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My Dark Vanessa

4.50  ·  Rating details ·  665 ratings  ·  283 reviews
“A hard story to read and a harder one to put down . . . a well-constructed package of dynamite.”—Stephen King

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.

Hardcover, 384 pages
Expected publication: March 10th 2020 by William Morrow (first published January 28th 2020)
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  • My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
    My Dark Vanessa
    Release date: Jan 28, 2020
    *No PO Boxes please*

    “A hard story to read and a harder one to put down . . . a well-constructed package of dynamite.” – STEPHEN KING

    Format: Print book

    Giveaway ends in: a

    Availability: 100 copies available, 2860 people requesting

    Giveaway dates: Nov 01 - Nov 29, 2019

    Countries available: U.S.

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    Kate Russell A big and complicated question! This really is the central conflict of the novel. From a outside perspective, it can be very easy to draw hard lines…moreA big and complicated question! This really is the central conflict of the novel. From a outside perspective, it can be very easy to draw hard lines between consensual sex and abuse, but My Dark Vanessa is told from the perspective of a character who was groomed from a young age, and because of that experience, the lines for her are very much blurred.(less)
    Alyssia Cooke Join NetGalley and see if they'll approve you for an advanced reader copy. You will have to agree to give an honest review based on the ARC on…moreJoin NetGalley and see if they'll approve you for an advanced reader copy. You will have to agree to give an honest review based on the ARC on Goodreads or Amazon.(less)

    Community Reviews

    Showing 1-30
    Average rating 4.50  · 
    Rating details
     ·  665 ratings  ·  283 reviews

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    Will Byrnes
    Come and be worshipped, come and be caressed.
    My Dark Vanessa, crimson-barred, my blest
    My Admirable butterfly! Explain
    How could you, in the gloam of Lilac Lane,
    Have let uncouth, hysterical John Shade
    Blubber your face, and ear, and shoulder blade?

    - From the poem Pale Fire by Nabakov
    Vanessa Wye is thirty-two years old, working a dead-end hotel job in Portland, Maine, and attending grief-counseling therapy following the death of her father. She cannot move on with her life. I suppose many of us have faced similar straits, the relationshi
    Elyse (retired from reviewing/semi hiatus) Walters
    Year: 2000
    Vanessa, 15 years of age,
    grew up in a quiet small town in Maine - on
    Whalesback Lake.
    She attended Browick High School - a boarding school...couple hours away from her home. Too young to drive- her mother usually drove her to school and picked her back up to come home during holiday breaks.
    Early in the book I wondered if Vanessa’s mother had serious reasons to worry about her daughter’s basic state of well-being...or if the mother was just being a typical mom. ( “make some frie
    Kim ~ It’s All About the Thrill
    Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    Shelves: edelweiss
    I completely underestimated how dark this book was actually going to be. Clearly the title is an indicator. If you didn't catch on from the title, well there is a sensational book description that makes it clear what the subject matter was going to be. Yet....I was still deeply disturbed by what I was reading. I can't stress how dark, disturbing and difficult this was to read. That being said, I could not put this down. I am not even sure I can muster the words to give this book the review that ...more
    Emer (A Little Haze)
    I am blown away by the powerful nature of this novel. This is one of the best written books I have read in years. Be warned, this book deals with dark subject matter, that of child grooming and protracted sexual abuse.

    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
    Oct 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    Shelves: edelweiss-arc-s
    This is one of the most horrific books I have ever read. Truly disturbing. I had read and loved Putney last year so I was very much looking forward to this - how weird is that to say considering the subject matter? I'll admit I couldn't read this one straight through. My brain needed to take breaks. I think it's because the depictions of abuse are descriptive and explicit at times and my stomach would lurch at the imagery.

    This story is about Vanessa a 15 year old girl who attends boarding school and
    Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    My Dark Vanessa is a dark, deeply disturbing and unsettling novel that captures the zeitgeist of our contemporary realities of the #MeToo movement, looking at the complexities and emotional repercussions of a 'love' affair between a lonely schoolgirl, anxious, suffering the loss of her closest friend, with self esteem issues, desperate for attention, with a much older, manipulative and predatory male who zeroes in on her vulnerabilities. This uncomfortable book examines the psychological and sex ...more
    Chelsea Humphrey
    Sep 11, 2019 marked it as to-read
    Recommended to Chelsea by: Shannon
    Me, getting jazzed up to read this book, even though the content is polarizing:


