My Dark Vanessa

My Dark Vanessa

A Novel

Book - 2020
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INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

"[An] exceedingly complex, inventive, resourceful examination of harm and power." --The New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice

"A lightning rod . . . brilliantly crafted."--The Washington Post

A most anticipated book by The New York Times * USA Today * Entertainment Weekly * Marie Claire * Elle * Harper's Bazaar * Bustle * Newsweek * New York Post * Esquire * Real Simple * The Sunday Times * The Guardian

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 Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself.

Publisher: New York, N.Y. : William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2020]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780062941503
Branch Call Number: Russell, K
Russell, K
RUSSELL K
RUSSELL K
Characteristics: 372 pages ; 24 cm

Opinion

From Library Staff

An adult Vanessa is forced to reexamine, her relationship with her high school English teacher when a former classmate accuses him of sexual abuse. Grappling with the right response, the teen in love tangles with adult Vanessa's memory and trauma.


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m
MillieBT
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

m
Margush
Jan 28, 2021

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

a
ammolder
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!

e
EljayJohnson
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.

m
myccl
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.

r
reader1809
Dec 28, 2020

suggested by a Goodreads editor

2
2008will
Dec 13, 2020

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

a
aziahtea
Dec 07, 2020

My Dark Vanessa is a difficult read. This novel perfectly exhibits how trauma can completely alter you for the rest of your life. Definitely a hard story to swallow but necessary one. The constant gaslighting and abuse throughout the story will make you burn with anger. After the trauma Vanessa experiences in high school from her teacher (who should be thrown under the jail), we see how this trauma has taken over her life far into adulthood. So many moments I felt sick while reading this but I appreciate how the author wrote Strane as the pathetic, demented monster that he was rather than romanticize this situation. This story is the true horror of grooming, sexual abuse, an abusive power dynamic and how every adult failed this girl. It really makes you wonder how many other Vanessas are out there silently suffering and how as a society we treat sexual assault victims.

JCLJenV Dec 03, 2020

Powerfully painful yet perfectly written and full of triggers, this book will suck you in deep.

JCLFlanneryC Nov 23, 2020

This was a compelling book, one I literally could not put down and listened to in the car, making dinner, etc. I'm interested in women's coming-of-age stories and have read a lot of books like this, books dealing with dramatic age differences and abuse, but this one stands out because it addresses an aversion to victimhood and some of the psychic damage that makes it hard for women to seek help for trauma, in a way that I found convincing, relatable, and interesting.

This book was the subject of some minor controversy when another author, Wendy C. Oritz, accused this book of plagiarizing her memoir, Excavation, and while it's true that the stories are similar, any woman who has experienced male predatory behavior will recognize the familiar coercions that men in power employ to keep their secrets hidden: all bad men are much the same. (Excavation is a very good book by way & well worth reading; Oritz's point that white women get better incentives & bigger advances is not lost upon this reviewer!) A heavy book that really flew by, My Dark Vanessa reads like a thriller.

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