What readers think of My Dark Vanessa, plus links to write your own review.

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My Dark Vanessa

A Novel

by Kate Russell

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Russell X
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Russell
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    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2020, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2021, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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There are currently 4 reader reviews for My Dark Vanessa
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Power Reviewer
lani

a variance on Lolita
It took the author 18 years to write his novel. Who would have know how prescient it would become during the current "Me-Too" crisis. This is a very unsettling novel examining the life of a 15 year old girl who becomes enamored with her 42 year old teacher as he stealthily draws her in to his affections. Everyone can remember this period of "hormones walking on legs", the insecurities of that age, and for some the deep need for affection and love. Her teacher supplies all those to Vanessa with persistent attempts at grooming her. The author skillfully transitions from the present day to the past constructing the unstable emotions. Painful issues are explored about boundaries, consent, abuse, justice, responsibility, and victimization just to name a few. It is an all consuming read, infested with the ambiguities in scurrilous relationships.
CarolK

Dark Indeed
Due to be published in early February, Kate Elizabeth Russell's My Dark Vanessa seems likely to be a word of mouth winner and book group pick.
My Dark Vanessa is a dark novel indeed. It reads like non-fiction and is not an easy book to review. What I can tell you is that is has haunted me since I finished reading it. The two main characters are Mr. Strange, a teacher, and Vanessa, his fifteen year old student. It begins with a pat on the knee by Strange and a whisper in which he draws Nessa into his web by comparing their similarities. Though a bit shocked she is also intrigued by that hand, his continued sensual stroking, she on the cusp of budding sexuality and the feelings of adulthood this provokes. Sounds so innocent and yet as adults we see the lure, the web he weaves. Vanessa is a vulnerable young woman yet she doesn't see herself as such. Strange, I hate to dignify him with the Mr., is a groomer, yet he doesn't see himself as such. Psychologically compelling.
Margot P

Emotional ride
This is a book that I had to read in spurts as it is as dark as dark can be. I much preferred the second half of the book which in a non-linear fashion fully illustrates the psychological damage sexual abuse causes. Vanessa is not a particularly likable character. Her denial is deeply rooted in self-hatred, and therein lies the brilliance of the story—that the reader feels such empathy for a girl, child, who is unable to break away from her abuser even after his death. Would have given 5 stars but the ending seemed abrupt.
Power Reviewer
Sandi W.

from the teenagers’ point of view...
Do not be fooled - this is a book about sexual abuse. It is not about seduction, or about love. This is a story about an adult, 42-year-old, male teacher grooming his teenage students. There are parts that are hard to read after understanding the premise of the story.

With that said, I will admit that Russell did a good job of writing this book from the teenagers’ point of view. A teenager, Vanessa, who did not know better - who at 15 years old had not dated and had no idea what love or a healthy male/female relationship should be. Typical age of those very easy for an older man, a pedophile, to groom.

The story takes us from this traumatic relationship up through Vanessa's life. It is obvious how this relationship, at this young period of her life, molded Vanessa. It touched her relationship with her parents, future relationships with females and especially future relationships with men. It also showed how the relationship between Vanessa and her abuser both stayed the same and also changed over time by alternating between her present and her past.

The author stated that this book took her 18 years to write. Although a very touchy subject, she did a very good job of it. I think that it might have been a bit too long, and some of the content could have easily been left out without diminishing the story. However, I believe that this is an author to watch - as long as it is not another 18 years before she publishes again.
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