🔮 I listened to this as part of the OWLs readathon for the Astronomy prompt of reading a book mostly at night. This book was the longest of my chosen reads for OWLs coming in at 384 pages. Most of my choices this time were around the 300 page or so mark.
This one is being so hyped within the book community and I believe it is definitely deserving of ALL that hype!
I decided to listen to the audio book and I am thrilled that I went that route because it was so well done. I adored the way in which the narrator voiced the older and younger versions of Vanessa as well as the other characters. Very subtle differences, but so good. Small example: The story went back and forth between the school days and the now for Vanessa (Her at fifteen versus her early thirties) and the narrator voiced her at fifteen in a slightly smaller way. Almost unsure of the words. The confidence wasn’t there yet. Then Vanessa in her thirties sounded more sure of her wording. As I said, very subtle, yet noticeable, difference.
I do find it interesting that two of my four main book choices this month featured two vastly different therapists. The therapist depicted here was wonderful and how a professional should be.
The trauma Vanessa experiences unfolds through her memories and her environment as well. The grooming involved and the manipulation were horrible…but nothing was as awful as how her once college professor still continued to manipulate and affect her as she became an adult just so she wouldn’t “ruin” him.
This was a tough book to get through and left a very heavy heart feeling at times for me.
The way that he wielded so much power over her and kept making her think it was all her idea and that she was bad was infuriating! There were several poignant moments, but for me the line that will stick with me most is from the therapist to Vanessa of “You were just trying to go to school.” Like, that hit like a sucker punch to the gut and was one in which I had to pause the audio for a moment and sit and stare into the distance to reflect on a bit.
It is heart-wrenching to think that many girls go through this in real life and face similar experiences.
I was very appreciative of the story itself expanding beyond to include the healing for Vanessa. Honestly had it cut off without that portion I would have rated this lower for I feel its biggest strength was in the recovery. It was the healing process afterwards that most captivated me in general. The realization for her to know that she could be good. She wasn’t what he made her out to be. This was so well written and so shocking at certain points and simply one of the best stories I have read in 2020. I am already marking it as a high contender for best book I have read so far this year. It is winning so far at any rate.
I want to go through and listen again and really focus in more. I feel like the first time around as a reader you are taking in the story at a surface level. You aren’t nested in the same way as when taking in the story a second time around.
I highly highly highly recommend this one if you think you can handle the subject matter. This deals with a heavy topic and could be triggering for anyone sensitive to the topic of grooming.
Reading Progress and Notes:
📚 April 13, 2020 – Started Reading
👉 April 15, 2020 – 39.0% “He threw the doggo off of him and she got hurt. I am peeved. How dare he? Like, of all possibly things wrong with this pedophile, we have unkindness toward the doggo. In that moment she hated him and yes she should!!! What a creep!!!!!”
📚 April 16, 2020 – 69.0%
📚 April 16, 2020 – 73.0%
📚 April 16, 2020 – 87.0%
📚 April 17, 2020 – Finished Reading
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.
2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.
2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?
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.