Saturday, March 14, 2020

Book Review: My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

My Dark Vanessa
by Kate Elizabeth Russell
Release Date: March 10, 2020
Source: Publisher
Exploring the psychological dynamics of the relationship between a precocious yet naïve teenage girl and her magnetic and manipulative teacher, a brilliant, all-consuming read that marks the explosive debut of an extraordinary new writer.
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 Vanessais an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself.
When this book first showed up from the publisher, I had never heard of it before. I looked it up on Goodreads and realized it was a highly anticipated book for the book community and that it was about a student/teacher relationship. As a teacher, I definitely have a different perspective on this topic and I was interested to see how this author, who has experienced a kind of trauma herself during her youth, would approach the topic. 

Throughout this book, you really see Vanessa fall into the trap her teacher built and be manipulated by a man in power. This does not at all glorify student/teacher relationships like so many other books and shows and movies do. Instead, this book shows how a man grooms a young girl and how that young girl carries that trauma for the rest of her life. I could not put this book down but not because I enjoyed it and was craving more; the story was engrossing and explored the emotions and confusion of a girl who is taken advantage of. 

To me, the ending was perfect and when I finished this book, I had to stop and just think. We hear so much about abuse and trauma in the media and it's easy to see these women as just another victim. This book, though, shows us that these women all have different experiences and are truly affected for life because of what they have gone through. Especially because of the world we are living in today, I think that My Dark Vanessa is a book everyone should pick up.



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