MY DARK VANESSA by Kate Elizabeth Russell

She is fifteen years old and he is her middle aged English teacher who coerced her into having sex together, making her believe she is the only one.

“My Dark Vanessa” is a book I enjoyed but also was troubled by. It is a story that frustrated me so much, especially as it can always be part of our reality. A trusting adult grooming a teenage girl and making her believe it’s all so special, playing with her mind and forever scaring her.

I wanted to scream and shake Vanessa into reality but I was also deeply sad by the way she was manipulated into believing that he was her victim, his life might be ruined and her future destroyed if she dares saying anything about it. She was brainwashed and even in her adult days it’s hard for her to actually conceive the idea of her being abused. The conflicts taking place between her heart and mind, between the desire of being normal and protected and the grip he had on her are absolutely shocking.

“Girls in those stories are always victims, and I am not. And it doesn’t have anything to do with what Strane did or didn’t do to me when I was younger. I’m not a victim because I never wanted to be, and If I didn’t want to be, then I’m not. That’s how it works. The difference between rape and sex is state of mind. You can’t rape the willing, right?”

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.

“He touched me first, said he wanted to kiss me, told me he loved me. Every first step was taken by him. I don’t feel forced, and I know I have the power to say no, but that isn’t the same as being in charge. But maybe he has to believe that. Maybe there’s a whole list of things he has to believe.”

I read this book in two days and took me other three to decide on reviewing it. It made me think of it from a mother’s perspective as well playing with my mind and worrying more and more about where the society is heading to.

“My Dark Vanessa” is a brilliant debut novel, shocking , twisted and captivating, a novel that might be a trigger for some as it treats subjects as grooming children, abusive relationships, sex with a minor and mental health.

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