Book Review: My Dark Vanessa {Kate Elizabeth Russell}

Another book I read during the STUPID WORDPRESS SWITCHOVER and therefore couldn’t post my review in a timely manner. I read Kate Elizabeth Russell’s My Dark Vanessa while sitting outside on a beach chair in gorgeous weather months ago. Now I’m typing this review over the Thanksgiving holiday with Christmas music playing on Pandora on my phone next to me. Ugh! Regardless of how long it took me to actually write this review, I have so many thoughts on this book to share with you!

Goodreads Synopsis of My Dark Vanessa {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?

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. 

My Review of My Dark Vanessa {Kate Elizabeth Russell}:

This book was so disturbing…and yet…so GOOD? I had heard such mixed reviews prior to reading and I totally understand how everyone feels differently about this book. The subject is…a lot.

The topic is HEAVY and icky and weird and yet this book is GREAT. How???

The writing is fantastic, the characters are interesting, and the “unputdownable” factor is most definitely there. I FLEW through this book. It grabbed my attention from page 1 allllll the way until I closed the back cover. I didn’t want it to end.

Truly so thought provoking on so many levels. I read this book from the perspective of a mother, a daughter, a former teacher, and as a college student (how has it been so many years since that was my life when I can still relate to it so easily??).

My Dark Vanessa has deservingly made it to the final round in the fiction category of the Goodreads 2020 Choice Awards. Have you voted yet? As much as I did enjoy reading about Vanessa, THIS OTHER BOOK actually received my vote 🙂 If you haven’t read THAT book yet, I clearly highly recommend it!

I was pleasantly surprised at how different My Dark Vanessa is to THIS VILE BOOK. The 2 are nothing alike. One book makes you think, the other makes you want to throw up. I HATED THAT DISGUSTING OTHER BOOK SO, SO MUCH.

My Dark Vanessa is a wonderful beautifully disturbing book.

Bottom Line:

It feels weird to say that I loved this book because the subject is just so weird and dark…but…I loved this book.

Have you read this book? What did you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!



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