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Kate Elizabeth Russell Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

My Dark Vanessa (2020)Description / Buy at Amazon

Kate Elizabeth Russell
Kate Elizabeth Russell is a fiction writer best known for her debut novel, My Dark Vanessa. Russell holds an MFA from Indiana University and a Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Kansas. There is no doubt that Russell is a talented writer, given the way her first book is written. The eastern Maine born author has done an excellent job writing on a topic that many are uncomfortable with and delivering the message so beautifully that it is easy to see how victims of sexual abuse view their abusers.

My Dark Vanessa
My Dark Vanessa tells the story of a naïve yet gifted teenage girl and a manipulative and magnetic teacher. At just 15 years, Vanessa Wye is entangled with her forty-two-year-old English teacher. What started as an innocent tutor-student relationship turns sexual. The sad thing is that the teacher succeeds in convincing the young girl that the two are alike in their thinking, and it is their mutual intelligence that attracts her to him.
Vanessa attended a boarding high school, and her mum picked her from school during the holidays. The mum was worried about her because it is evident that the teenager was having a hard time making friends. One day, after walking through campus several times, Vanessa sits down and leans on a tree. The young lady was trying to calm herself because, unlike the other students, she couldn’t notice the beautiful September weather. Venessa felt restless, and she was sure that going to her room would only depress her. Sitting and reading her poem seemed like the only good thing to do as the rest of the students socialized.
Strane notices Vanessa from his windows, and he joins her. The English teacher is quick to notice that Vanessa is upset, and when he asks what could be going on, the young girl opens up to him. Vanessa tells Strane that her poem is bad, and it is clear that she doesn’t have much faith in herself. Strane listens as Vanessa shares how dark she feels. Mr. Strane, a Harvard graduate who is passionate about literature, offers to mentor her. This marks the beginning of their indecent relationship.

The year is 2017, and a former student is accusing Strane of sexual abuse. The former student gets in touch with Vanessa, and the now thirty-two-year-old woman is torn between speaking out the truth about her relationship or doing everything possible to cover for the man she considers her first love. Is it possible that Strane had manipulated Vanessa into a relationship? Why did he tell her that she is the only one he worshipped? The only woman he has ever loved. If he was taking advantage, why does he still make efforts to stay in contact with Vanessa many years after she left school?
Vanessa currently has a dead-end hotel job in Maine. She is also going through grief counseling after the death of her father. The young woman is having a hard time letting her father go, and therapy is helping her bring up all events she has been burying deep in her mind for years. Did Strane give her a chance to make a decision, or did she let him take the lead?

Vanessa meets Strane again when she is 32. When she hugs him, Strane smells just the way he did when she was fifteen. Her feelings for him have not changed at all. Vanessa is still genuinely in love with her teacher for more than seventeen years later. When Strane is accused of sexual abuse, Vanessa defends him. The news is all over Facebook, but Vanessa maintains that she willingly entered a relationship with her teacher. The two are still in contact with each other, and Vanessa is sure that what they have is special.

This story alternates between Vanessa’s past and present. The book is a first-person narration of Vanessa and her understanding of Jacob Strane when the two meets at Browick School in 2000. It is normal for every human to feel special, which explains why we are drawn to people who think that we are unique. That said, it is easy to see that Strane took advantage of Vanessa. The shocking thing is that this is not the story Vanessa is telling. From her experiences dating older men, Vanessa makes it clear that people mature at different rates. To Vanessa, age specifications where statutory rape definitions are concerned are arbitrary.

From this story, it is easy to see how vulnerable Vanessa was. The young girl was not only lonely, but she was dealing with loads of low self-esteem issues. Being far away from her family doesn’t help much. The readers see as Vanessa gets into a rabbit hole that will leave her with more emotional scars than she can tell. The sad thing is that Vanessa doesn’t realize this until therapy forces her to take a hard look at her life. The narration here is epic, and even though you will have an idea of the heartbreak that awaits you, it will be hard to put down this book. You will hope so desperately that someone will help Vanessa.

This is an emotionally wrenching and intellectually stimulating story. The author creates hauntingly, believable characters, and this reads like the stories that you find in the news almost daily. It is heartbreaking to see the excuses that abused people make for their abusers. In this case, the main character says that she willingly entered into a relationship with a man who was close to three times her age. The difference between sex and rape is discussed in depth here with the main character stating that rape should only apply if one of the parties involved is unwilling to participate in the act.
My Dark Vanessa will leave you angry, disgusted, and sad at the same time. Some details here are so graphic that you will feel like taking a break, but your curiosity about what happens next will keep you turning the pages. This is a powerful book that will blow your mind, and despite the dark subject, it will be hard not to get attached to the main character and hope that everything works out for her in the end.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Kate Elizabeth Russell

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