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My Dark Vanessa

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  7,068 ratings  ·  1,837 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

Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Published March 10th 2020 by William Morrow
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Rachel Harper A 15 year old can not consent to sex with any adult. I know where I live a 16 year old can be with someone up to 4 years older than them, but…moreA 15 year old can not consent to sex with any adult. I know where I live a 16 year old can be with someone up to 4 years older than them, but definitely her and the teacher were not legally allowed to have a sexual relationship. (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)
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Average rating 4.20  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,068 ratings  ·  1,837 reviews

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Feb 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Emily May
"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
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
Elyse  Walters
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 Vanessas mother had serious reasons to worry about her daughters basic state of well-being...or if the mother was just being a typical mom. ( make some friends,
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kim ~ It’s All About the Thrill
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
Nilufer Ozmekik
Mar 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Truth I started this book so many times and after few pages, I felt suffocated, my stomach churned, sharp pain twisted my heart and I dropped it This happened several times and I tried to
gather my wits, wear my big girls pants and breathe in breathe out several times deeply!

And I started again This is most disturbing, painful, heart bleeding, psychologically consuming, complex, soul crushing, life changing story Ive been lately read! Its harsh, raw, realistic, provocative, brave, dark, bleak,
Chelsea Humphrey
Sep 11, 2019 marked it as paused-on-hold  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chelsea by: Shannon
Something, although Im not sure what, is keeping me from sinking into this one, so I think Ill 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 cant seem to put it down, so perhaps its for the best and the right person is reading it now. 🤷♀

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.
took some time to think about this rating and know it's at least 4.5 or 5. so review and final rating to come but here are all these stars, for now.


Reading this, I had to take breaks, stop to watch silly videos and look at memes and play Animal Crossing between pages, in an attempt to prevent the words from traveling too deep. The second I finished, I burst into sudden and unexpected tears, gone in thirty seconds but still there, still felt and surprising.

Im not sure yet if Im glad I
Mary Beth *Traveling Sister*
1.5 star

I won this book in a Goodreads book giveaway and I was so excited because it was one of my most anticipating reads.

This book was so dark and disturbing. It was one of the most disturbing books that I ever read. This one was way out of my comfort zone. I love books that are dark and disturbing but this one was so unsettling. It stayed with me for a long time and I couldn't get it out of my head. I was so disappointed in this book. This book was not my genre but I saw all the glowing five
Nov 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Merphy Napier
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)
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 wasnt 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 didnt get better after halfway, in fact, it got worse. I finished this novel feeling
Feb 01, 2020 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
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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Oct 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I just need to give this 5* for so many reasons.
Its a disturbing unsettling read, but its also completely compulsive.
Its 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 hasnt 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 out
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
Brenda -Traveling Sister
This is the Darkest and most disturbing book I have ever read and I am pretty dark and twisted with what I read. I am not sure if the average reader who doesn't read and review on regular bases is ready for this one. I wasn't ready for it and I read and review some pretty dark books with my Traveling Sisters. It's one to be cautious about going into as the details do not leave you to decide if you want your thoughts to go there or not. The details are pretty clear and those thoughts are put in ...more
Mar 05, 2020 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Oh I love me some controversy
Jul 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A tense and intense novel. While this is about the sexual abuse of a fifteen year old student by her forty-ish teacher, its 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
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
Mar 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I pegged this as an extremely disturbing and provocative read, and it certainly was. This is the story of a fifteen year old girl named Vanessa Wye who scores a scholarship to a prestigious boarding high school. While there she becomes a student of English professor Jacob Strane, who is almost thirty years older than her. In a delicately slow and creeping fashion, Strane lures Vanessa in with various methods of attentiveness, such as noticing her poetic talent, comparing the color of her hair to ...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
Katie B
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 Ive 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
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 any case, it is a story of a troubled but vulnerable girl yearning for love who
Jessica Woodbury
Jun 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Em Lost In Books
Mar 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Let me wrap my head around what I have read on the pages of this book for now. This was deeply disturbing...
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
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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 debut novel.

Articles featuring this book

Need another excuse to go to the bookstore this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our list, we foc...
33 likes · 36 comments
“I'm a speckled seal swimming past the breakers, a seabird with a wingspan so long I can fly for miles. I'm the new moon, hidden and safe from him, from everyone.” 8 likes
“Because even if I sometimes use the word abuse to describe certain things that were done to me, in someone else’s mouth the word turns ugly and absolute. It swallows up everything that happened.” 4 likes
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