My Dark Vanessa

Rating:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

When Vanessa Wye hears the news that her former teacher Jacob Strane has been accused of sexual abuse, she is forced to confront what she considered the first and great love story of her life. Because Vanessa was just fifteen years old when she first had sex with her English teacher. As the #MeToo movement gains more and more momentum, Vanessa finds herself questioning if what she considered love was not love at all, but actually rape?

My Dark Vanessa is an unflinching story of sexual abuse and grooming that is compelling and powerful. The novel highlights how an abuser manipulates and grooms their victims and exploits their vulnerabilities for their own gain. The book raises the issue of consent and also challenges many people’s preconceptions of a stereotypical victim and forms of abuse, while examining the long lasting impact and psychological damage of sexual abuse. The devastating consequences of sexual abuse are explored in the novel as Vanessa struggles to grasp the reality of what she has experienced, as well as cope with adult life. As the narrative weaves between the present and the past, the story reveals graphic scenes, which often makes for uncomfortable reading. However, these scenes are essential to the story in order to truly give an accurate depiction of such serious subject matter.

For me, My Dark Vanessa is an absorbing read that is difficult to forget. A lack of clear cut resolutions in the story adds to the realistic tone of the novel and the depiction of central character Vanessa feels authentic. My only minor critiques are that the story felt slightly stretched out in parts and the contrast between teenage Vanessa and adult Vanessa wasn’t always that distinct. Vanessa is described as a talented writer during her teenage years, but the narrative sometimes feels just beyond the voice of a teenage girl. Overall though, My Dark Vanessa is a fantastic debut novel that is published today. I hope it receives the success it deserves, despite these challenging times for new book releases and author events.

What debut novel has captured your attention in recent years?

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