Updated: Oct 20, 2021
My Dark Vanessa was a book I saw so much of when it was released. It was all over instagram and people were calling it a ‘must read’ book, so naturally I got it!!
This book touches on some harsh topics such as pedophilia, rape, underage sex, manipulation etc, I’ll also be including spoilers in my review so if you don’t want the book to be ruined for you, then maybe skip this review until after you’ve read it!
I’ll be honest, when I got this book I didn’t actually know what it was about, it was one of those instant buys because of all the hype. So when I picked it up to read I wasn’t sure at first that I was fully ready to get into the story, but I’m so glad I did! This book is something else entirely, the way that it is written can leave you feeling raw after putting it down. It was almost like when I was reading it I almost found myself trying to argue with our main character Vanessa, but at the same time I was so shocked by how manipulated she was that I also found myself seeing the perspective she was telling the story from.
Strane is Vanessa’s teacher, and the man who manipulates her. I won’t hide the fact that there were chapters in this book that truly disgusted me, in particular the chapters where Vanessa and Strane sleep in the same bed for the first time, Vanessa wakes up to a naked Strane who pushes her hand downwards to please him. I put the book down for a moment while I got over how disgusting that was to me, that a man so much older than Vanessa thought it was okay to do what he did. Honestly the whole way through the book I was angry at how many times Strane twisted words, situations and conversations to suit him, how Vanessa followed along with all of this because he had convinced her that this was normal and that they were in love, and even more so that Vanessa had to try and convince herself this was true later in life.
This book is such a huge eye opener to how manipulative men like Strane can be and also how easily girls like Vanessa can be taken advantage of. Strane is not the only man that is attracted to Vanessa, we see another moment in the book where Vanessa leads on an older man she meets and again age is not a question to him either. It made me think about younger girls and also myself when I was that age, how in danger we were/can be around men like that, did men look at me this way? Did compliments or cat calls mean so much more to them than my 16 year old self thought? I always ignored them of course but Vanessa realises throughout the book that she has this power to make men do these things and it’s worrying, would she have thought this way if it wasn’t for Strane? It’s even more worrying to think about all of the real girls out there who may not know the dangers that following up from those compliments or inappropriate advances can lead to.
This book is important to read on so many levels, it allows you to look into the life of someone who has been groomed but she won’t see it that way, she can’t. We as a reader can see what Strane is doing, how he is working the angles or arguments, the way he tells the story to Vanessa: “but you’re the one who did this, say that, you made me this way” making himself look like a victim to a child who surely would believe that because what else can she believe?
The reason the book got four stars from me and not five is because like I said at times the book disgusted me (Which I know was the point) but there were also times when I just wanted to shout at Vanessa, “Don’t treat your parents that way” or “God please look at this from an outsiders perspective, please see what is really happening” honestly I wish the ending had of been more, I knew early on it wouldn’t be, but I just wish Vanessa had of come out of that darker place a bit more, had of made a friend in Taylor, not stuck beside the man who ruined her life until the day he died. I just wish it had of been better for her, but I don’t think this book was about happy endings, I think this book was written the way it was to make us hurt for Vanessa and the life she didn’t have because of Strane.