Review: “My Dark Vanessa” allows readers to get a victim’s point of view [MUSE]

Review: “My Dark Vanessa” allows readers to get a victim’s point of view [MUSE]

Kate Loper

After I finished all the unread books on my shelf, I was craving a new addictive read. So I decided to hop onto Goodreads and scroll through the several book recommendations and reviews based on the books I’ve read before. Nothing was sparking my interest in particular, until I got to My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell. The reviews under the book were raving about it, saying it gave them a better point of view on victimizing situations. I was worried to start the book, as it seemed too dark and morbid for my taste, but I decided to take a chance, and in the end I am glad I did. 

My Dark Vanessa is about a young girl in high school who goes to an expensive and prestigious private school in Maine. The main character, Vanessa, is going through a time of hardship in her teenage years. She doesn’t want to go back to this school, mainly due to the fact she had a falling out with one of her best friends, Jenny, who attends this school with her. The first day of school begins for Vanessa and she meets her English teacher, Jacob Strane. He begins to manipulate her into an inappropriate relationship. The book goes back and forth between 2017 Vanessa’s thoughts and feelings about the relationship, and her teenage mind when the relationship was happening. Inappropriate relationships ignited by authority figures in young girls’ lives is a hard topic to cover, and Russell did it in the best possible way she could.

As I researched the book, I was informed that Russell was told to change the point of view of the book from Vanessa to Jacob, and I am so glad she decided not to. If the story was written from the perspective of Jacob, we would not truly be able to see how a relationship like this affects a young girl mentally, and in society. Mentally, she built such an attachment to Jacob that she did not want to report him for the acts he was committing against her. He gave her writing praise, and even gave her works of literature that he claimed were his favorites for her to read. She became blinded by the false love that Jacob was giving her, so she believed that this relationship was normal. Once the word of the relationship went out, people started treating Vanessa differently. Many called her derogatory names, and decided to ignore her existence as an individual. Many began to blame her for the relationship, saying it was her fault and not his. This allows Vanessa’s view point of Jacob to stay the same, and her views about herself to change.

In all, I am glad Russell decided to write this book. The novel allows people to really get the point of view of a victim in inappropriate relationships in a way that is easy to digest. We all know these things happen in society, but this allows us to think: how would I react if someone I knew was in a relationship that Vanessa was in? Would we try to help, or blame her for the inappropriate actions of an adult?

On this blog, members of the Carmel High School chapter of the Quill and Scroll International Honorary Society for High School Journalists (and the occasional guest writer) produce curations of all facets of popular culture, from TV shows to music to novels to technology. We hope our readers always leave with something new to muse over. Click here to read more from MUSE.