Book Review: My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russel (2020)

There’s Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov in my bookshelf, yet I never read it.

I know what it’s all about, I knew the story, I told myself that I need to read it in Vladimir’s writing, I need to dive into the world of Lolita and Humbert Humbert, but the printed book is small and I’m into e-book reader lately (the easy highlighter! the bookmark! the dictionary!), so I skipped the chance, again and again.

Despite of the impractical form of the book (sorry), I actually love controversial topics (I think this is why I love Call Me by Your Name). There’s so much to think about from it, and I love to see the different perspectives in it. I think that’s why I decided to read My Dark Vanessa in the first place. I saw someone’s has been reading it in Goodreads, read the synopsis, and decided to give it a try.

I knew it’s a story about forbidden relationship between a male teacher (40-ish at the beginning of the affair) and a female student (16-ish?). I just forgot to check the genre.

Apparently, the book categorized as dark (actually, my favorite) and took a very serious note on being the next modern Lolita literature.

Seriously, the book My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russel is like a literature tributary to its predecessor: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.

Some reviewers in Goodreads claimed that My Dark Vanessa was really hard to read. Some said that they need to take a rest between the chapters. I found it really amazing that Kate Elizabeth Russel took a very brave turn in every plot of her book. It almost like I could hear her saying: “So you want to read a book about pedophilia? Come with me, let me show you,” and then write everything unapologetically.

Yes, My Dark Vanessa is hard to digest. It might be dangerous for the young mind, but it’s a satisfying addition to the genre. It picks and stabs our heart with dilemmas, haunts us with questions:

If the phenomenon holds no name and causes no shame. Would it still breaks the people involved in it?

If we’re all agree that everyone matures in his/her own time, and brain could degrade prematurely due to sickness, diet, and stress, why do we still associate age to the ability of thinking and making decisions?

Because even if I sometimes use the word abuse to describe certain things that were done to me, in someone else’s mouth the word turns ugly and absolute.

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russel (2020)

There are manipulative people, but ages has nothing to do with it. There are attention-seeker people, ages also has nothing to do with it.

I don’t think we could really prevent the things from happening. Like really, how do you prevent attraction and desire? Hormonal medicine? Is that fair? I think we should focus on making our teenagers, and old people that may be involved in some unwanted desires, to know that nothing is set on stone. Nothing is final. The bottom line is, their heart are theirs only to control, but it’s not good to impose their needs onto others. When things don’t go the way they want, they should know when to stop, ask help if they need, and continue their life.

He’s always going to be old. He has to be. That’s the only way I can stay young and dripping with beauty.

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russel (2020)

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