My Dark Vanessa

My Dark Vanessa

A Novel

Book - 2020
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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? Alternating between Vanessa's present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of Room, My Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself.
Publisher: New York : HarperCollins Publishers, [2020].
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2020
ISBN: 9780062941503
Characteristics: 372 pages ; 24 cm.


From Library Staff

“A Lolita for the #MeToo era, it’s unsettling, but not necessarily for the reasons you might think. The narrative shifts from 2000, when Vanessa gains admission to an elite New England prep school, to 2017, when she tries to come to terms with her experience, her role in it, how it’s affecting he... Read More »

A Lolita for the #MeToo era, it’s unsettling, but not necessarily for the reasons you might
think. The narrative shifts from 2000, when Vanessa gains admission to an elite New England
prep school, to 2017, when she tries to come to terms with her experience, her role in it, how it’s affecting her... Read More »

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Apr 10, 2021

Very captivating read. Diving into the inner thoughts of Vanessa gave me great insight to some possible self-talk of someone sexually abused. It broadened my perspective on the issue.

My god, this was a hard read. Not in the sense of density, or quality of writing; I found myself choking back the words at a breakneck pace, barely coming up for air, always instantly transported into the story. But wow, the subject matter. The utterly heartbreaking and enraging stuff this book is's very challenging to look back on it now even.

Mar 11, 2021

Wow. This book is very DARK indeed! It is unforgettable and disturbing. It was a bit too graphic for me, but the story was intriguing, suspenseful, and sort of a psychological thriller. The subject matter is delicate: a pedophile and his muse. How long will their relationship continue? Will she ever turn on him? Will they ever be 'normal'? What happens to them plays out well, and I found the ending satisfying. It's a very appropriate story for the 2020's. It's a very well written novel.

Feb 20, 2021

I felt like I was missing something. There was no sense of hope or purpose. The story lacked sensitivity. I never connected to the characters or storyline. What is the author trying to convey????? Disappointing after all the buzz about this book

Jan 28, 2021

Tedious. Too detailed not enough dynamic. Didn’t like this book.

Jan 08, 2021

I thought this book was fascinating and disturbing at the same time. The details about a student-teacher relationship created significant discomfort for me when reading, and at the same time, I appreciate that this book shed light on student-teacher relationships that occur but are never spoken about and the untold damage that can be caused to everyone involved. In terms of the writing itself, I loved this author's writing style - it had a nice flow, and I felt like I could easily visualize the story. I would read this again!

Jan 05, 2021

Russell tells the story of Vanessa's victimization at the age of 15 by her 27-years older teacher with brutal detail and a relentless airlessness that is exhausting. This is a dark and uncomfortable reading experience, and I felt frustration and horror and defeat throughout. Difficult to read and I'm sure it will be difficult to forget. Kudos to Russell for creating this vital work.

Jan 04, 2021

Too much hyper surrounding this book, which led me to believe it would be a far better read than it was. I was disappointed. At first I thought I was re-reading one of the stories from "Three Women" by Lisa Taddeo.

Dec 28, 2020

suggested by a Goodreads editor

Dec 13, 2020

This was extremely difficult to read, and yet totally engrossing and brilliantly written.

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Somehow I sensed what was coming for me even then. Really, though, what girl doesn't? It looms over you, that threat of violence. They drill the danger into your head until it starts to feel inevitable. You grow up wondering when it's finally going to happen.


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