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ARC Review: My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Release Date: March 3

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.


My Dark Vanessa has been the buzzed about book of 2020 and that was the main reason I decided to pick it up. I was lucky enough to get an early ARC of it because of the Bookishfirst book swap forum.

I almost put the novel down a few times because of the sexual content. It was extremely hard to read, which was the intent of it. I also felt that the format, the switch between the past and present, took away from my reading experience. The length of the novel was an issue as well, I felt that it could have been shorter.

The favorite aspect of the novel was Kate Elizabeth Russell’s writing style. Her writing was beautiful and I will be checking out more from this author in the future.

I struggled with rating this one. It was not for me but I still recommend checking it out.


3 Stars Out of 5 Stars.


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