2020 releases · fiction

Review: My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Hi everyone! I haven’t posted in a bit because I have no time nor energy, and this post was prescheduled, but I wanted to open this up by sharing resources on how you can help the Black Lives Matter movement now and in the future. Listed below are links to resources on how you can help, donate, petitions to sign etc. I urge you all to try and help in any way you can and in anything that seems possible for you (and make sure you elevate Black voices in the process) and to keep this energy not just now but forever.

Black Lives Matter carrd
More resources

And since we’ve seen a shift in the media coverage already, we need to make sure that this is not a thing that we are supporting just now and that we are always elevating and promoting Black voices:

List of Black-owned bookstores | 2020 YA books by Black authors that are out now | LGBTQ+ books by Black authors | Books that do not focus on Black pain | 2020 YA Upcoming reads by Black authors | Anti-racist Reading List

And now, a promised review.

“I wonder how much victimhood they’d be willing to grant a girl like me.”

My Dark Vanessa: The Sunday Times and New York Times Best Selling ...This book was not an easy read. But it was definitely one of my favorite reads of this year, without a doubt. It’s always interesting to go into a book that has so much hype, but this one definitely delivers on all the praise it’s been getting. It’s one of those books that sticks – I think about it quite a lot even after I’ve finished it, which is rare nowadays for me (I swear it’s been ages since I’ve fallen in love with a book completely), and while this one is visceral, it’s also brilliant.

My Dark Vanessa follows Vanessa, who is reflecting on her past relationship with her teacher, after that same teacher is accused of sexual abuse by a different young woman. And while I am sure that there is a type of a heroine you expect in this kind of awful framework, Vanessa is not that.


This book’s strongest point is definitely its character work. I think this is a brilliant psychological profile and character study of a person that was abused in their teens and I think Karen Elizabeth Russell managed to portray a character that feels incredibly real and authentic. We see Vanessa both now in her 30s, when new allegations against Strane, her high school teacher come up, which she does not believe. She does not believe the girl that comes forward. It was heartbreaking and it’s not something that is comfortable to read, but Russell managed to showcase how hard it is to be perceived as a victim, and more importantly, how hard it is to see yourself as a victim. I personally found it so difficult to see Vanessa move so aimlessly through life, but I think it’s a testament of how good Rusell’s writing is. She manages to seamlessly show you someone who refuses to accept that they were abused because that then would have to become a prominent part of their identity. Vanessa’s struggles with that were so well done, and I just wanted to hug her and then cry for a couple of days.

In contrast to this storyline, we also see Vanessa back when she was 15 and we see how Strane, her teacher basically groomed her and proceeded to abuse her, and then manipulated her for a better part of her life was so distressing. I think the author managed to really bring so much nuance to this story, and I feel like she did justice to something incredibly awful and incredibly complex.

I also really enjoyed the pacing of this novel. It’s almost feverish in its storytelling, and I for one had a real hard time putting this one down, despite being constantly disturbed by it. For a book that focuses so heavily on the inner life and thoughts of one person, this story flowed so seamlessly and it managed to do an intense character study in the way that I always look for in books.


I would highly recommend this one! It was a brilliant book that I will definitely think about for a while and it will surely be somewhere in my top 10 for this year!



I would love to hear from you! Have you read this one, or planning to pick it up soon? Let me know!

In the meantime, happy reading




*I received an eARC of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss. All opinions are my own. 


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9 thoughts on “Review: My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

  1. Ahh yes I read this a few months ago and it’s such a powerful read (also the ending was unexpected for me but that’s part of why it stuck), there’s a lot that I feel defies quite a few “expectations” that people have about books on this topic?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review!! I plan to re-read this at some point- it’s such an incredible book. Will pick it up again when I want to be repeatedly punched on my feelings!


  3. Great review! I swear every time I see a post about this one it makes the book sound even better than what I’m expecting it to be. I really need to get to this one soon- so glad you loved it!


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