A Sort Of Spoiler-y Book Review: Tampa

Tampa CoverBook: Tampa by Alissa Nutting

Published July 2013 by HarperCollins|223 pages

Where I Got It: Nook store

Series: None

Genre: Adult Literary Fiction

You can find Tampa on goodreads & Alissa Nutting on Twitter and her website

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.

What I Thought: 

I have no idea what to think about Tampa.  It’s a bizarre, unsettling and disturbing book that you want to stop reading all while feeling compelled to keep reading.  You want to look away and stop reading, and there was a point where I strongly considered abandoning Tampa, and yet I found myself unable to stop reading.

I definitely could have gone without quite a few things- it’s definitely…descriptive…and while I could handle Celeste masturbating, the sex scenes with her student was way too much, and the reason why I almost walked away from the book. She really is calculating and selfish and doesn’t care about the consequences of what she’s doing.  At the same time, though, it really does show how far Celeste goes and it really does give you insight into who Celeste is, and she became a middle school teacher.

While some of the scenes were really hard to read (at least for me), I don’t think Tampa would have worked if they weren’t in the book.

Celeste does get caught in the end, and not surprisingly, she takes the plea bargain offered to her: meaning she sees no jail time for statutory rape.  Tampa does such a wonderful job at showing a double-standard: she gets off scot-free because her 14-year-old students had “consensual sex” with their gorgeous 26-year-old teacher.  And yet, if things were reversed, with a male teacher and a female student, all hell would break lose.  It really made the book frustrating, because what she did was horrible, and gets away with rape because what teenage boy would pass an opportunity to be with the young, hot teacher?  And it makes me so sad for her students.

Which is why the reader really needed to get in Celeste’s head.  As uncomfortable and unsettling as it was, it really does make what’s going on that much more effective.  And it really does make you think about how differently sexual violence is seen depending on who is committing the crime and who is the victim.

Let’s Rate It:

To be honest, I’m not sure how to rate Tampa.  How on earth do you rate a book like this?  It definitely got me thinking, and while it’s definitely on the graphic side, I’m also glad Nutting didn’t tone it down, because it really gave you insight into Celeste’s world.  I really do think it made the book a much better book, even if it was unsettling and uncomfortable and even a bit disturbing.  Nutting really does have a way with words.  Still, Tampa gets 4 stars.  Not because I liked it, but because it really is different, in an odd sort of way.

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