Like Trust Exercise by Susan Choi, this book is a story about teenage abuse, and while reading 350 pages on this topic may seem daunting (it's graphic and disturbing), debut author Kate Elizabeth Russell’s language is so engrossing and approachable that you may think that My Dark Vanessa is just another coming of age story. Clearly it is not.
Vanessa’s character is determined to defend her abuse. The ways and the reasons she bears her violation are compelling even if they are upsetting. Vanessa is not a character you want to spend a whole lot of time with, and yet, like a bad car wreck, you can’t look away. In the age of #MeToo, and because you feel compassion, you want to stay with her until she finally acknowledges that she was wronged. You want to feel her vindication, experience her healing.
Unlike Trust Exercise, where the topic of teen violation is examined in retrospect and there is resolution albeit it's sad and disconcerting, in My Dark Vanessa, the story of abuse stubbornly holds on until the end—showing us that all victimhood is unique. It is not ours to judge or interpret in its recovery.
My Dark Vanessa and Trust Exercise can both be checked out as an e-book or audiobook on OverDrive.
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