One of our recommended books is My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

MY DARK VANESSA

A Novel


Exploring the psychological dynamics of the relationship between a precocious yet naïve teenage girl and her magnetic and manipulative teacher, a brilliant, all-consuming read that marks the explosive debut of an extraordinary new writer.

Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of Room,

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Exploring the psychological dynamics of the relationship between a precocious yet naïve teenage girl and her magnetic and manipulative teacher, a brilliant, all-consuming read that marks the explosive debut of an extraordinary new writer.

Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of Room, My Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself.

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  • William Morrow
  • Hardcover
  • March 2020
  • 384 Pages
  • 9780062941503

Buy the Book

$27.99

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About Kate Elizabeth Russell

Kate Elizabeth Russell is originally from eastern Maine. She holds a PhD in creative writing from the University of Kansas and an MFA from Indiana University. She currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin. This is her first novel.

Praise

Instant New York Times bestseller

“Russell manages a brutal originality. . . . [an] exceedingly complex, inventive, resourceful examination of harm and power.” The New York Times Book Review, Editors’ Choice

“To call this book a ‘conversation piece’ or ‘an important book’ feels belittling . . . [it] is so much more than that. It’s a lightning rod. A brilliantly crafted novel.”—The Washington Post

Discussion Questions

1. What is your impression of Strane? How do you interpret Vanessa’s attraction to him? Do you consider him an “evil” or “sick” character?

2. At the start of her second year at The Browick School, Vanessa is lonely and withdrawn. How does this make her susceptible to Strane’s advances? Do you think her seclusion contributes to the reasons Strane is drawn to her?

3. Vanessa is underage when she first has sex with Strane, but believes that she consented and wanted his attentions. Where do you see the line that separates consent and rape in this situation? If Vanessa had been eighteen at the start of their relationship, would this change your perception?

4. Discuss psychological grooming and its techniques. Do you feel you have a stronger understanding of this issue after reading the novel? What specific examples of grooming would you cite in Strane’s behavior toward Vanessa?

5. Do you think that Vanessa was the first student Strane pursued in this manner? If so, why or why not?

6. Besides her seclusion, why do you think Strane singles out Vanessa? Does any of his behavior provide insights into his decision-making process?

7. Strane tells Vanessa, “It’s just my luck that when I finally find my soulmate, she’s fifteen years old.” How do you interpret Strane expressing moral conflict over Vanessa’s youth and concern for her future? Do you think he truly knows that he is doing something wrong, or is only worried about the potential consequences?

8. How do you perceive Vanessa’s relationship with Jenny? Do you think things might have played out differently if Jenny hadn’t started dating?

9. We move back and forth in time between Vanessa’s teenage years and her present. How does Vanessa change throughout the years, or not change? What does this signify about the lasting effects of her relationship with Strane?

10. What do you think is the fundamental difference between Vanessa and Taylor and the way they respond to Strane’s advances? Do you consider their respective responses to be products of shifting cultural mores, or different upbringings, or something else?