Book Review

My Dark Vanessa – Kate Elizabeth Russell

A powerful, shocking, and revelatory debut novel, this is an account of a young 15-year-old girl, Vanessa Wye, who is singled out in class and gradually groomed to be a sexual partner by her older 42-year old teacher, Jacob Strane.  The novel bounces between that time and present-day, as another female student accuses Strane of sexual misconduct and asks Vanessa for help in exposing him.  We get a glimpse inside the mind of a smart but lonely teenager who, far from considering herself a victim, has always believed her love affair with an older man was not abuse, but a consensual love affair in which she was the one with the power. Now in light of these new allegations, she begins to question the nature of consent, the power of an older man over an impressionable young teenager, and whether she was really ever in control of what happened. In my previous experience as a therapist, this story rang true and real and is an important voice in the literature that informs the #MeToo movement.

A favorite passage:  “I just really need it to be a love story.  You know? I really, really need it to be that.  Because if it isn’t a love story, then what is it?”