My Dark Vanessa (Kate Elizabeth Russell)

**Trigger Warning**
This book discusses the topics of rape, inappropriate relationships between teacher/student, and suicide

Rating: 4 Stars

The (fictitious) story of a fifteen year old girl who ‘falls in love with’ her teacher, and the incredibly inappropriate relationship that follows. Told in both the past and present through Vanessa’s eyes, she remembers the few months she spent with her teacher and the ‘relationship’ she believes was perfect – even as other young women step forward with their own allegations about the very same teacher.

This was one of the most messed up books I’ve literally ever read. The rating I gave it is one I continue to grapple with because honestly this book destroyed the inside of my mind so thoroughly I’m shocked I can still process random facts. The story itself was horrifying, but I can’t deny that I found it well written. Which is where most of the stars come from.

The thing that I can’t get over is that Vanessa constantly describes their relationship as this amazing thing that she also wanted. But the reality is, not only was she far too young to make that choice, the fact that she has to have ‘out of body’ experiences while he ‘has sex’ with her clearly tells you that it isn’t something she enjoyed. You don’t need to escape your body when you’re comfortable with the situation you’re in.

Not only that, but she describes it as something she wants/wanted whenever she isn’t in the moment of it. When he’s being ‘physical’ with her in any way, she really doesn’t seem to want to be a part of it. Which is understandable because she’s a child and he’s her teacher. But after things are done, she’s quick to paint it as something she’d wanted.

The reality of this horrific story, is that Vanessa was a child who liked the attention she was given by an older, more powerful man. But she was too young to truly understand it and even as an adult, she continues to defend it until the very end. Even when these other girls start coming out with their stories of abuse at the hands of this same teacher, she constantly refers to the relationship she had with him as ‘different’ because she had ‘wanted it.’

This book still makes my skin crawl. I think if she’d sort of come to terms with the fact that it wasn’t an appropriate relationship as an adult, looking back, it might have been a bit better? But she doesn’t and this book, while very powerfully written, is gut-wrenching. All you want to do is protect Vanessa from a disgusting monster.

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