ARC Review

A Dark Disturbing Debut That Will Seem Familiar To Many! | ARC Review: My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell


An era-defining novel about the relationship between a fifteen-year-old girl and her teacher.

Vanessa Wye was fifteen years old when she first had sex with her English teacher.

She is now thirty-two and the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student of his. Vanessa is horrified by this news, because she is quite certain that the relationship she had with Strane wasn’t abuse. It was love. She’s sure of that. But now, in 2017, in the midst of allegations against powerful men, she is being asked to redefine the great love story of her life – her great sexual awakening – as rape.

Nuanced, uncomfortable, bold and powerful, and as riveting as it is disturbing, My Dark Vanessa goes straight to the heart of some of the most complex issues our age is grappling with.


Disclaimer: I received an  physical ARC of the book from Harper Collins India in exchange for an honest review! However, the thoughts, opinions expressed in the review are entirely my own.
How do I even begin to describe the magnitude of emotions that I went through during the experience of reading fantastic debut? And trust me, few books have actually turned the reading of them an emotionally draining experience yet was one that I wouldn’t exchange for anything in the world!

My Dark Vanessa is dark; disturbing debut – on a topic that everyone knows exists, and sadly is a part of our lives; but it is one that we so studiously ignore; mostly because we,  as a society do not like feeling uncomfortable or being faced with the reality of monsters looking as normal as you and I do.

Vanessa Wye, a scholarship student in a private boarding school is at the cusp of adulthood; and is in a vulnerable state – for she just had a falling out with her best friend and her roommate, so she has to start her new school year with whole new prospects!

The fact that her parents; especially her mother believes and is especially forceful of the fact that she has to look beyond just one friend; and not obsess about her, isn’t really helping matters for Vanessa.

When her 30 year old English teacher, Jacob Strane, starts to give her special attention; not just in class but out of class as well – the web of deceit, of illusion love, of the supposed worship he wove around her so complex and so intricate that even for a third party reader like me; became hard to keep the lines of right and wrong blurring!

“He was a grown man and you were fifteen,” she says. “What could you have possibly done to torture him?”

For a moment I am speechless, unable to come up with answer besides “I walked into his classroom. I existed. I was born.”

It took me chapters to realise that the psychological impact of this “relationship” on Vanessa; the way he so expertly weaved on this teenager; so and so that she still protected and “loved” him through her adulthood; that it took eons for her to even accept the fact the “relationship” she oh so trusted was in fact, nothing more than abuse.

My Dark Vanessa annihilated me – there are no words or feelings beyond it – the author has put forth the struggle, the complexities of human conscious and psychology in a way that will stay with me, no matter where I go. A hard hitting debut, My Dark Vanessa should not only be on you TBR, but it should also hold a place of high importance in understanding one of the most basic ways a pedophile abuses his victim.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ .5



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