Julie's Reviews > My Dark Vanessa

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
5210022
's review

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2019, trade-paperback, william-morrow-impusle, thrillers, contemporary-fiction, dark

** spoiler alert ** My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell is a 2020 William Morrow publication.

A powerful novel and one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read

Before reading this review, be aware I made up my mind about any gray areas concerning consent this novel addresses. For me, there are no gray areas. Fifteen year old girl- forty-two year old man- and a figure of authority? Please.

This is a strongly worded review and may step on some toes. I hope you'll stick with me, though. I understand this book has bothered some people, understandably, and some are conflicted about it. I am not conflicted AT ALL- and my review will reflect that. You'll need to take your heart off your sleeve if you wish to continue reading.


By now we’ve all heard the stories and have seen male and female teachers arrested for abusing their positions and embarking on inappropriate relationships with their students. I could tell you stories about things that happened way back when I was in high school, and things that happened at my children’s high school, where teachers crossed lines with their students. It is more widely reported now, almost to the point where it seems commonplace.

While we often get caught up in the feeling of betrayal we have, which is caused by someone we trusted to uphold our values, to be a mentor to our kids by setting an example, and of course, by obeying the law, we overlook the long lasting ramifications for those who were seduced- often with careful manipulation, by these men and women we have entrusted our children to, gradually luring in the most vulnerable with their attentiveness and flattery.

This book explores the psychological damage and the cruel emotional trauma left on one young victim, Vanessa Wye, who at fifteen, was seduced by Jacob Strane, a forty-two -year old teacher, at her school.

These emotional scars never fully healed, continuously reopened, constantly bleeding, and infecting this young woman, who simply could not move forward and live up to her full potential- nor could she maintain friendships or a normal relationship with another man, and simply could not admit to what is so obvious to others.

"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 me and all the times I wanted it, begged for it"

Jacob Strane is vile. Period. His kind are far too common, and often infiltrate places where they have easy access to those they wish to lure into their web of seduction. What many fail to understand, is that although young people today are far more knowledgeable, mature much faster, and are exposed to erotic images and information daily, they put on a brave face, never admitting they might not have everything under control. They are perhaps much more desensitized, and jaded, seemingly confident and comfortable with the onslaught of information that surrounds them.

Don’t let them fool you. They are as vulnerable, sensitive, confused and insecure as ever. They cope with incredible pressure to conform, be accepted, and to do things they are emotionally unprepared for.

They are just as capable of falling under the spell of someone older, seemingly more sophisticated, someone they admire or look up to, whose attention is flattering and alluring, as more innocent generations before them. It can be quite heady and intense, making it hard for them to fully understand that they are indeed the victim in all this.

Vanessa, who is often paralleled with Lolita or, in some cases it might be a juxtaposition, falls straight into Jacob’s trap, as we helplessly stand by and watch.

It’s a struggle to see her life spiral out of control, and resign herself to a life of dark obsession, and living well below her intellectual means.

The psychological damage Vanessa endures is the reason I gave this book five stars. I know the book will be controversial. I know it is not for everyone. It will generate heaven only knows what kind of reaction once it hits bookstores, but I think it is an important examination, even if it is a work of fiction. It’s a portrayal we should welcome, as it proves many points women have been trying to stress for ages.

Crawling inside the mind of a predator is not easy- it’s not supposed to be. This book is not one you ‘enjoy’. It’s a book that should make one feel extremely uncomfortable, one that makes you squirm in your seat. It is supposed to have that type of deep effect on you. In fact, it took me a very long time to read this novel because I had to take frequent breaks from it.

When you enter Vanessa’s world, you will be transported into a deep, dark, twisted place and you will long to escape from it. But, remember, there are many, many, many real life ‘Vanessa’s’ out there. They, too, long to escape from it- only for them, it’s not a book they can put down at any time and simply walk away from it because it was just too upsetting...

Overall, this book is just downright chilling, and left me feeling shaken and very emotional. While it is not an easy novel, it is one I recommend reading, if you can. It is very thought-provoking, and I can see it bringing out some pretty intense discussions for book clubs.

