Mini Review – My Dark Vanessa

Information on relationship abuse & international helpline resources

National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 800-799-7233

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-4673

There are no words to describe this book adequately enough but I’m going to try anyway. Let me start by stating I picked this book up because it was so hyped in the book community. Psychological fiction is not a genre I normally read yet even I recognized the brilliance of this novel. Kate Elizabeth Russel writes so poetically. Her words flow together and roll off the pages. I felt as though I’d been compelled to turn the page even when I wanted to put it down and run away. My Dark Vanessa is a truth that many of us refuse to face. It’s bigger than magazine articles. It’s deeper than Cancel Culture. It’s the reality that many women face every day. It’s the struggle to pick up the pieces you’re left in when the trend is over.

The one Criticism I read over and over about this novel was how rape was being Romanticized. Even I thought this to be true after only a few chapters. But the longer I read the more I noticed Subtle nuances sprinkled here and there.

“I think we’re very similar, Nessa,” he whispers. “I can tell from the way you write you’re a dark romantic like me. You like dark things.”

In 2000 Vanessa is fifteen. A quiet girl with no friends who feels disconnected from her parents. Lonely, young, feeling out of place yet craving attention from the world. It seemed at first like a harmless crush and I’m sure it would have stayed that way if Strane hadn’t lured her. Made her feel special, important. He leads her to believe the sun rose an set because of her. That his sexual preferences are because of her. That she was his catalyst. 

To answer the criticism Vanessa doesn’t romanticize rape knowingly. We could spend all day going back and forth picking lines from the novel and disecting them but when it all bils down one truth remains. Vanessa was groomed to believe what was wrong was right and any discomfort she was feeling Strane quickly brushed aside or reasoned away. He subtley threatens by telling her the press will tear her apart and child services will take her away if she tells.

We tried to re-create the first time, me in flimsy pajamas, the lights low. It didn’t work. He kept going soft; I was too old.

32 yr old Vanessa doesn’t romanticize rape but she refuses to see herself as a victim. Stane has groomed her into believing he loved her. He reconnects with her constantly to make sure the gromming holds when he’s caught up in allegations. Constantly reminding her what they had was special. That she was equally to blame for everything. Threatens her with what could happen if she goes public and shares her story. She suffers from PTSD signs of that are sprinkled all throughout the book as well. 

Many people would assume she’s an enabler that she’s selfish for not willingly coming out with her story. I believe it’s a lot deeper than that. It’s clear she suffers from PTSD. She’s tramatized and scared. I thought it was fucked up that she was being pressured to “tell her truth” with no regard to her mental state. Not everyone is ready to share their stories because social media demands it.

In the end I gagged a lot. I honestly would not recommend this book if you’re sensitive or have a weak stomach. I actually updated my Goodreads this time so check that out.

Until Next Time