I have been in kind of a “posting on my blog” funk, but not happily in a reading funk. I decided to start posting for a bit with this book that was such an amazing look into the psyche of both a lonely teenage girl and the predator who preyed on her. It was such a stunning effort by a new author. ****However, this book does deal with topics that some might find deeply troubling.****
I decided to, even though I had decided not to, read this book that seems to have bred controversy. As a mother to four daughters and of course four times over dealing with the teenage years, I thought this might be something that I could understand with the eyes of someone who dealt with the teen years. In our raising of the girls we crossed paths with two predators, one of whom was a coach and did eventually go to jail while the other was a highly respected, well known pediatrician in our town, who eventually lost his license and paid out to some of his victims. Sadly, though he did not serve any jail time and went on to live elsewhere with what seemed little or no repercussions.
Vanessa is fifteen years old when she goes away to a very prestigious boarding school and meets the man who will eventually “ruin” her, a forty-one year old teacher Jacob Strane. She is a lonely child, friendless, and seeming to lack any kind of close interpersonal relationship even one with her parents. She is ripe for a predator, those people who seem to possess a sinister sense of the vulnerable, the susceptible, the weak. Vanessa falls into his clutches as he provides for her a place in the world, one where she is looked at, seemingly adored, and of course it doesn’t take long for Jacob and Vanessa to engage in a very secretive sexual relationship.
Years later, Vanessa still entangled in the mystery, the web that Jacob has woven around her is approached by another of Strane’s victims. Vanessa is forced to look at herself and her feelings for Jacob in an entirely different way denying to all except a select few of how he had entrenched himself into her heart, mind, and soul. She continues to believe that what she had with Jacob is special, is love in its purest form, allowing herself to believe that what he did was really of her doing, she was the one in control.
It’s quite hard to understand Vanessa. It’s obvious that she was a very disturbed young woman, one who felt things deeply, and yet one who could not allow what she thought was so pure and wonderful to be tarnished. She would never betray this ultimate love that she had found. She had entered into the aura of a predator and she refused on so many levels to see how indeed he had as promised ruined her.
This was a very hard, dark, and gritty book to read and yet, I found myself fascinated in looking so deeply into both Vanessa and Jacob’s persona. As I continued through the pages, I couldn’t help but wonder how many people in our world have been ruined by a predator in their lives?
I think that the author was very successful in presenting the conflicted mind of a teenage girl, that belief that she is ugly, unworthy, and something to be shunned came through brilliantly. As a teenage girl often looks in the mirror and sees nothing so Vanessa seemed to believe she was nothing until Jacob, in his perverse manner, made her into something. Ms Russell made Jacob the ultimate predator, even to the point of perhaps questioning ourselves whether he really did care about Vanessa. He was the quintessential predator, one who wove a path for the unsuspecting and ever vulnerable Vanessa to follow, and once she started down that dark path, she could not deviate from what she thought was her destiny.
I can see why many thought this book was disturbing, alarming, and disconcerting. As a mother of girls it would be such a frightening scenario to envision for your child, and even more ominous is the concept of how do you really know those who cross paths with your daughters?
This is an article about the pediatrician from our town…https://www.copperman.online
Kate Elizabeth Russell was born and raised in eastern Maine. She holds an MFA from Indiana University and a PhD from the University of Kansas. My Dark Vanessa is her debut novel.