Thank you @williammorrowbooks for my free copy of “My Dark Vanessa” by Kate Elizabeth Russell! And Happy Pub Day to the book & author, too!
Exploring the psychological dynamics of the relationship between a precocious yet naïve teenage girl & her magnetic & manipulative teacher, a brilliant, all-consuming read that marks the explosive debut of an extraordinary new writer.
2000. Bright, ambitious, & yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic & 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, & 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 & the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her & has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—& who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?
Alternating between Vanessa’s present & her past, “My Dark Vanessa” juxtaposes memory & trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking & impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence & its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, & victimhood.
This book was originally picked to be Oprah’s March book club pick, but then they changed their pick to a different book because, like “American Dirt”, there is plenty of controversy & “moving forward [they] hope to avoid books that provoke controversy that might overwhelm the book clubs discussion.”
You will have to Goog the book for yourself to see what all the noise is about, but in the meantime, here’s my 2cents: While the book did make me uncomfortable & squirmy at times, I felt it was hauntingly beautiful, well-written, engaging, thought-provoking as hell & I thought it about a LOT after reading it. It’s dark, disturbing, & cringy, but it does what a book like this is meant to do: makes you think, much like Nabokov’s “Lolita.” Not for everyone, but I liked it overall.
Don’t forget to enter my current Instagram giveaway (2 winners!). You can click HERE to go to the post.