Vanessa’s portrait is utterly heartbreaking. Her view of the situation- again, too common. She put everything on herself, and our society continues to enable that feeling of shame and guilt, and even goes so far as to threaten and warn off anyone who might think of doing otherwise. As others have pointed out, this book shows why recent movements like #MeToo, resonated with so many people and is another reason why I feel it is a worthy five -star book.

*Content warning

Shouldn’t need to even say it, but- if you have certain triggers this is NOT the book for you. I’ve written and re-written this review many times, and have toned down my frustrations, knowing my words might offend some. But, please, please, please- if you suspect a situation is not appropriate, under any circumstances, with your child, sibling, friend or colleague, don’t hesitate to listen, to hear them, to intervene or report your concerns to those who have the authority to do so- or encourage them to come forward or seek help. The details may be upsetting to hear, but your courage just might save someone you love from becoming another ‘Vanessa’.
235 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read My Dark Vanessa.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

June 27, 2019 – Shelved
June 27, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
August 11, 2019 – Started Reading
August 11, 2019 – Shelved as: 2019
August 11, 2019 – Shelved as: trade-paperback
August 11, 2019 – Shelved as: william-morrow-impusle
August 11, 2019 – Shelved as: thrillers
December 30, 2019 – Shelved as: contemporary-fiction
December 30, 2019 – Shelved as: dark
December 30, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 56 (56 new)


Kim ~ It’s All About the Thrill Can't wait to hear what you think!


Julie Kim ~ It’s All About the Thrill wrote: "Can't wait to hear what you think!"

I right at the 30% mark. I'm pretty sure I'm going to finish it before the weekend it over!!


message 3: by elena (new) - added it

elena can't wait for this one! i'm so glad to see you really enjoyed it.


Julie Elena wrote: "can't wait for this one! i'm so glad to see you really enjoyed it."

Thanks, Elena! I think this one is going to be a bestseller, for sure! 💖


Kim ~ It’s All About the Thrill Glad to see the 5 stars!


Julie Kim ~ It’s All About the Thrill wrote: "Glad to see the 5 stars!"

Thank you, Kim! I need some time to think about this one before I write my review. Wow! 💖


Kim ~ It’s All About the Thrill Julie wrote: "Kim ~ It’s All About the Thrill wrote: "Glad to see the 5 stars!"

Thank you, Kim! I need some time to think about this one before I write my review. Wow! 💖"


It is powerful!!


Norma * Traveling Sister and proud Grandma!!! Looking forward to your review, Julie!


Elyse  Walters Love that this was 5 stars for you too xo


Mary Beth *Traveling Sister* Love to see those five stars, Julie! I won this one in a book giveaway and its my next read. So glad you enjoyed it. 🙋❤


message 11: by Fergus (new)

Fergus A FANTASTIC and Brave review, Julie! Though I know I could never handle it, I admire your courage and tenacity so much. And you’re so right - kids these days are more of a target than they realize! My deep thanks for this.


Julie Fergus wrote: "A FANTASTIC and Brave review, Julie! Though I know I could never handle it, I admire your courage and tenacity so much. And you’re so right - kids these days are more of a target than they realize!..."

Thank you very much, Fergus!! It is a very tough book to read, for sure.


message 13: by Meredith (new) - added it

Meredith I am hoping to read this soon, Julie, so I am going to skip your review for now. I am excited to see that you gave this one five stars given all of the controversy.


*TUDOR^QUEEN* I am reading this now so I will wait to click on "spoiler" to read your full review. I am sure it will be great and am looking forward to your take on this 👸💓😊


Julie Meredith wrote: "I am hoping to read this soon, Julie, so I am going to skip your review for now. I am excited to see that you gave this one five stars given all of the controversy."

