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Ratings and Book Reviews ()

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4.2 out of 5
5 Stars
328 reviews have 5 stars
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220 reviews have 4 stars
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All Book Reviews

  • Thought provoking to a whole new level

    My Dark Vanessa is Kate Elizabeth Russell's debut novel, which was eighteen years in the writing. I fell in love with her writing style, her perfect balance of clean, crisp writing combined with a descriptive style that has poetic elements interwoven throughout the story. This novel focuses on a character-driven story; however, My Dark Vanessa also delivers an important message; that we as a society need to acknowledge that there are people out there who will take advantage of our children and confront this problem head-on. Throughout this story, there are multiple references made to the novel Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. However, unlike Dolores Haze, who has no voice, Ms. Russell gives Vanessa a voice. We hear her side of the story; we hear her confusion, her desperation to be loved, to be worshiped, and, most importantly, to not be defined by what has happened to her at the hands of a predator. Vanesa refused to see herself as a victim sometimes to the detriment of her psychological health. "It wasn't about how young I was, not for him. Above everything else, he loved my mind… No one had ever understood that dark part of him until I came along." Without giving to much of the story away, My Dark Vanessa is about a bright but gullible child of fifteen who is singled out and manipulated into having a sexual relationship with her forty-two-year-old high school English teacher. We follow Vanessa's story in various stages of her life; from 2000, when she first met Jacob Strane and started their taboo relationship until 2017, when she is trying to deal with the repercussions, this predatory relationship has left her to conquer. The sheer fact that this horrible man dominated her life astounds and horrifies me and how she was never able to have any meaningful relationship with a man. "There are men who never turn into boyfriends, who peer behind the curtain and see the mess of me-literal and figurative ..." However, upon closer examination of this book, we can also see the power shifts between Vanessa and Strane. There are times that Vanessa feels powerless, and other times she feels she is the one who holds all the power. "I have power. Power to make it happen. Power over him. I was an idiot for not realizing this sooner." This conflict is pure genius on Ms. Russell's part. Another facet that Ms. Russell brings to the forefront is that Vanessa must not only deal with her conflicted feelings about this man and their relationship but also the onslaught of other women that have come forth to accuse Jacob Strane of abusing them. There are so many elements to this captivating story, and I don't feel that my review will do this incredible novel; it's due praise. Although this is a dark story and, at times, a difficult one to read, it is also a compelling story, one I had a difficult time putting down and a novel that takes thought proving to a whole new level. Within the pages of My Dark Vanessa, there is a powerful message for all young girls, but only you, the reader, can determine what that message should be. I would highly recommend this book; it is one of my favorites of 2020. I hope to read more from this promising new author. ** Please note the quotes in my review are subject to change once the book is published** ***I kindly received an ARC of this book by way of Edelweiss, William Morrow, and Kate Elizabeth Russell. I was not contacted, asked, or required to leave a review. I received no compensation, financial or otherwise. I have voluntarily read this book, and this review is my honest opinion. ***

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    48 person found this review helpful

    48 people found this review helpful

    48 of 50 people found this review helpful

  • Scary good

    Breathtaking in its insights into the damage that sexual abuse causes and beautifully written. A truly wonderful novel.

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    10 person found this review helpful

    10 people found this review helpful

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Vivid and riveting

    My Dark Vanessa is a riveting read, and one that sheds light on the precarious dynamics of human interaction and the damage done by predatory behaviour. The author spent 18 years working on this novel, and it shows. The writing is superb, each sentence crafted to the point where reading it is effortless. The story, written in first person, is so vivid that one has to remind oneself frequently that this is not a memoir but a work of fiction. My Dark Vanessa is a fascinating, disturbing and insightful deep dive into a perverse, power-imbalanced relationship. The main character, Vanessa, is being sexually abused by her much-older high school teacher, beginning when she's 15. But she doesn't see it as abuse, and it's this that makes her story confounding and revelatory at the same time. The course her life takes after the abusive relationship begins is a powerful indictment of the teacher's actions—even though Vanessa herself refuses to acknowledge the enormity of what's happened. My Dark Vanessa doesn't attempt to be a reference work on pedophilia. Rather, it's a very personal exploration of what one such relationship could look like—and there's value and learning inherent in that.

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    8 person found this review helpful

    8 people found this review helpful

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Dark, yet impossible to put down!

    Incredible and dark difficult read. Yet, impossible to put down. Disturbing to some, and thought provoking to all. An incredible debut novel. I look forward to reading her latest works! Job well done.

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    4 person found this review helpful

    4 people found this review helpful

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Not Worth the Hype

    The character Vanessa was not likeable, in fact I didn't like her. I found her to be manipulative and the character Strane to be naive. Vanessa didn't want to have anything to do with boys her own age. Vanessa wasn't a victim as she says. Vanessa wasn't even strong mentally but weak. It wasn't a disturbing read as some reviewers have said. The book that was disturbing was 'Cilka's Journey'. Don't waste your money on this book, it isn't worth it. It's not even worth 1 star.

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    9 person found this review helpful

    9 people found this review helpful

    9 of 15 people found this review helpful

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