“My Dark Vanessa,” written by Kate Elizabeth Russell, is not a love story. It’s a story about an abuser manipulating their victim with love language.
Synopsis: Vanessa is 15 years old when she begins a sexual relationship with her 42-year-old teacher Jacob Strane. The book jumps back and forth between 2001, when their relationship started, and 2017 when Vanessa is 32. Strane uses deliberate language to get the naive schoolgirl to believe their “relationship” is consensual and romantic. At 32, Vanessa begins to understand what happened to her and how the abuse affected her adult life.
This book was challenging to read for the obvious. The pedophilic teacher groomed Vanessa into believing that he loved her, that she would go to jail, and there was no one else. It’s incorrect because we know he didn’t love her; Strane loved how young she was. Also, as with most pedophiles, there were other students.
“My Dark Vanessa” is brutal. From the moment Strane took an interest in her, my spidey senses were tingling. The cringe factor in the story is sky-high, yet as readers, there’s nothing we can do. I think that’s telling of a story if readers have such visceral reactions to the characters and plot; it showcases the author’s writing capabilities.
Alternating between past and present, readers witness how deep the trauma goes; how much Vanessa suffers personally and in her relationships with other men, her family, and the school community. She’s practically tethered to her abuser until he severs the connection in an instant.
Five stars. This book is f*cked up.
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