Thank you, Meredith!! I'd say I hope 'enjoy' it, but it's not that kind of book. I'll be watching for your review! 💖


Julie *TUDOR^QUEEN* wrote: "I am reading this now so I will wait to click on "spoiler" to read your full review. I am sure it will be great and am looking forward to your take on this 👸💓😊"

Thank you, TQ!! This will be the most disturbing book you ever read. I'll be watching for your review! 💖


message 17: by Jen (new) - added it

Jen I do want to read this. I’ll come back to your review as I see you have spoilers but glad to see all those stars!


Julie Jen wrote: "I do want to read this. I’ll come back to your review as I see you have spoilers but glad to see all those stars!"

Thank you, Jen!! Mild spoilers, but I wanted to be careful. It is a very disturbing book- but an important one, too! I'm looking forward to your thoughts!


Karen Amazing review Julie! It is an important book and I’m so happy that you appreciated that!


message 20: by Kimber (new)

Kimber Silver An outstanding review, Julie. You have handled the difficult subject matter perfectly. 👏


message 21: by Vicky (new)

Vicky "phenkos" Love your review, Julie, this is such an important topic!


Julie Karen wrote: "Amazing review Julie! It is an important book and I’m so happy that you appreciated that!"

Thank you so much, Karen!! I just wish others would understand that too! 💖


Julie Kimber wrote: "An outstanding review, Julie. You have handled the difficult subject matter perfectly. 👏"

Thanks you so much for your kind words, Kimber! 💖


Julie Vicky wrote: "Love your review, Julie, this is such an important topic!"

Thank you very much, Vicky!! Yes, I agree, it really is. 💖


message 25: by sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

sue It’s a very well thought out read, I think. Great review Jules x


message 26: by Books Just 4 Me (new)

Books Just 4 Me This was an amazing review Julie. You stated your feelings on the subject very well and reviewed the book for how it portrayed very difficult content. You’re right, it has almost become commonplace or white noise. I honestly think that’s as far as most thoughts go... another inappropriate relationship. This clearly goes much deeper and is a wake up call to the irreversible damage that happens to these young vulnerable people. Thanks for your well thought out, amazing review on a very sad occurrence that continues to plague our schools.


Julie sue wrote: "It’s a very well thought out read, I think. Great review Jules x"

Thank you very much, Sue!! I thought so too! 💖


Julie Books Just 4 Me wrote: "This was an amazing review Julie. You stated your feelings on the subject very well and reviewed the book for how it portrayed very difficult content. You’re right, it has almost become commonplace..."

Thank you very much, BJ4M!! It's hard to believe how often this happens, but it does. Yes, this book delves deep into Vanessa's psyche and it is very hard to comprehend at times, but the overall message is very powerful. 🤗


Kim ~ It’s All About the Thrill I love your review Julie! I can tell you were as emotional about as I was. It is so very powerful and hard to convey just how so. You did a fantastic job putting it into words. At first I was so upset about what I was reading that I was certain it was not a 5 star. Then it couldn't be anything but a 5 star because it left me gutted and a mess. Not everyone will feel as we do that is for sure- but I agree it was so powerful and important to get this out there.


Julie Kim ~ It’s All About the Thrill wrote: "I love your review Julie! I can tell you were as emotional about as I was. It is so very powerful and hard to convey just how so. You did a fantastic job putting it into words. At first I was so up..."

Thank you so much for your kind words, Kim!! Yes, this book gutted me. I struggled with it, too, but like you, I felt it the message was very strong and very important. I hope others will come to the same conclusion. 💖


tamar Julie your review is excellent. I won an advance copy but it arrived late so I'm only starting now. I appreciate the reviews I've read so that I could prepare myself emotionally and psychologically for a difficult read. I doubt if I could ever really prepare for this but I think it an important subject that unfortunately is all too commonplace


message 32: by Yun (new)

Yun What a wonderfully thought out and insightful review, Julie! I've seen a lot of mixed reviews for this book, but I'm glad it was an unequivocally amazing read for you. I'm glad it addresses the long term impact of abuse, as people often just think of the short-term issues. For many victims, the scars of their abuse is something they carry with them for the rest of their lives, and I'm glad this book draws attention to that. Loved reading your thoughts on this! :)


Julie tamar wrote: "Julie your review is excellent. I won an advance copy but it arrived late so I'm only starting now. I appreciate the reviews I've read so that I could prepare myself emotionally and psychologically..."

