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My Dark Vanessa

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  10,945 ratings  ·  2,496 reviews
An era-defining novel about the relationship between a fifteen-year-old girl and her teacher.

Vanessa Wye was fifteen years old when she first had sex with her English teacher.

She is now thirty-two and the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student of his. Vanessa is horrified by this news, because she is quite certain that the
Paperback, UK, 372 pages
Published March 10th 2020 by Fourth Estate
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Cathy O'Neal Vanessa was not of age to consent. She THINKS she was willing and consented, but she fails to recognize how manipulated she was. It was rape.…moreVanessa was not of age to consent. She THINKS she was willing and consented, but she fails to recognize how manipulated she was. It was rape. (less)
Andrea That's a tough call !!!!! It reads like it could have been a memoir the sex scenes are explicit and it is extremely disturbing. Personally , I think…moreThat's a tough call !!!!! It reads like it could have been a memoir the sex scenes are explicit and it is extremely disturbing. Personally , I think its probably a bit much for a young girl as it even references how their brains aren't fully developed at the age . And the concepts are very adult. Hope that helps!
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Average rating 4.17  · 
Rating details
 ·  10,945 ratings  ·  2,496 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,
Feb 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Melanie by: monica kim

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

This was one of the hardest books I've ever read. I hope to be able to write a full review soon, but I will say that the ending might feel really heartbreaking and disappointing, but that is because we live in a heartbreaking and disappointing reality. There is no wrong way to heal and live through horrible things that were done to you, and there is no time limit either.

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Content and Trigger
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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,
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
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
im really struggling with this rating/review because i dont want anything negative that i say to belittle or disregard someone who is able to relate to this story personally or see themselves in vanessas position.

grooming, predatory behaviour, sexual assault, and victim statements are all topics that are extremely important and should not be taken lightly. i dont want my review or opinion of this work of fiction to be synonymous with how i view these things in real life. because thats not the
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.
Mary Beth
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
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
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)
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
Mar 05, 2020 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Oh I love me some controversy
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
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
Chelsea (chelseadolling reads)
I'm not sure how I feel about this one, if I'm being honest. I finished it last week but I am only just now getting around to reviewing it because I wanted to take some time to think about how I feel, but I honestly still don't really know what to say. This book was EXTREMELY well written and I definitely feel like it accomplished what it set out to accomplish, but something about this just didn't fully *click* with me. I think I still need to sit on this one for a bit before I give my ~final~ ...more
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
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
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
Sep 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A gorgeous, skillful, suspenseful novel of a bright girl who 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, full of secrets and excitement, an affair the girl truly hopes for, the romance with this wise older man, the thrill of their mutual obsession--the mutuality of which she still maintains, throughout her twenties, ignoring how it derailed her academic career and her ability to maintain adult ...more
Johann (jobis89)
Nov 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Em Lost In Books
Let me wrap my head around what I have read on the pages of this book for now. This was deeply disturbing...
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
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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.” 9 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.” 6 likes
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