REVIEW: My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell. TW: SA
My Dark Vanessa:
My Dark Vanessa follows our titular character Vanessa Wye who is 15 years old. Vanessa comes from a struggling family but when she has the chance to go to an elite private school on a scholarship, her parents jump at the chance of sending her. Whilst at the Browick school, she is looked at like she is an outsider but finds some belonging in the world of Poetry. She starts to form a bond with her English teacher, Jacob Strane, a 42 year old man. They get closer and closer and begin a relationship. He woos her with different literature and tells her how amazing of a writer that she is and tells her of how similar they are. All whilst this is kept a secret, she tries to stay at his house and they begin a sexual relationship. They both enjoy the secretative nature of their relationship whilst also being together. This is all under the nose of
the administrators of the Bruwick school.
Now, 15 years later, at the height of the metoo movement, young women start to come forward about how they were groomed by Jacob Strane. Vanessa’s world starts to crumble when a journalist following the other girls cases tries to talk to Vanessa about her abuse. But she struggles with the word abuse and this is her story about the road to recovery even if she feels like she wasn’t abused like the other girls Jacob groomed.
This tragedy is told spectacularly well by Kate Elizabeth Russell. It spares no details and does not sugarcoat how abuse can be, even if you think that it’s not abuse. The way the writer explores this idea is beyond heartbreaking as you realise what real abuse does to a person, how it can affect them in their everyday life such as what they wear and eat. It asks the readers to realise the true damage that this relationship has done to Vanessa even if she can’t realise it herself. Vanessa really struggles with the love story that she has told herself about their relationship and whether it is abuse in her mind.
4 out of 5 stars.