the next good book

My Dark Vanessa

By Kate Elizabeth Russell


369 pages

What’s it about? This novel goes back and forth between 2000 and 2017.  In 2000 Vanessa is a fifteen-year-old scholarship student at a prestigious East Coast boarding school when she becomes entangled in a sexual relationship with her much older teacher.  Vanessa is the unreliable narrator of both time periods.  In 2000 we view her relationship as it unfolds with the manipulative Mr. Strane.  By 2017 Vanessa is trying to make sense of what happened to her seventeen years ago.  In both instances Vanessa reveals herself as a complicated and complicit victim….What did it make me think about? Is there really such a thing as a complicit victim?  Can a fifteen-year-old be complicit? Should I read it? This was just a dark book with a dark subject.  It was graphic in detail and often difficult to read….  yet it was also a page-turner.  Vanessa was so complicated that although you wanted to like her, it was hard.  Ms. Russell managed to portray the complexities Vanessa faces when she looks back at her relationship with Mr. Strane. Quote-I never would have done it if you weren’t so willing, he’d said.  It sounds like delusion.  What girl would want  what he did to me?  But it’s the truth, whether anyone believes it or not.  Driven toward it, toward him, I was the kind of girl that isn’t supposed to exist: one eager to hurl herself into the path of a pedophile. But no, that word isn’t right, never has been.It’s a cop-out, a lie in the way it’s wrong to call me a victim and nothing more.  He was never so simple; neither was I.”

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