My Dark Vanessa – Book Review

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 due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?

Vanessa Wye could never be called a typical teenager. She’s wickedly intelligent, disorganized to a fault and prefers books to boys any day of the week. She also feels forsaken by almost everyone in her life.

The only time that she feels truly seen is in Mr. Strane’s American Lit class. He speaks to her as if she’s a peer – not as if she’s just a child. He understands her on a level that no one else does. And it’s the most intoxicating experience she’s ever known.

The repercussions of their forbidden relationship will bleed into every aspect of her life for years to come. Until the day when a single Facebook post shatters the illusion of the love that has come to define her.

My Dark Vanessa is by far my favourite book so far this year! With her hypnotic debut, Kate Elizabeth Russell weaves a tale that is as disturbing as it is soulful. She made it so easy for me to relate to Vanessa on a very genuine level. I felt her isolation, her complexity and her turmoil as if it were my own. With every layer of her character that was peeled back, a more tender layer was revealed. I saw her as a fragile warrior struggling to hold together all of her jagged pieces. And her strength was awe-inspiring.

This book clearly isn’t going to be for everyone. But for those who can look into the shadows and still see light, this is story that you will never forget.