My Dark Vanessa
Book Reviews

My Dark Vanessa, by Kate Elizabeth Russell {Book Review}

Have you ever had a crush on your teacher or perhaps your lecturer? Yip….me neither! However, I think as a teenager, one could easily be drawn into an infatuation unbeknownst to you, if a predator-type adult groomed you, or gave you a push in that direction. In My Dark Vanessa, Vanessa’s whole life has been shaped by her ‘love affair’ with her 42yr old teacher. A ‘relationship’ that started when she was 15…..with Mr Strane….who was 42yrs old at the time. Love affair…right? Sounds normal. Very legal! Abuse? Oh no, definitely not… These are the questions Vanessa is forced to ask herself when allegations of abuse are brought against Mr Strane…..

What is My Dark Vanessa about?

Exploring the psychological dynamics of the relationship between a precocious yet naïve teenage girl and her magnetic and manipulative teacher, a brilliant, all-consuming read that marks the explosive debut of an extraordinary new writer.

2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and 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, 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?

My Dark VanessaMy Thoughts

My Dark Vanessa is one of every parent’s worst nightmare….. and I am so grateful that I read this one with my book buddy, because this was a book that needed to be discussed, digested and processed. As mothers we were horrified together, sad together…and it was also eye opening, how twisted and sick the Mr Strane’s of the world are…and they could be any body!

The book is told from Vanessa’s point of view in the present, as well as the past, where we discover how this all started.

You know going in, what this book is going to be about. On one hand…it felt so wrong to want to get to where the ‘relationship’ starts, but on the other, the writing is so immersive and well done, that you want to get there, to see how it all starts. Conflicting…right? My Dark Vanessa felt sad and ugly….I felt dirty reading some of the scenes and I can only commend the writer for taking herself there, and getting those words onto the page.

Even though we know this is fiction, we also know that it is not. There are young children in this situation, being groomed, being abused….and that is a heartbreaking thought…and reality.


I actually cried when I got to this part of the book:

“I can’t lose the thing I’ve held onto for so long, you know?” My face twists up from the pain of pushing it out. “I just really need it to be a love story, you know? I really, really need it to be that.”
“I know,” she says.
“Because if it isn’t a love story, then what is it”? I look to her glassy eyes, her face of wide open empathy. “It’s my life,” I say. “This has been my whole life.”

My rating

My Dark Vanessa has a Goodreads rating of 4.06 stars out of 5 and I am inclined to agree and give it a solid 4 stars. The writing was compelling, beautiful and gripping. A necessary story to hopefully empower more women to speak up, speak out….. For parents to push harder and get the answers from their kids, to be able to help them. Why not 5 stars? I felt that there were some unnecessary parts to the story that didn’t go anywhere. That would be my main criticism. Otherwise, a brilliant read…and I truly hope all the Mr Stranes of the world get what they deserve…in this life, or the next…..

My Dark Vanessa is available from all leading book retailers, like Bargain Books where I bought my copy. My Dark Vanessa

I’m Simone, a mom of 3, a wife...obsessed with my family, makeup and books!


  • Venean

    This book literally gave me nightmares… Stayed with me. This review I agree with to the freaken T. So necessary so good. Lots of triggers. I loved it and hated it at the same time. Reading books like these make it so hard to read average books! ❤️

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