10 Abusive Romance Books Like My Dark Vanessa

Abusive Romance

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell is a compelling and controversial novel that delves into the complexities of trauma, memory, and the relationships that shape us. Published in 2020, this book was the center of much literary discussion due to its disturbing and intimate portrayal of a manipulative relationship.

The narrative oscillates between two timelines: one set in 2000 when Vanessa Wye is a fifteen-year-old student, and the other in 2017 when she is in her early thirties. The story’s core revolves around Vanessa’s relationship with her English teacher, Jacob Strane, at a prestigious boarding school. At the time of their first meet, Strane, over 40 years old, singles out Vanessa for her intelligence and vulnerability. On the flip side, we also have a new perspective on allegations about him.

Our protagonist, Vanessa, deals with a lot of internal turmoil about believing that what happened to her truly was romantic. It was her first everything, and she wanted to defend him instead of even hearing the victims out. Then, she slowly realized that maybe what happened to her wasn’t as romantic as she thought. It was something closer to abuse. Despite the toxic dynamics, Vanessa struggles with her perception of their relationship, viewing it as a profound connection rather than abuse.

Reading books like My Dark Vanessa provides an opportunity for deep introspection, awareness, and understanding of complex issues. By understanding Vanessa’s journey, we can more deeply empathize with others who may have experienced similar situations. Books that tackle difficult subjects contribute to greater societal awareness. They illuminate life’s hidden or taboo facets, pushing them into the open for broader societal recognition and discussion.

10 Books Like My Dark Vanessa (Abusive Romance)

My Dark Vanessa is an abusive romance and mental illness story. The reader could have fallen into the romance with Vanessa and not seen its abuse. We got to see the grooming and manipulation done to Vanessa.

Still, we also had enough distance that it was easy for us to sympathize and understand how Vanessa was manipulated. Vanessa was self-aware enough to reflect and see that he said one thing and did another. I will discuss ten abusive romance books similar to My Dark Vanessa. These books confront you with the gray areas of relationships, consent, and manipulation. It encourages you to question your pre-existing beliefs and understandings. Let’s go!

NameKey FocusTropes
Identical by Ellen HopkinsA harrowing exploration of twin sisters struggling with trauma, secrets, and identity in verse format.Family secrets, twins with contrasting personalities, substance abuse, dysfunctional family dynamics, trauma, split perspective narrative, poetic prose, dark past revelation, taboo relationships, mental health struggles, coming-of-age challenges.
Dreamland by Sarah DessenA journey of a young girl’s descent into an abusive relationship and her eventual path to self-discovery and healing.Abusive relationship, teenage escapism, familial expectations, sibling rivalry, emotional trauma, self-discovery, resilience, the contrast between appearance and reality, coping mechanisms, support systems, coming-of-age challenges, small-town dynamics.
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna KaysenAn introspective memoir chronicling the author’s tumultuous years in a psychiatric hospital, questioning the fine line between sanity and insanity.Mental institution setting, unreliable narrator, questioning sanity, coming-of-age in confinement, fragmented memories, societal expectations, juxtaposition of normalcy and madness, female bonding, introspective exploration, institutional critique, 1960s backdrop.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa MoshfeghA darkly humorous tale of a young woman’s self-imposed hibernation in early 2000s New York, examining modern alienation and the search for self.Self-imposed isolation, escapism through medication, critique of modern society, exploration of grief and depression, strained friendships, detachment and apathy, dark humor, the therapeutic journey, 2000s New York setting, personal transformation.
Killing Sarai by J.A. RedmerskiA controversial exploration of obsession and manipulation told through the perspective of a cultured man infatuated with a young girl.Organized crime, captor-captive dynamics, dark romance, moral ambiguity, survival instincts, unexpected alliances, quest for freedom, trust issues, shifting loyalties, dangerous environments, revenge motives.
Lolita by Vladimir NabokovA controversial exploration of obsession and manipulation, told through the perspective of a cultured man infatuated with a young girl.Obsessive love, moral transgressions, unreliable narrator, road trip narrative, cultural critique, manipulation and control, age disparity in relationships, lyrical prose, exploration of taboo, self-deception, American identity.
Tampa by Alissa NuttingA provocative dive into the psyche of a female teacher’s predatory obsession with her teenage male students.Female predator, taboo relationships, seduction and manipulation, societal double standards, dark desires, obsession, moral decay, contrast of public facade and private intentions, critique of education system, psychological exploration.
The Girls by Emma ClineA mesmerizing account of a young girl’s entanglement with a Manson-like cult in the 1960s, exploring the vulnerabilities of adolescence and the allure of belonging.Cult dynamics, 1960s setting, adolescent vulnerabilities, search for belonging, manipulation and control, charismatic leader, female friendships, societal rebellion, coming-of-age challenges, memory and reflection.
Speak by Laurie Halse AndersonA harrowing journey of a silenced teen finding her voice after surviving sexual assault.Traumatic aftermath, high school setting, social isolation, power of voice, coping with assault, internal turmoil, fragmented memories, healing process, struggle for acceptance, teen resilience, bullying and peer pressure.
Putney by Sofka ZinovieffA deep exploration of memory and moral reckoning as past indiscretions between an adult and child resurface in contemporary London.Child exploitation, moral reckoning, blurred lines of consent, memory and perception, artistic community, consequences of past actions, intergenerational relationships, exploration of love and manipulation, societal taboos, family dynamics.
Books Like My Dark Vanessa List

