Vanessa knows what she had with her teacher at fifteen was love, not an abusive relationship where he took advantage of her. Everything that happened she agreed to, hadn't she? Years later Vanessa is struggling to come to terms with the allegations being made by other students and is desperately trying to understand what the relationship really was.
My Dark Vanessa was my most anticipated release of this year and it definitely didn't disappoint. The topics covered are difficult to read but masterfully written, the author hasn't shied away from touching upon serious problems and throws the reader straight into the world of child abuse. Although this is obviously a sensitive subject I cannot recommend the novel enough, it captures a predator's mindset and opened my eyes to how sly and deceptive these horrible people can be and I think this is so important in this day and age where they are becoming more prominent.
Vanessa's character was definitely well written, the writing mirrored her state of mind in each chapter, in present day the narration is a bit chaotic as she tries to understand how Strane effected her life and the flashbacks to her teenage years were written to perfectly capture what she felt about being 'loved' and wanted. Similarly the change in Strane's character between flashbacks and present day were strikingly different and it was so clever of Russell to progress their relationship into something Vanessa could see wasn't right at this later point in her life. He was definitely manipulative but as we only read from Vanessa's POV early on it was easy to overlook his actions just as she did.
Incorporating a therapy story-line for Vanessa really highlighted how powerful this novel really was, the relationship between Vanessa and her therapist, Ruth, perfectly captured the difficultly in opening up after abuse and the effect it has on survivors. Even with Ruth making it abundantly clear that Vanessa was abused she still cannot accept it and Ruth helps her with every step. Coupled with this Russell brings in other survivors of Strane to show how different people deal with abuse and the novel is all-round enlightening to what we should all be aware of.
Although this is a serious triggering book for anyone who has experienced child abuse it was an eye-opening read for me into how predator's convince their victims that what happens is perfectly fine, even when it's not. I'd definitely recommend giving it a read even just to make yourself more aware of the signs of abuse.
If you are an adult who is trying to recover from childhood abuse, please see the help available on this website: https://napac.org.uk/
If you would like to buy your own copy of My Dark Vanessa, please go here: https://amzn.to/3gAKvef