My Dark Vanessa

My Dark Vanessa

A Novel

Large Print - 2020
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Seventeen years ago, bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye became entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher. Now, 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?
Publisher: New York, NY :, Harper Large Print, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers,, [2020]
Edition: Large print edition.
Copyright Date: ©2020
ISBN: 9780062978721
Branch Call Number: FIC Russe
Characteristics: 561 pages (large print) ; 23 cm
large print.,rda


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Aug 03, 2020

This is a very disturbing and engrossing book. It is the first "fiction" book that I ever read that had a disclaimer from the author that this is NOT her story, but a work of fiction. Any time that I had available, I had to be reading this book until the end. It is disturbing because Vanessa cannot admit--even to herself--what has happened to her despite so much evidence and input from others. The author portrays very authentically how the predator "grooms" his young victims. I have been acquainted with people who have been in variations of this predicament, so reading this book brought back the memory of their experiences. My heart hurts for them.

Jul 12, 2020

This is a very thought provoking first novel by this talented author. It was a deeply emotional and disturbing story that will not soon leave my mind. This would be a good discussion for book clubs.

Jul 07, 2020

I echo everyone's comment that this book is a difficult one. Personally I read it pretty quickly, over 2 days, but it was a bit of emotional torture all the way through. The subject matter is just so very heart wrenching. And I think for women... I mean, not all of us have gone through this exact scenario, but I think we can all relate to at least one relationship in our life times with an older male, which may not have even become sexual, but was haunted by the specter of it. I dunno, that may not make sense. But some things hit too close to home. Anyway, I have a hard time saying I 'liked' this book... but it is well written and clearly leaves a mark on all who read it.

AshleyF2008 Jun 14, 2020

Trigger warnings abound. Please take note of that.
I'm going to second a lot of other comments and say this book was hard to read. When I first started, I almost wanted to stop immediately because it's a tough topic and there is no closure possible, not really. The honest writing-style which did not pull back from Vanessa and her struggles and flaws, and just a little piece of hope that Vanessa would find a way out, kept me reading. The author builds Vanessa, both present and past, with such care that its easy to see the manipulation Strane uses to rope her in continuously, but it's also NOT easy to find an escape for the dependence she has on him to define her and their relationship.
I do wish more about her relationship with her parents and about the Vanessa before Strane was in the book so the reader could have a better sense of the before and after of her story.

Jun 09, 2020

My Dark Vanessa tells the story of a woman who was sexually abused by a teacher as a teen girl at boarding school. Flashing back and forth between when she was a teen and now as an adult, we see how the abuse has a lasting and profound effect on her life. Long after most think she should be able to "move on," we see her struggle to make sense of her self and her past. Very disturbing, very powerful.

May 31, 2020

In this Lolitaesque novel Russell tells the story through Vanessa who is a teenage student. The professor subtly and yet overtly brought her into a sexual and addictive relationship that will shape her entire life. We see this through Vanessa's eyes, who gives herself every reason to feel compelled by force of circumstance and immature development to carry on without confronting the dire element of rape. Wow! First novel.

My god, this was a hard read. Not in the sense of density, or quality of writing; I found myself choking back the words at a breakneck pace, barely coming up for air, always instantly transported into the story. But holy, the subject matter. The utterly heartbreaking and enraging things that this book is's very challenging to look back on it now even.

Told from Vanessa's perspective in both her teenage years and her thirties, My Dark Vanessa tells the story of the titular character's grooming and rape at the hands of her teacher at boarding school. Vanessa doesn't realize she's being groomed, nor can she anticipate the effect this relationship will have on her psyche. Raw, real, and painful, this book details how Vanessa deals with both the aftermath and the continuation of this affair.

This is so hard to review, because on the one hand, I want to scream FIVE STARS THIS IS INSANE READ THIS BOOK and on the other hand I want to quietly shelve it on my bookshelf and never look at it again. The world absolutely needs books like these. But be warned, is it messed up.

I think what's most disturbing about it overall is how real it all feels. How timely it is, how our world is finally acknowledging the horribleness of these abusers and trying to bring them to justice, but how there are always those who blame the girl. Who blame themselves. And it is such a slap in the face to be confronted with it again and again over the course of the narrative here. Vanessa is so convinced of her own role in everything that it made me feel sick. She's so wrapped up in the version of herself that Strane crafts that she can't see who she is beyond it. Getting into her head is so ultimately exhausting because it's hard to keep your own perspective clear and not get dragged into hers.

The believability of it all comes into play for me just thinking about how Vanessa gets groomed into this. At 15, I was so awkward, a horse girl, never wanted anything to do with other people because I had no self esteem and was convinced no one could ever like me like that. And to see that portrayed, and then taken advantage of, so intensely here was an experience like nothing else I've ever gone through. It was painful, heavy, and panic-inducing. It hurts to think about girls going through this. It is absolutely maddening to think of men who do this to those girls.

At the end of the day, though, this is a necessary book. This is a book that anyone who has ever blamed the victim needs to read. It's so hard to read, but it's important, and, with all the necessary trigger warnings, I think that I would feel safe recommending it. Sure, it's a slap in the face, like I said. But I hope it opens some eyes and reflects some experiences for those who need that catharsis.

Apr 29, 2020

Couldn't put it down. When is a rape not a rape!?

Apr 03, 2020

This book wasn't an enjoyable read by any means but it was certainly engaging. I would absolutely recommend giving this a read and then spending some time absorbing it.

LoganLib_Kirra Apr 02, 2020

My Dark Vanessa was a horrifying read. The author has done a fantastic job creating this alluring and dominating relationship as he cons her into believing they have this joint uncontrollable attraction. It’s so intense to read such vivid and frank writing that spares no detail but also it makes for such a compelling read. It’s a book that will leave a mark.

View All Comments

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at OPL

To Top