1. Identical

This book is about twins Raeanne and Kaeleigh. Their dad is abusive, and their mom is never home. So they don’t feel loved at home. It’s about their journey, friends, boyfriends, and what’s happening with them. There are trigger warnings for depression, anxiety, self-harm, eating disorders, rape, and abuse. Like My Dark Vanessa, this book deals with them a lot.

There’s a big car accident that turns the twins’ whole scenario. One is dead, and the other one has split personality disorder. She made herself look insane to other people. You will see how difficult it is to live in such a situation, and the author describes it from many points of view.

Author: Ellen Hopkins
Average Rating: 4.6/5
Category: Teen & Young Adult Fiction about Sexual Abuse
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle | Audio CD

2. Dreamland

Dreamland follows our main character, Caitlin. One day, her sister leaves and moves in with her boyfriend. Then Caitlin feels this loss because her sister isn’t around and isn’t calling. So, along that same time, she meets Rogerson. Rogerson is different from other boys she would date in high school. He’s mysterious, and nobody knows him. He has different friend groups and everything.

Caitlin starts like Rogerson, and they get together. She finds out that his dad’s hitting him and feels sympathetic. Then, one day, he hits her, and she accepts it naturally. A week later, he hits her again, continuing every day. He will hit her in places that nobody could see. So Caitlin becomes very fearful, and she backs away from her friends. It’s her story of how she figures out her person under her sister’s shadow in a relationship with Rogerson. You will get many character similarities with My Dark Vanessa.

Author: Sarah Dessen
Average Rating: 4.7/5
Category: Fiction on Physical and emotional Abuse, Romance
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Library Binding | Kindle | Mass Market Paperback

3. Girl, Interrupted

In this book, Susanna Kaysen talks about her struggle with her diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. She also reflects on her time, the ward, and the people she meets there. She talks about her recovery, which was interesting. The book was published twenty-five years after the events in the late 60s.

This book deals with many thoughts on diagnosing and treating mental illnesses, especially in the late sixties, similar to My Dark Vanessa. In addition, she reflects a lot on how she thinks she was treated personally and feels like she was tracked and admitted into this world. The chapters themselves are very short. It makes the book easier to read and consume, making it a bit more light-hearted rather than extremely dark and grim.

The most exciting part of this book is when Kaysen talks about a psychiatrist and neurobiologist and thinks the two don’t work together. One profession treats the mind, while the other treats the brain. The talk specifically focuses on why we aren’t using technology to diagnose people and how psychiatrists are virtually the only medical professionals who don’t look at the organs they treat.

Author: Susanna Kaysen
Average Rating: 4.6/5
Category: Doctors & Medicine Humor, Author Biographies
Available: Audio, Cassette | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle

4. My Year of Rest and Relaxation

This book is about a pretty young woman. We never get a name for the narrator. The narrator is a 26-year-old young, rich, white, and orphaned woman who lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in her apartment. Moreover, her goal at the start of the book is to sleep for a whole year. She never articulates why. She describes it as a hibernation. But she gets fired from her job in an art gallery for napping, and she gets a wacky psychiatrist who will endlessly prescribe her more medication.

