My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell. (2020).
**4 out of 5 stars**
Vanessa was 15 when she first had sex with her English teacher. She is now 32 and in the storm of allegations against powerful men in 2017, that teacher (Strane) has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student. Vanessa is horrified because she is certain her relationship with Strane was love, not abuse. Forced to rethink her past, Vanessa has to redefine the great love story of her life as rape. Now she has to deal with the possibility that she might be a victim, and just one of many.
As you can probably assume by the synopsis, this novel is quite a confronting read. Set in dual timelines, we are reading about girl Vanessa who feels special and powerful because she has had a grown man fall in love with her; alternatively we have woman Vanessa who still considers the relationship love but is starting to question what occurred. There are scenes and descriptions that are disturbing, particularly when 15 year old Vanessa is hesitant with some things but ends up going along with it. As a grown woman reading this, Strane’s manipulation is quite clear but you can see how a young girl would have felt that it was love. I have to say I think this is an amazing debut novel for the author who has tackled an extremely difficult and emotive topic.
Do I think everyone would love this book? No. However I guarantee it would be one you would never forget. I would personally recommend it for those who appreciate darker storylines however note that it could be triggering for some readers.