My Dark Vanessa – Snapshot Book Review

Snapshot reviews are short book reviews of around 200-250 words.

✨ Spoiler Free ✨

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Genre: Contemporary
Publication year: 2020
Audience: 18+
Content warnings: Child sexual abuse, paedophilia, grooming, rape, sexual assault, student/teacher relationship, abusive relationship, trauma, PTSD, suicide, drug use, self-harm.


My Dark Vanessa follows the relationship between 15-year-old Vanessa and her 42-year-old teacher, Strane. When accusations of abuse against Strane are published online and gather media attention, Vanessa is forced to confront the nature of her relationship with Strane and her ongoing trauma.

Kate Elizabeth Russell tackled the themes contained within My Dark Vanessa with sensitivity and care. The exploration of a student/teacher relationship and depiction of trauma was so raw. This type of abuse is widely misunderstood and I appreciated that Russell showed the complexity of grooming and the long-term impact on the victim.

The book is divided into two timelines – past and present – showing the development of the relationship between Vanessa and Strane in the past and the abuse story against Strane in the present. I felt that these alternating timelines didn’t always sync up and the chapters in the present were somewhat disjointed. Nonetheless, I appreciated that the events of the past were off-set by the ongoing consequences for Vanessa and Strane in the present.

Due to the themes the book contains and the explicit nature of the sexual abuse, it was a very difficult to read at times. I would strongly advise looking at the content warnings before reading. However, I’m glad that I read it and believe that this book has great educational value in providing insight into the complexities and realities of grooming.

I’d recommend My Dark Vanessa if:

You’re interested in a dark, heavy, emotional tale that explores the complexities of child abuse and grooming.

Have you read My Dark Vanessa? Or are you planning to read it? Let me know in the comments!

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.


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