'm the same as ever, but a canyon surrounds me now, sets me apart. I'm not sure if sex created the canyon or if it's been there all along and [he] finally made me see it. [He] says it's the latter.” My Dark Vanessa is told from the perspective of a 15-year-old, Vanessa Wye. Vanessa starts a new boarding school and soon finds herself involved with her English teacher, Strane, who happens to be 42 years old. The story alternates between Vanessa’s time in high school in the early 2000s and the present in 2017 when she is a young adult. As a teenager, we see Vanessa’s relationship with Strane progress and how that changes her. In 2017 we see how her teenage years sent her on a path that she is not happy on. Things start to unravel as more victims come forward accusing Strane of abuse during their time as his students. Vanessa finds herself struggling to accept what happened to her and that there could have been others. OKAY, HERE COME THE SPOILERS! YOU’VE BEEN WARNED. I was a bit apprehensive to read this book when I read what it was about. However, after starting I was hooked. The story was beyond disturbing and made me feel physically ill sometimes… but it gave me an understanding for something I could never wrap my head around before. Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t really get how an adult can abuse a child this way, but I have a new perspective. Following a young Vanessa gave me new eyes for some of the people I have known in my own life and how they can accept things that I see as beneath them. It also added fuel to my “I hate white men” fire. Okay, I’m partially kidding about that… but it made me so angry how cruel and selfish some people are and how they take it out on the innocent. So I angry read at least half of this book. “Girls in those stories are always victims, and I am not. And it doesn’t have anything to do with what Strane did or didn’t do to me when I was younger. I’m not a victim because I never wanted to be, and If I didn’t want to be, then I’m not. That’s how it works. The difference between rape and sex is state of mind. You can’t rape the willing, right?” It pained me to read about Strane preying on Vanessa and again to read about Vanessa's struggles with understanding what he did to her was abuse and that was not what made her special. I was desperate for her to find healing and understanding in his other victims. Strane’s ability to turn any situation on Vanessa, to make her feel somehow responsible for what was happening between them was infuriating and eye opening at the same time. Any time Vanessa was heading somewhere good, Strane was able to pull her back under. Even in his last moments, he called her to keep her hooked. I read this book months ago and it still has me scattered and hurt. I have recommended My Dark Vanessa to many people, but I always warn them. Don’t read this one if you’re not looking to feel lost and helpless. “Somehow I sensed what was coming for me even then. Really, though, what girl doesn’t? It looms over you, that threat of violence. They drill the danger into your head until it starts to feel inevitable. You grow up wondering when it’s finally going to happen.”

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