So she’s drugging herself to fall asleep. She refers to it as hibernation, and there is a plan to return and rejoin society in life slowly. Throughout the book, you will see a hot young girl in New York doing a load of drugs, a cool basis for a novel. Reva is her best friend, and her boyfriend is Trevor. Trevor is a narcissist, and he never prioritizes her at all. Their relationship is that the narrator hates Reva but is still upset. She is a character the narrator loves to hate and feel superior, like Vanessa in My Dark Vanessa.

Author: Ottessa Moshfegh
Average Rating: 4.1/5
Category: Self-Help & Psychology Humor
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle

5. Killing Sarai

This book is about a girl named Sarai living with this sex slave person, and she has been there since she was 13. So she’s been living there a long time, and she finds a way and tries to escape. One day, she finds an American. His name is Victor, and he is a killer. That’s all he is, and he was hired by the person who’s keeping sorry to kill someone. So she tries to convince him to take her away from there. That’s where their story takes off.

Sarai realizes that one of the guests in the compound for a business is of the same nationality as hers. So, without knowing anything about this strange man, she hides in the back seat of his costly car. She waits until they’re a bit away from the compound before pointing a gun at his head and threatening him to return her to U.S. soil. It doesn’t take much effort from Victor Side.

Sarai is no stranger to murder or any source of violence, and it had never been safe to showcase all the things she was observing were doing to her, all the sexual assaults. She starts showcasing all that she has been doing with her mind. We are the issues she is having because, as Victor realizes, she is showing no reaction and makes no decisions that the normal ordinary girl her age would. If you love Vanessa, you must read it.

Author: J.A. Redmerski
Average Rating: 4.6/5
Category: Crime Fiction, Assassination Thrillers
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Kindle | MP3 CD

6. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Arguably one of the most controversial novels of the 20th century, “Lolita” dives deep into the obsessive mind of Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged literature professor who becomes infatuated with a 12-year-old girl, Dolores Haze. Nabokov’s masterful prose allows us to grapple with the uncomfortable reality of Humbert’s perspective while underscoring the damage done to Lolita.

The novel is both a reflection on the twisted desires of a flawed man and an exploration of American culture in the 1950s. The darkly beautiful prose challenges you to reflect on societal norms, morality, and the impact of unchecked obsessions.

7. Tampa by Alissa Nutting

A provocative reversal of the typical student-teacher dynamic, “Tampa” follows Celeste Price, a young, attractive teacher with a dangerous obsession with teenage boys. Nutting’s stark and unapologetic portrayal of Celeste’s predatory actions offers a fresh perspective on the power dynamics present in forbidden relationships.

With a gripping narrative and a distinctly uncomfortable atmosphere, this book is both a critique of society’s double standards and a deep dive into a deeply disturbed mind.

8. The Girls by Emma Cline

Set against the backdrop of the late 1960s, “The Girls” tells the story of a young girl’s infatuation with a Manson-like cult. Cline expertly captures the tumultuous emotions of adolescence, the allure of belonging, and the dangerous spiral of manipulation and control. The book explores vulnerability, the yearning for connection, and the dark paths one can tread in seeking acceptance and love.

9. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

This groundbreaking YA novel deals with the aftermath of a traumatic event in a teenager’s life. Melinda, a high school freshman, is shunned and ostracized after calling the police during a summer party. As the story unfolds, readers grapple with Melinda’s pain, isolation, and eventual revelation of the traumatic event that changed her life. Anderson addresses the weight of trauma, the power of speaking out, and the resilience of the human spirit with empathy and grace.

10. Putney by Sofka Zinovieff

This contemporary novel covers the complex nature of consent, memory, and the repercussions of a relationship between a grown man and a young girl. Told from multiple perspectives, including that of the perpetrator, the victim, and an outside observer, “Putney” challenges readers to confront their preconceptions about love, manipulation, and morality. Zinovieff’s intricate storytelling and layered characters make for a thought-provoking read.

These novels offer a profound exploration of relevant and pressing topics. Approach them with care, especially those who find the content triggering.

More Social Abuse Books:

Books Like The Way I Used To Be

Psychological Thriller Romance Books

Mental Health Fiction Books Like My Year Of Rest And Relaxation

Psychology Books Like Maybe You Should Talk To Someone

Psychological Books Like Girl In Pieces

Psychological Books About Mental Hospitals

Pauline Jackson

I like to talk about popular books. My book review inspires you to read and save time. Also, I summarize the book and give you the best lessons or ideas that can change your life. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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