Kate Elizabeth Russell

Kate Elizabeth Russell

My Dark Vanessa

William Morrow

An explosive debut that explores the psychological dynamics of the relationship between a naïve teenage girl and her magnetic, manipulative teacher.

In 2000 a bright fifteen-year-old Vanessa becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob, her forty-two-year-old teacher. It is now 2017 and Jacob is accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa. Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, believing her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her? Is it possible the man she loved as a teenager may be far different from what she has always believed?


Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood.

“This is a hard story to read and a harder one to put down . . . a well-constructed package of dynamite.”
—Stephen King, New York Times bestselling author