352 pages ~ ★★★☆☆ ~ Netgalley eARC
My Dark Vanessa is the debut novel from Kate Elizabeth Russell which looks at the relationship of a pupil and her English teacher at a boarding school, what at first appears to be a case of a teacher with a favourite pupil takes a dark turn as Strane starts to push Vanessa’s boundaries and essentially starts grooming her. Having recently fallen out with her best friend Vanessa welcomes the extra attention and English becomes her best subject, giving Strane plenty of excuses to lend her books and offer to critique writing away from the eyes of other pupils and staff.
Vanessa narrates from 2000 when she’s fifteen and returning for her second year at Browick boarding school and from 2017 when she’s 32 and working in a hotel and still in touch with Jacob Strane; their relationship is extremely complicated as Vanessa still struggles to see why everyone aware of their situation sees her as a victim and encourages her to speak out as others have begun to do.
I became very quickly engrossed in this and couldn’t put it down despite it sometimes being difficult to read just because of the subject matter and this book did feel a bit like this book took over my life outside work for two days. It didn’t take long to feel emotionally involved, its a book that had me trying to shout at Vanessa through the page, just wanting the story to take a different turn and for the teenager to just walk away.
Towards the end, I did think this really lost its way which is what for me personally pulled this book down to 3 stars. We follow young Vanessa from the age of fifteen through to the end of college and personally I didn’t think it needed those extra few years of her life. Despite that I’d still highly recommend people read this; there are probably quite a few people who may prefer to avoid this book because of the subject matter, I think it’s fair to warn people that the rape scenes are quite graphic in parts but I did think it was well written and those parts were handled well, they added impact and to the depth of Vanessa and Strane’s complicated relationship rather just being there to take up page space.
I think this book is going to be everywhere over the next few months and I’m very intrigued to hear what everyone else makes of it, My Dark Vanessa is released on 10th March in Hardback and Kindle. Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for providing me with a copy this in exchange for an honest review.