Firstly, a huge thank you to Harper Collins and more specifically Ammara for sending me a copy of this book to read and review.
Secondly, I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to turn this review into something that resembles sense, or at the very least is coherent. I had massive expectations for this book. Ammara had been raving about it on the Harper Collins twitter, the book itself has already been sold in over twenty-four territories and has been adored by all who have read it.
Now I'm adding myself to that list.
My Dark Vanessa is not a book you enjoy. It's a book you get enveloped by. It starts slowly, a word at a time and before you realise you're in the story. You're part of Vanessa's life. That's what Kate's writing does, the more you read you feel as though you know the characters. So so deeply. You know their favourite things, how they dress and their deepest fears. Which makes the plot of this book all the more heartbreaking.
The only way I can accurately describe my time within this story is mind altering. The entire plot hinges on Vanessa's relationship with her teacher Mr. Strane. She was fifteen he was forty-two when they began a relationship and what Vanessa believed to be the great love story of her life. Now, in 2017 she is witnessing a case emerge against Strane with accusations from multiple other girls before, during and after their relationship. She's forced to confront and reevaluate what she believed to be her sexual awakening. Even now, Vanessa refused to believe what happened to her was rape or abuse. It was love in her eyes. Reading this you know what is happening to Vanessa is wrong, immoral and honestly disturbing. Yet because it's from Vanessa's perspective and she believes wholeheartedly that she loved Strane and he loved her, you also start to question things. Until you shake your head and remember she was fifteen and he was grooming her. That is how powerful Kate's voice is in this novel. How she conveys what effect grooming and abuse have on the mind.
There is so much to unpack in this novel. Strane's ability to manipulate Vanessa into apologising for everything really got to me. It seemed like at times Vanessa was trying to tell her story and wanted to be free of the hold Strane had on her but he kept drawing her back in. Luring her with the promise of love and affection. So she protected him. There's a strength to her character that you both commend her for and also wish she didn't have. She dealt with the consequences of Strane's actions and how the situation was twisted to blame Vanessa for everything and she did it. She accepted public humiliation, the dissapointment of her family and the labels that followed her, simply because she was able to withstand it for the man she thought she loved. Had she not been as strong perhaps Strane would've been held accountable. There were so many moments where you thought maybe she'd get free, she might tell her story and you kept that hope throughout the entire book.
To call this a favourite book wouldn't be accurate. I truly don't know if there is a word that would explain how I felt.
This book stays with you. It grabs hold and refuses to let go. Trust me when I say you won't want it to let go either.
Name: My Dark Vanessa*
Author: Kate Elizabeth Russell
Publisher: 4th Estate
Have you read My Dark Vanessa?
What did you think?
Thank you for reading,