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‘All he did was fall in love with me, and the world turned him into a monster.’


About the book

Vanessa Wye was fifteen years old when she first had sex with her English teacher. She is now thirty-two and in the storm of allegations against powerful men in 2017, the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student.

Vanessa is horrified by this news, because she is quite certain that the relationship she had with Strane wasn’t abuse. It was love. She’s sure of that. Forced to rethink her past, to revisit everything that happened, Vanessa has to redefine the great love story of her life—her great sexual awakening—as rape. Now she must deal with the possibility that she might be a victim, and just one of many.

Nuanced, uncomfortable, bold and powerful, My Dark Vanessa goes straight to the heart of some of the most complex issues our age.


About the author

Kate Elizabeth Russell is originally from eastern Maine. She holds a PhD in creative writing from the University of Kansas and an MFA from Indiana University. My Dark Vanessa is her first novel.


Advance praise

‘A hard story to read and a harder one to put down … a well-constructed package of dynamite.’­—Stephen King

‘Powerful, compulsive and brilliant … An important book, we should all read it.’—Marian Keyes

‘A brilliant and stunning debut, My Dark Vanessa is utterly truth-rattling, humane in its clarity and chilling in its resonance. An absolute must-read.’—Gillian Flynn

‘A provocative and disturbing exploration of what happens when manipulation feels like love … Challenging and uncompromising, My Dark Vanessa is the book everyone will be talking about in 2020.’—Louise O’Neill

My Dark Vanessa is about storytelling and manipulation and the manipulation of those stories. It is destined to be a hit.’—Pandora Sykes

‘Riveting and compulsive, My Dark Vanessa unsettles with every sentence. A novel that asks urgent questions and refuses easy answers.’—Elizabeth Day

‘A total masterpiece of tone and point of view, even more impressive for how uninvested it seems in impressing us. It’s fascinating and devastating and brilliant. I loved it.’—Kristen Roupenian, author of You Know You Want This: Cat Person And Other Stories

‘A truly remarkable debut, deeply thoughtful, deeply emotional, compelling and disturbing in equal measure. I raced to the ending and then found the book lingered with me long after that last page. It is lingering still.’—Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

‘Unsettling, compulsive and deeply thought provoking. Extremely well done.’—Harriet Tyce, author of Blood Orange

‘Gripping, dark, prescient and searing in its emotional honesty, My Dark Vanessa is the must-read of the year.’—Sarah Pinborough, author of Behind Her Eyes

‘I can’t remember the last time a book hooked me like My Dark Vanessa … a brilliant, chilling portrait of manipulation and abuse of power.’—Jane Casey, author of The Missing

My Dark Vanessa destroyed me. This moving, ferocious story of an all-consuming relationship between a teenager and her teacher traces not just a stolen girlhood, but the aftershocks that haunt trauma survivors years into the future. Gripping, stunningly written, and important—I’ve been waiting for this book.’—Julie Buntin, author of Marlena


Sample chapter

Read the first chapter of My Dark Vanessa here.


Advance reading copy

Be one of the first to read My Dark Vanessa. Email with ‘My Dark Vanessa’ in the subject line for the chance to receive one of 10 reading copies.




Contact us


Kelsey Oldham

Digital editor
Brad Jefferies

Acting editor, Daily
Matthia Dempsey

Editorial assistant
Anthea Yang

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