Book Review: Tampa by Alissa Nutting is Dark and Twisted

Book Review: Tampa by Alissa Nutting is Dark and TwistedTitle: Tampa
Author: Alissa Nutting
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Publication Date: 2nd July 2013
Goodreads Summary: Celeste Price is an eighth-grade English teacher in suburban Tampa. She’s undeniably attractive. She drives a red Corvette with tinted windows. Her husband, Ford, is rich, square-jawed, and devoted to her.

But Celeste’s devotion lies elsewhere. She has a singular sexual obsession—fourteen-year-old boys. Celeste pursues her craving with sociopathic meticulousness and forethought; her sole purpose in becoming a teacher is to fulfill her passion and provide her access to her compulsion. As the novel opens, fall semester at Jefferson Jr. High is beginning.

In mere weeks, Celeste has chosen and lured the lusciously naive Jack Patrick into her web. Jack is enthralled and in awe of his teacher, and, most important, willing to accept Celeste’s terms for a secret relationship—car rides after school; rendezvous at Jack’s house while his single father works late; body-slamming encounters in Celeste’s empty classroom between periods.

Ever mindful of the danger—the perpetual risk of exposure, Jack’s father’s own attraction to her, and the ticking clock as Jack leaves innocent boyhood behind—the hyperbolically insatiable Celeste bypasses each hurdle with swift thinking and shameless determination, even when the solutions involve greater misdeeds than the affair itself. In slaking her sexual thirst, Celeste Price is remorseless and deviously free of hesitation, a monstress driven by pure motivation. She deceives everyone, and cares nothing for anyone or anything but her own pleasure.

With crackling, rampantly unadulterated prose, Tampa is a grand, uncompromising, seriocomic examination of want and a scorching literary debut.

Tampa Book Review

Tampa by Alissa Nutting is the story of one Celeste Price, an attractive young married woman who has a dark secret – she has a fetish for young teenage boys. So far, her cravings have been left unsatisfied, but she has just taken up a permanent teaching post in a high school. Right from the very first day, Celeste is on the lookout for a suitable pre-pubescent teenage boy to sink her teeth into, and finally she settles on Jack Patrick, a fourteen year old boy. Celeste and Jack start up an affair and at first things seem to be going perfectly as they’re both getting what they want. Then things start to get a little more serious and everything about their relationship starts to break down with dire consequences.

I am almost ashamed to admit that I loved this book. There is something darkly compelling about Celeste’s narrative and you can’t help but read on. Although the subject matter is deeply disturbing, the writing is witty. One word springs to mind when reading this book: raw. Celeste’s narrative is unashamedly truthful with her fantasies (and her reality) described in graphic detail. This book doesn’t shy away from slightly sickening sexual situations and perverse thoughts of murder that cross the mind of Celeste as she desperately tries to satisfy (and hide) her fetish for pre-pubescent teenage boys.

Plot wise, Tampa gets off to an excellent start. Celeste is just starting out at as a high school teacher – the moment that she’s been waiting years for as she can finally be in the company of the teenage boys she so craves, day in, day out. This book has excellent pacing, not too fast, not too slow, which I liked because it gave the reader lots of time for barbarity of Celeste’s thoughts and actions to sink in. I have to admit, my interest did wane slightly in the middle passages, but Nutting quickly regains the glorious essence of Celeste from the beginning to finish off this novel. It’s pretty easy to guess what’s going to happen at the end of this book, but you don’t know how or when it’s going to happen or what’s going to happen in between. There were a few plot twists along the way to make things extra exciting, but to be honest, this book didn’t even need a plot because Celeste’s thoughts are so damn compelling.

What I loved about Tampa is that it doesn’t make any overt judgement on Celeste’s actions. She is, of course, a sexual predator, however, the fourteen year old boys that she picks on aren’t exactly blameless, after all, it takes two to tango. I didn’t feel sympathy for any of the characters in this novel. They are all deeply flawed and you go through the whole novel waiting for someone to notice just how perverse the thoughts (and actions) of these people are so that they can be stopped. At the same time though, you kinda want them to continue because you know that if the characters’ secrets are found out then this fascinating story will be over. Celeste reminds me of a female, more extreme version, of Christian Grey (Fifty Shades of Grey). From the outside she looks perfect but on the inside she is a deeply twisted character. 

Make no mistake ladies and gentlemen, this is a dark tale, not to be read by those who are easily offended by graphic sexual detail. This book disgusted me but I was enthralled by it all the same. This a raw exploration of a 26 year old woman’s obsession with 14 year old boys that you won’t be able to put down once you start reading. The opening chapters when Celeste is alone with her thoughts are a work of pure perverse genius and I can imagine this text being studied in a classroom before being banned by several states for being inappropriate.

If you like the sound of this, check out the following posts:

Book Review: Luckiest Girl Alive By Jessica Knoll

Film Review: Gone Girl

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