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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 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. Of course, if you’re familiar with Nabokov’s Lolita, then this whole story will be very familiar to you.

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. Tampa 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.

Buy Tampa by Alissa Nutting:
Amazon | Book Depository

If you like the sound of this, check out the following posts:
13 Controversial Books Like Lolita
Book Review: Luckiest Girl Alive By Jessica Knoll
Book Review: Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson
Film Review: Gone Girl
Film Review: Red Sparrow

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Laura

Laura is a culture and travel blogger based in London. She studied French at Oxford University and now studies Law in London. She’s an avid reader and traveller and loves to combine the two with literary travel. Find her tips and reviews on the best reads, eats and destinations on whatshotblog.com.

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30 Comments

  1. Karielle Stephanie
    26th September 2013 / 8:54 AM

    It makes me feel rather dirty to say I absolutely LOVE these types of books. I find the forbidden sexuality and the raw corruption so intriguing. I've had my eye on this book since before it even came out so I hope I get to reading it soon. Thanks for a balanced, thoughtful review. I love your style 🙂

  2. maricris dimla
    16th October 2013 / 8:43 AM

    I appreciate your honest review..I agree with Karielle, forbidden sexuality is intriguing.. Im curious about the author about what or why did she write this kind of story. I think Im gonna read this soon.. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. ^_^

  3. Hungry_Healthy_Happy
    18th May 2016 / 3:51 PM

    That’s certainly and attention catching cover, that’s for sure!
    I really need to make more time for reading, that’s my aim for this year.

  4. Sarahjane
    18th May 2016 / 4:24 PM

    Interesting and controversial subject matter indeed. It certainly seems a compelling read. I’ve recently joined a book club, I might suggest it.

  5. 18th May 2016 / 4:53 PM

    What a different topic to write about, and yet I can imagine it being a great read because of it. I may have to pick this one up. I like thrillers and exploring characters especially flawed ones.

  6. Jessica Dearnley
    18th May 2016 / 5:19 PM

    This sounds like a really interesting book, but very controversial, I don’t know whetrher I’d dare read it.

  7. 18th May 2016 / 7:30 PM

    Oh gosh what a dark topic. It definitely sounds like it would be an interesting read however.

  8. Tori Gabriel
    18th May 2016 / 8:33 PM

    This sounds like a horrible subject but I can imagine it’s a gripping read. It sounds similar to those true life stories of child abuse that seem so popular. At least this is fiction.

  9. Corinne C
    18th May 2016 / 8:36 PM

    I’m ashamed to admit that I love love love the sound of this book. It’s a very interesting topic and I’m sure it’s something many writers shy away from writing.

    Corinne x

  10. 18th May 2016 / 8:49 PM

    I have never read abook with such a plot before.It must be gripping.

  11. Nazma
    18th May 2016 / 10:00 PM

    wow this souds really interesting.not an easy topic to write and talk about but !

  12. 19th May 2016 / 12:05 AM

    Sounds like a really interesting yet deep book, definitely the kind of thing you’d have to be in the right mood to read x

  13. 19th May 2016 / 7:07 AM

    WOW!!! firstly welcome back and secondly OMG, it sounds interesting, and the fact that its not an easy to talk about subject. I guess it should be read to students to warn them.

  14. 19th May 2016 / 7:18 AM

    Celeste sounds like an interesting character. I would love to read a sample of this book.

  15. kitty kaos
    19th May 2016 / 8:42 AM

    Woah that does sound like a. Interesting idea for a book x

  16. 19th May 2016 / 5:45 PM

    Welcome home – Looking forward to all the forthcoming reviews. Not sure this is my cup of tea but it sounds very well written. With a cover like that though, I’m thinking it would be safer to read on Kindle!

  17. Melanie Edjourian
    19th May 2016 / 10:53 PM

    Welcome back, I’m not sure whether this would be my sort of book. I do wish I had more time to read.

  18. Francis Powell
    20th May 2016 / 11:52 AM

    Interesting and unusual book cover

  19. Ana S
    20th May 2016 / 2:00 PM

    Wow this was interesting! I admit that it’s easy to be curious about what shocks us and what we can’t understand. So I think that’s the concept that this book explored most. It does sound deeply disturbing. Maybe will add it to my endless TBR 🙂

  20. Sheena
    20th May 2016 / 8:44 PM

    Well, I can’t say it doesn’t sound interesting, but also very sick and twisted. Call me what you will, but I do believe I’d have to pass on this one 🙂

  21. 20th May 2016 / 10:11 PM

    Celeste sounds like an interesting character. She doesn’t sound very likeable but I can see this being an interesting character study.

  22. Alison
    21st May 2016 / 3:32 AM

    I love to read but I am not sure this is my kind of book. I always like to know about the newest books though.

  23. Eloise Maoudj Riley
    21st May 2016 / 5:26 AM

    This is an interesting character and plot to the book, It’s a definite hot topic that’s for sure! It would be a little disturbing at time I bet!

  24. Katrine
    21st May 2016 / 5:49 AM

    Wow! The female version of Mr.Grey, but with a much more disturbing twist. Sounds like it’s a great read though!

  25. 21st May 2016 / 4:42 PM

    This sounds like a very dark, sick and sad book. I am not sure if it is one that I would pick up. I am glad you enjoyed it. It is always great to find a book you can’t put down.

  26. Kerry O'Byrne
    21st May 2016 / 7:23 PM

    This sounds very dark, but very intriguing. I’m not much of a reader but my sister can read a book in lightning speed. So glad I came across this, will be an idea of what to get her for her birthday 🙂

  27. 21st May 2016 / 10:34 PM

    I couldn’t help but be enthralled by the narrative of the story and from a psychological perspective it always made me question how perverse fantasies are carried out. I was disgusted reading about Celeste’s passion for underage boys but what I like is that it looks at female pedophiles, a topic that is not often discussed in media.

  28. Jessica
    23rd May 2016 / 7:44 AM

    Very intriguing and one fo the reasons why this should be read. It opens many perspectives.

  29. Rosana McPhee
    23rd May 2016 / 7:25 PM

    sounds like an intriguing and complex plot in this book. R

  30. 24th May 2016 / 1:01 AM

    If this book becomes a best seller, soon a movie version can be on the wings. I think a movie about of Celeste can equal the popularity of the movies”emmanuelle” and “basic instincts”.

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