March book club pick: ‘My Dark Vanessa’ by Kate Elizabeth Russell

This month, the Austin360 Book Club powered by Texas Book Festival will be reading My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell, which came out March 10. Pick it up at BookPeople and check out the review of the book at Kirkus Reviews! We’ll be discussing the book in the book club Facebook group on Friday, April 6. Join the group here!

About the book:

2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.

2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that 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 and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—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 impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of Room, My Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself.

Previous Austin360 Book Club picks:

January Book Club: ‘Trust Exercise’ by Susan Choi

Is your New Year’s resolution to read more? Great news: The Texas Book Festival is proud to announce we’ve partnered with the Austin American-Statesman to help facilitate the Austin360 Book Club.

The book club was launched as a Facebook group in 2018 with the aim to encourage discussions around books, authors, and the people who love them. TBF is excited to curate the monthly book picks and lead discussions, as well as help curate the Little Free Library located near the bat viewing area at the Statesman, just off of the Ann & Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail around Lady Bird Lake. 

The January pick for the Austin360 Book Club is Trust Exercise by Susan Choi. Susan Choi was a 2019 Texas Book Festival author, and Trust Exercise won the 2019 National Book Award. The novel follows the story of teenagers who attend a 1980s performing arts high school and the pressures they face, both within the school and outside of it. 

Join the Austin360 Book Club powered by the Texas Book Festival on Facebook, where we’ll be hosting all our monthly book discussions and talking about all things literary. We’ll discuss Trust Exercise in the Facebook group on Thursday, January 30, but stay tuned for questions and thoughts about the book all month long!

Need a copy of the book? It’s available for purchase at BookPeople, or you can find it at the Austin Public Library.