Thank you, Tamar!! Yes, this is a very disturbing book, and there are some mixed feelings about it out there. I'll be watching for your review!! 💖


Julie Yun wrote: "What a wonderfully thought out and insightful review, Julie! I've seen a lot of mixed reviews for this book, but I'm glad it was an unequivocally amazing read for you. I'm glad it addresses the lon..."

Thank you so much, Yun!! Vanessa's mind is truly twisted by her experiences. I understand why the book is controversial, but I do hope most people get the message and see how very important this story is. 💖


message 35: by Tina (new)

Tina A very well thought out review Julie. I haven’t read this one and probably won’t be you really described the controversy well and I can understand your thoughts on this book. I’m glad it was a good book for you although I understand not an easy one to read.


message 36: by Amy (new)

Amy Excellent review. Like you, I see no gray areas here. No matter how sophisticated and worldly a teenager thinks s/he is, s/he's still a teenager and the older person needs to be held accountable.


Julie Tina wrote: "A very well thought out review Julie. I haven’t read this one and probably won’t be you really described the controversy well and I can understand your thoughts on this book. I’m glad it was a good..."

Thank you very much, dear Tina!! 💖


Julie Amy wrote: "Excellent review. Like you, I see no gray areas here. No matter how sophisticated and worldly a teenager thinks s/he is, s/he's still a teenager and the older person needs to be held accountable."

Thank you very much, Amy!! Yes, exactly! 💖


Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader I strongly agree that you don’t have to enjoy the content of the book to feel deeply and recognize that it’s an important book. Thoughtful review, Julie. I definitely plan to read this book.


Julie Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader wrote: "I strongly agree that you don’t have to enjoy the content of the book to feel deeply and recognize that it’s an important book. Thoughtful review, Julie. I definitely plan to read this book."

Thank you very much, Jennifer! While I never want to crawl into a book this dark again, the message is one we all need to hear. I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this one! 💖


message 41: by JanB (new)

JanB Excellent review Julie. I've been on the fence about this one and your thorough review helps. Very thoughtful comments Julie! I agree that "enjoy" doesn't always describe worthwhile books.


Julie JanB wrote: "Excellent review Julie. I've been on the fence about this one and your thorough review helps. Very thoughtful comments Julie! I agree that "enjoy" doesn't always describe worthwhile books."

Thank you, Jan!! No, I can't say I 'enjoyed' it, but it certainly left a deep impression on me. However, I don't think I ever want to read a book this dark again. 💖


Brenda -Traveling Sister Excellent review, Julie!


Michelle This is such a thoughtfully written review and one that I agree with completely! Well done, Julie! 💙


Julie Brenda -Traveling Sister wrote: "Excellent review, Julie!"

Thanks so much, Brenda!! 💖


Julie Michelle wrote: "This is such a thoughtfully written review and one that I agree with completely! Well done, Julie! 💙"

Thank you so much, Michelle!! 💖


Lindsay - Traveling Sister Powerful review Julie! Very well written! I appreciate your thoughts and views even though I didn’t find any value in this novel myself. It’ll definitely be a book that people will continue talking about for a long time.


Julie Lindsay - Traveling Sister wrote: "Powerful review Julie! Very well written! I appreciate your thoughts and views even though I didn’t find any value in this novel myself. It’ll definitely be a book that people will continue talking..."


Thank you very much, Lindsay!! This is a tough one, for sure- and it is not for everyone- understandably I don't think I want to read another book like this one for a long time- or ever. I'm sure it will stir up some heated debate, though. 💖


message 49: by Deanna (new) - added it

Deanna Superb review!! Very well said, Julie! <3


Julie Deanna wrote: "Superb review!! Very well said, Julie! <3"

Thank you very much, Deanna!! 💖


« previous 1
back to top