Disturbing, painful, powerful.
Disclaimer: I’ve received an advanced reader copy via NetGalley, this doesn’t influence my opinion or review. Thank you to the author and the publisher for providing me with a reader copy in exchange for an honest review.
“Because even if I sometimes use the word abuse to describe certain things that were done to me, in someone else’s mouth the word turns ugly and absolute. It swallows up everything that happened.“
Who should read it? Those who are comfortable with a raw and deeply disturbing read.
Would I recommend it? Yes, but with trigger warnings.
Talking about abuse is never easy. But how do you tell a story of abuse when you don’t realize you have been abused (even many years later)?
You tell a “love story” instead.
“My Dark Vanessa” is a disturbingly powerful read that focuses on the victim’s side of the story — except Vanessa doesn’t consider herself a victim. And this is why it’s so uncomfortable when we get to read from Vanessa’s point of view as an adult, her life in the present, the memories from the past, and the repercussions of being abused as a teenager. We are in her head.
Being in Vanessa’s head is not easy. It’s uncomfortable, painful. It makes us feel a wide range of emotions, from sadness to anger. Even frustration sometimes, a sense of injustice. Powerlessness, perhaps?
Can we help Vanessa? Well, we can’t. Because “My Dark Vanessa” is not a fairy tale. It’s a raw depiction of grooming, an awful story of a teenager who had been manipulated and brainwashed by a predator. That’s what’s powerful about this book. We get to experience the abuse through Vanessa’s eyes.
We all want to be “special”. We crave someone who sees what’s unique in us, who understands us, who “gets it”. Vanessa saw that in Strane.
The hardest part is to accept that despite being fictional, this story is also very real and raw.
For a book that is so hard to read, I surprisingly couldn’t put it down. It felt a bit longer than needed and I thought some details were unnecessary (too many rape scenes as well). Overall it was well written, the pace was appropriate, and you really get into Vanessa’s head.
Overall, “My Dark Vanessa” is powerful, raw, dark, disturbing. Content and trigger warnings as it contains multiple scenes of sexual abuse. I wouldn’t recommend it to just anyone but an excellent read nevertheless.