    *Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.
    Jul 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    A tense and intense novel. While this is about the sexual abuse of a fifteen year old student by her forty-ish teacher, it’s also about agency, victimization and complicity. The dark Vanessa of the title is groomed, made to feel special, and mistakes abuse for love. Yet, she was in love with a creepy, manipulative pedophile. Vanessa tells her story by moving back and forth between being fifteen years old, through portions of her twenties and into her thirties. When her abuser is “outted” she is ...more
    Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Vanessa Wye is a teacher’s pet. Or a ‘classroom pet’ as Mr. Noyes remarks when he catches 15 year old Vanessa and 45 year old Jacob Strane together. The comment given with laugh that might as well have been a nudge and a wink. In her first term at a new prep school, away from home, and without anyone to talk to, Vanessa is struggling to keep up. And she’s just lost her best friend to a boy, of all things. But her English teacher really gets her. He gives her books to read. Books that seem to hol ...more
    Jessica Woodbury
    Jun 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
    Shelves: arc
    When a book is particularly buzzy I start to get grumpy. Too much buzz is not always a good thing and I've been disappointed many times. In addition to that, for the last few years we've been subjected to all kinds of books being branded as #MeToo books because it's become a (very depressing) marketing strategy. So I approached MY DARK VANESSA, a buzzy #MeToo book, with caution. So imagine my surprise when I found that it was not only good but nuanced and interesting. While the ability to openly ...more
    Oct 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    WOW.... I feel haunted.

    My Dark Vanessa is extremely compelling, raw, disturbing, and heartbreaking. Russell is quite the masterful storyteller. I felt like I was in a trance reading her words.

    Welcome to Vanessa... let her show you her dark world.

    I was seeing so many 5 star reviews for this novel and knew I had to experience the darkness myself. My Dark Vanessa explores a story of a women who has been victimized by her teacher her entire life from the start of age 15 to present day
    Nov 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Gosh. This is a debut? What an accomplished one, as Kate Russell takes the reader on a very difficult journey focusing on what happens to Vanessa Wye. The story starts when Vanessa is 32 and a hotel concierge in Portland, Maine when the story breaks via Facebook of Taylor Birch and Jacob Strane and the goes backwards and forwards in time as Vanessa tells her story with Jacob. When she was 15 she goes to Browick boarding school where she meets Strane who is her 45 year old English teacher, as he ...more
    Oct 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    Darkness seeping into darkness......

    Kate Elizabeth Russell presents a story so deeply embedded into the rough-edged corners of the mind that one must pause continuously throughout it and sift through the muddled surfaces for personal clarity. The publisher's brief introduction allows us to feel the beginnings of a glimmer into a student/teacher relationship that goes tragically into the high weeds of the forbidden.

    Vanessa Wye is but fifteen years old. She's been awarded a
    Kate Russell
    Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
    This is my book! I put my whole heart into it.
    Liz Barnsley
    Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    My Dark Vanessa is an absolute powerhouse of a novel, exploring a tough reality, without having any need to resort to dramatics nor the need to sink into preachy explanation of its point, but simply allowing it's central protagonist, the Vanessa of the title, to show you her world.

    Exploring the abusive relationship of this girl with her teacher, the novel charts many years of Vanessa's life - her thoughts, outlook and reality will hit you right in the soul, you can't look away from h
    Acacia Ives
    This book is a wow. An absolute wow, I couldn’t have picked a better way to explore this subject of an inappropriate relationship between student and teacher. If you like this book you’ll like these violent delights. Similar topic but explored in a different storytelling style. I will warn you this topic is hard to digest. It leaves little to the imagination and fills you with discomfort and unease. Overall one of my favorites of 2019.
    Sep 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
    My Dark Vanessa is one of the darkest, yet compelling, reads that I've ever read. Like witnessing a car crash, it's cringeworthy and also very captivating. Kate Elizabeth Russell is an amazing writer and I've now been hypnotized by her storytelling. Without diving too much into the story, My Dark Vanessa explores a young woman's journey navigating life after her childhood was tarnished by a toxic, influential man. This bone-chilling story is all too true for many women and it accurately portrays what many ...more
    Sep 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    What a fine book. The shock of recognition, again and again.

    A bright girl gets a scholarship to an elite boarding school, where she is singled out by an English teacher as a promising young student. An affair begins, an affair the girl truly hopes for, the romance with this wise older man, the excitement of their mutual obsession... the mutuality of which she still maintains, even years later, casting it as a true meeting of minds--and ignoring how it derailed her academic career and her abilit
    Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    RTC but I’ve never felt more confused with my feelings while reading a book ever. So good.
    Cortney LaScola - The Bookworm, Myrtle Beach
    There were times I tossed this book away from me in disgust, so angry, but I kept picking it back up again and again.

    Kate Elizabeth Russell is an outstanding writer, who so perfectly nailed what really happens in these type of situations.

