Book Clubbin’: 10 Discussion Questions for ‘My Dark Vanessa’ by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Welcome to our monthly blog feature, Book Clubbin’!

With social distancing measures still in place, you may find yourself at home more than usual and in search of something new to keep you interested and entertained. So, we think that now is the perfect time to pick up a new listen and start a virtual book club with a few friends.

Even though you may find yourself at home more, you may not actually have any spare time to pick up a book. This is where audiobooks come in. They’re perfect for multi-tasking, so you can listen while you work, do chores, while the kids are napping, or even while you’re out for a walk to get some fresh air.

Our pick for May is My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell, narrated by Grace Gummer. This debut has already become an instant New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller and has sparked news articles about it due to its controversial subject matter.

My Dark Vanessa explores the psychological dynamics of the relationship between a precocious yet naïve teenage girl and her magnetic and manipulative teacher. We see the story jump back-and-forth from Vanessa’s teenage years to her life present day, dealing with her relationship with her teacher, how it affected her, and what she will do when faced with a major decision during the era of #MeToo.

This month’s pick is a heavy listen, but an important read that we think people will be talking about for a long time to come. If you’re ready to start discussing My Dark Vanessa, get started with the questions below. Beware — SPOILERS ahead.

—————MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!————

1) What is your opinion of Strane? Would you consider his character “sick” or “bad?”

2) Do you think your opinion of Vanessa, Strane, and their relationship would change if Vanessa had been 18 years-old when their relationship first started? 

3) Since he had been a teacher for a long time before crossing paths with Vanessa, do you think Strane pursued other students before her? 

4) Do you think that Strane views his actions as truly “wrong” or do his only worries stem from the potential backlash and repercussions that he may face if it all becomes public?

5) My Dark Vanessa jumps between Vanessa’s experience as a teen and her experience as an adult. What changes do you notice in Vanessa and which, if any, can be attributed to her relationship with Strane? 

6) Why do you think Vanessa and Taylor had such different responses to Strane’s advances? And why was Taylor more willing to come forward than Vanessa was? 

7) We get a glimpse into how Strane’s behavior would be handled in present day with his looming trial, but how different would this story have been if Vanessa had been a teenager in the current age of #MeToo? 

8) How do you interpret the importance of Lolita throughout My Dark Vanessa? And how does it relate to both Vanessa and Strane? 

9) How do you think The Browick School handled the situation when it was brought to their attention the first time around with Vanessa and Strane? Do you think the school should be at least somewhat held responsible for their actions or lack thereof? 

10) Did My Dark Vanessa change your opinions on consent and victimhood? Would you consider Vanessa a victim?


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