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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
We couldn’t stop thinking about Kate Elizabeth Russell’s powerful and deeply disturbing debut. Told from the point of view of its titular heroine, the novel maps two distinct eras of Vanessa’s life. We’re pulled into the thrill and turmoil of 15-year-old Vanessa’s experiences as she embarks on a “romance” with her much older English teacher, Jacob, and grows to feel like he’s the only one who truly understands her. But adult Vanessa is starting to see the story differently, struggling to reconcile the relationship that altered the course of her life with the accusations of other former students who were targeted by Jacob. A palpable feeling of unease pervades Russell’s novel—she does an amazing job of trapping us inside Vanessa’s claustrophobic, traumatized mind. A vitally important read for the #MeToo age, My Dark Vanessa combines visceral detail with thoughtful nuance. Your book club will spend hours discussing this one.
Russell offers readers an introspective narrative that fully captures the complexity and necessity of the #MeToo movement in her powerful debut. In the year 2000, Vanessa Wye is a lonely sophomore at Maine's Browick boarding school. The academically gifted 15-year-old professes not to mind her solitude, especially when her 42-year-old English teacher, Jacob Strane, begins to pay attention to her, remarking on her red hair and fashion sense, and lending her some of his favorite books including Nabokov's Lolita. Almost before Vanessa realizes what's happening, the two have embarked on a sexual relationship, and Vanessa is convinced she's been singled out as someone truly special until, under threat of exposure, their relationship begins to go off the rails. Seventeen years later, Vanessa is still occasionally in contact with Jacob, but their relationship has grown tense, as another former student has gone public about his inappropriate advances. Russell's novel, alternating between past and present, presents a damning indictment of sexual predation, as she starkly elucidates the ways in which abuse robbed Vanessa not only of her childhood but also of her own once-promising future. It also prompts readers to interrogate their own assumptions about victimhood, consent, and agency. This is a frighteningly sharp debut.)\n
Yes. Yes. Yes.
This book hit every point needed. The author had a clear idea and this is beautifully written into a poetic literary masterpiece.
Enlightening in the most heartbreaking way
This book is nothing like I’ve ever read. The character of Vanessa touches your soul in every which way by challenging what it means to be a victim. Such a topical piece that is tragic, profound, and bittersweet.
Political views don’t need to be shouted
One star from me and it’s quits simple to explain. Do radical left authors not realize conservatives love a good book too? Why the need to throw your jabs at us in a book that has nothing to do with politics? Try a different approach and focus on uniting not dividing.