A visceral, gripping and compelling read, Kate Elizabeth Russell guarantees her readers a heartbreak when they buy this book. I cannot fathom what Russell read or experienced to write such a powerful dark story. She fleshed out Vanessa’s world so solid that darkness and doubts could hardly penetrate.
Sometimes it feels like that’s all I’m doing every time I reach out—trying to haunt, to drag him back in time, asking him to tell me again what happened. Make me understand it once and for all. Because I’m still stuck here. I can’t move on.
My Dark Vanessa alternates between 2000 and 2017, recapturing the story of young Vanessa Wye, how she met her teacher Jacob Strane, their relationship, her “grooming” and the repercussions of this abusive relationship. Most importantly, the fact that Vanessa refuses to label it as abusive. The extent of realism of this story was too much at some points.
I’m a speckled seal swimming past the breakers, a seabird with a wingspan so long I can fly for miles. I’m the new moon, hidden and safe from him, from everyone.
Russell’s prose was delicate yet steadfast. It flowed smoothly as it echoed the pain and confusion of Vanessa. I admired the well-crafted details, and how Vanessa was attuned to her surroundings. Do you ever feel when a book is too heavy that the writing is a little claustrophobic? I felt that, several times. Sometimes, I just had to close the book and just breathe in and out, slowly, detach myself from what I am reading because it became too much. What I struggled with was the slow pace and the length of the book. Yet, I believe that the length of the book added much needed realistic details, and I could not help but focus on the bigger darker picture. Russell does not try to convince you to hate Strane or see him as manipulative or even see what’s beyond the character, she lays it as it is, she gives depth to us as a readers where she allows us to see it all unfurling.
“I can’t lose the thing I’ve held onto for so long, you know?” My face twists up from the pain of pushing it out. “I just really need it to be a love story, you know? I really, really need it to be that.”
“I know,” she says.
“Because if it isn’t a love story, then what is it”? I look to her glassy eyes, her face of wide open empathy. “It’s my life,” I say. “This has been my whole life.”
This is no escape fiction, you are not going to escape into some fantasy land where Vanessa is a likeable princess. Vanessa Wye encompasses readers within her dilemma and struggle. This is a story of Vanessa’s paradox as she tries to hold on and free herself from the memory, the memory of her being his dark Vanessa.
My rating: 5 stars.