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My Dark Vanessa

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  1,752 ratings  ·  754 reviews
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
Hardcover, 384 pages
Expected publication: March 10th 2020 by William Morrow
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Average rating 4.36  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,752 ratings  ·  754 reviews

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Feb 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
How do you best write about a fictional love affair between a teacher and a 15-year-old student that is actually a predatory relationship? There are no easy answers to that question but that is what happens in My Dark Vanessa which alternates between 2000 and 2017 as we see how Vanessa Wye is groomed and then raped by her teacher Jacob Strane. We see the repercussions she must deal with as an adult who does not allow herself to realize that the relationship was, in fact abusive. We see how a ...more
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
Emily May
Feb 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc, contemporary, 2020
"I think we're very similar, Nessa," he whispers. "From the way you write, I can tell you're a dark romantic like me. You like dark things."

3 1/2 stars. I really really want to give this book a higher rating, but I cannot justify it when it is almost twice as long as it needed to be.

My Dark Vanessa has many powerful moments. It's a discomfiting, horrible story about an adult woman reevaluating the relationship she had with her English teacher when she was a teenager. It is reminiscent of The
Elyse  Walters
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 friends”,
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 ...more
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
Merphy Napier
Jan 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
My Dark Vanessa was a powerful, difficult, and hopeful story that sheds light on a very important topic. Here's my video review where I discuss it more in spoiler free detail.

In the review, I said I'd talk more about the ending here. So here we go (view spoiler)
Chelsea Humphrey
Sep 11, 2019 marked it as paused-on-hold
Recommended to Chelsea by: Shannon
Something, although I’m not sure what, is keeping me from sinking into this one, so I think I’ll put this on hold and pick it back up when I feel like I can give it a fair read. In the meantime, my mom can’t seem to put it down, so perhaps it’s for the best and the right person is reading it now.

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.
Nov 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely 5 stars!
This story goes back and forth in time from when Vanessa started attending a boarding school at 15 years of age and has a relationship with her 42 year old English teacher and in her later years when she is a 32 year old adult.
Vanessa had a dark side, kept to herself.. quite a solitary personality. Her teacher paid her a lot of attention and complimented her and loaned out his favorite books to her etc.. she actually started seeking him out, felt special and felt powerful over
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
I just need to give this 5* for so many reasons.
It’s a disturbing unsettling read, but it’s also completely compulsive.
It’s a topic that is both daunting and happens although this is a fiction novel.

A taboo subject that messes with your head.
A teacher perverted who messes with a 15 year olds head.

Vanessa hasn’t many friends, she seems lonely at times (to me)

A start of her teacher “grooming” Vanessa sent the hair on the back of my neck up on end.

What was twisted was the “affair”. When she finds
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 is coming
Dec 13, 2019 marked it as to-read
Shelves: thriller
compared to THE GIRLS and ROOM? i would like it nOW please!!
Lindsay - Traveling Sister
1.5 stars.

I wish I could somehow unread this disturbing book.

My curiosity got the best of me after reading the countless 5 star reviews. It wasn’t a storyline that appealed to me but I had to see what all the buzz was about. After reading halfway through and feeling like I was missing something, I continued on as my curiosity kept pushing me further and had me thinking “this must get better”. Unfortunately, it didn’t get better after halfway, in fact, it got worse. I finished this novel feeling
Brenda -Traveling Sister
This is the Darkest and most disturbing book I have ever read. I am totally messed up after reading this one. For this overthinker, I have no idea what to think. I am not sure this was the book for me to have read.

This is a Traveling Sister read and I am glad I have them to share thoughts with. If anyone would like to chime in let me know.

For now, I am going to be the outlier and rate this one 2.5 stars rounded up. It might change after the discussion. Full review to come after our discussion.
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
Feb 01, 2020 marked it as to-read
Recommended to Melanie by: monica kim

(Thank you, William Morrow, for a finished copy!)

i haven't been this excited for a debut in a LONG while! <3

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If you are looking for a book to cheer you up, warm up your heart or make you feel good about the world, this book will do none of those things. My Dark Vanessa is the ultimate 5 star novel, but it is not a light read.

My Dark Vanessa could be a story of a 15 year old girl who fell in love with her teacher or it might be a story of a 15 year old who was groomed and abused by a manipulative predator of a teacher. In anycase, it is a story of a troubled but vulnerable girl yearning for love who is
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. She doesn't
Johann (jobis89)
Nov 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
“Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.”

Holy crap. Believe the hype surrounding My Dark Vanessa! This is one of the best and most compelling books I’ve read all year - or perhaps, ever!

My Dark Vanessa is almost overwhelming with how relevant and powerful it is. It tells the story of Vanessa Wye, and the relationship she had with her English teacher which started when she was only 15 years old and he was almost 30 years her senior. The story goes back and forth, flitting
Review coming closer to release date! Stay tuned!
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 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 scholarship to a
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 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 at 32.

monica kim
Dec 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
listen, i don’t know if i’ll ever have the right words to talk about this book. reading it was...hard. the content is unflinching in its depictions of sexual assault and of constant psychological abuse. it’s a story that eviscerates our society for enabling power imbalances, that shows all the ugly parts of being a victim that media usually try to gloss over.
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 ...more
Vanessa, at 15: believes she is passionately in love with her 45 year old teacher.
Vanessa, at 32: prompted by #metoo into reckoning with the grooming and abuse that has defined her life.

Told through the victim’s romance-warped lens, the protagonist of My Dark Vanessa defends her abuse as a ‘love story’ … then gradually comes to a different realisation. A young girl believes herself to be singled-out, special, passionately in love, when in fact she is being exploited. It’s a tale as old as
Jan 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa, 2020-read
Ignore the awful marketing: This is a very good book about sexual abuse, psychologically believable, nuanced, complex, never relying on melodrama or cheap effects. What it is certainly not is "an era defining novel", and it has absolutely nothing new to say about the issues discussed - this doesn't matter though, because the perspective of the protagonist who has been groomed and been a victim of gaslighting for years is extremely well rendered - to be trapped inside her head, thrown into her ...more
Feb 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My Dark Vanessa portrayed in real, ugly, and disturbingly graphic detail an abusive relationship spanning seventeen years between Vanessa Wye and Jacob Strane that began when she was 15, and he was her 45 year-old English teacher.

I cannot emphasise how angry and upsetting the content of this book made me feel. Never has a piece of fiction affected me so much – It tore me apart, and I had to take frequent breaks while reading as I was so overcome. Jacob was repulsive right off the bat, there was
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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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