    It was haunting and heartbreaking, and one of the best books I read all year.
    Abbie | ab_reads
    Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: favorites
    Thank you so much @4thestatebooks for allowing me the privilege of reading an early copy of this book. It’s being hailed as one of the most powerful, explosive books of 2020 and I fully concur. I fell head over heels for this one, completely obsessed to the point where I couldn’t do anything else until I finished it. It’s supremely uncomfortable, unsettling, disturbing, and completely necessary for our time. If you know anyone who has a tendency towards victim blaming in grooming and sexual abus ...more
    Julie Zantopoulos
    Oct 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
    Shelves: read-in-2019, arc
    "He touched me first, said he wanted to kiss me, told me he loved me. Every first step was taken by him. I don't feel forced, and I know I have the power to say no, but that isn't the same as being in charge."

    This is a difficult book to read, and it should be. It doesn't mince words, it doesn't try to pretty up what it is. This is the Me Too movements gritty side. The side of a girl who deep in the abuse she doesn't see it as abuse. The girl who even in her twenties is protecting her abuser and
    Oct 28, 2019 added it
    My Dark Vanessa is a dark novel indeed. It reads like non-fiction and is not an easy book to review. What I can tell you is that is has haunted me since I finished reading it. The two main characters are Mr Strange, the teacher, and Vanessa, the fifteen year old student. It begins with a pat on the knee by Strange and a whisper in which he draws Nessa into his web by comparing their similarities. Though a bit shocked she is also intrigued by that hand and his continued sensual stroking. Sounds so innoc ...more
    Roman Clodia
    Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    My face twists up from the pain of pushing it out.
    "I just really need it to be a love story. You know? I really, really need it to be that."
    "I know," she says.
    "Because if it isn't a love story, then what is it?"

    There have been many books in the wake of #metoo that have tackled issues of rape, abuse, consent and complicity but this is one of the most subtle as it explores its topic with depth and empathy. It can feel a little prurient when these books follow the protagonists into
    Katie B
    Nov 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    First of all let me say my review is not going to do this book justice as I know I'm not going to be able to convey what a meaningful reading experience this was for me. It was definitely an uncomfortable read but it's an important book and if I could give a copy to every female I know, I would. And actually I want men to read this book as well. It is one of the most thought provoking novels I have ever read.

    Back in 2000, Vanessa was fifteen years old and attending a boarding school.
    Alice Slater
    Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    A must-read book for 2020, My Dark Vanessa explores consent, autonomy and trauma in a way that feels fresh, poignant, and painfully real.

    When a lonely fifteen year old falls in love with her teacher, she feels lucky. Strane sees something in Vanessa that no one else does: he sees that she’s special. And she is special, isn’t she?

    In 2017, women around the world are standing up to talk about their experiences of manipulation, coercion and abuse by men in power. Vanessa, now 32, is hau
    Wow. I'm not going to sugarcoat my response as this graphic story is one intense and at times difficult read. The story of a 15-year-old girl groomed by her English teacher to have a long-term sexual affair and how it affected her as an adult was disturbing and enraging (Strane's manipulative manner was detestable) but the brilliant writing transcended the abhorrent topic and was riveting. This could be a very important book when released in January and I urge anyone who works in a library or bo ...more
    Cokey Cohen
    Aug 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
    It's hard to know how to describe this book, which is at once terrifying and compelling and hard to read and impossible to stop reading; a headlong rush of a novel that grabs you by the face and forces you to look at it even when you want, sick to your stomach, to turn away.

    This is an uncompromising story, told back and forth across decades, of a child who is abused by her teacher and who believes (sometimes) that she loves him and knows (sometimes) that she hates him. The implications of that
    Aug 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
    This is a debut that you’re going to want to read. I have so many thoughts about this book that it’s difficult to organize them.
    Let me start by saying that I subscribe to the position that a 15 yo girl is not capable of giving consent. It has less to do with her body than her mind which is not yet fully mature and her experience which is limited. Undeniably for an adult male to take advantage of that is wrong, a crime.

    Having said all that, this narrative presents a more nuanced
    What fifteen year-old Vanessa aches for is the growing urgency, lust, and desire she senses towards Jacob, her much older teacher. It begins with office visits and light touching, becoming dangerously more. This hauntingly unsettling tale blurs the line between love, obsession, manipulation, and assault. How a survivor becomes complicit to her abusers actions and how each wrestle with the balancing act of it all. This debut novel is a true modern day Lolita.
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    Kate Elizabeth Russell was born and raised in eastern Maine. She holds an MFA from Indiana University and a PhD from the University of Kansas. My Dark Vanessa is her first novel.

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