Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Book Review: "Tampa" by Alissa Nutting

Amazingly, as I sit down to write this book review, I can't stop thinking of a question that was addressed on, of all places, The 700 Club recently. And while Pat Robertson gave another vile, intolerant, hate-filled answer, the question was an interesting one, which I'll paraphrase to fit my needs. By saying I thought this book was tremendously well-written, that I even enjoyed it, am I, in essence, condoning the subject matter?

An interesting conundrum.

Celeste Price is a beautiful eighth-grade teacher at a junior high school in Tampa, Florida. She has a rich husband, Ford, who is devoted to her, and indulges her every whim.

The thing is, Celeste doesn't teach because she loves to inspire students or because she loves sharing knowledge. She has an obsession with 14-year-old boys. An unquenchable obsession that proximity to these students helps feed. As she put it, "In my view, having sex with teenagers was the only way to keep the act wholesome."

Celeste has a list of criteria to find the perfect student. And she settles on Jack Patrick, a quiet young man all too happy to indulge her voracious appetite as well as her demands about their relationship—that it be kept a total secret, that it only happens on her terms, and that it is purely sexual, not emotional. Yet of course, Jack can't help but fall in love with his teacher. And that's not the least of the complications that ensue.

This book is tremendously graphic, which made me a little uncomfortable, as did the subject matter. But Alissa Nutting so effectively created Celeste as an unabashed sexual predator, someone so fixated on fulfilling her own needs that not only doesn't she care about others, they don't even register except when they're doing what she wants them to. Nutting—and Celeste—make no apologies for how she is, this is just an aspect of her personality she knows she can't fight, but she methodically knows how to satiate herself.

I definitely admire Nutting's storytelling ability and her effectiveness in creating these characters. After so many books with male sexual predators as characters, it's nice to see the table turned and look at this issue from a female perspective. Is this a book you tell people about? Regardless of your decision there, I know that Tampa is a book that will stick in my mind for its narrative skill, not its subject matter.

1 comment:

  1. With its main character a twenty-six -year-old woman who becomes a middle school teacher solely for the opportunity to seduce the boys in her classes, Tampa will inevitably be compared to Lolita. Thinking about Tampa as a horror novel may actually be more helpful to readers who need to disconnect from the sociopathic pedophile Celeste but who still recognize the brilliance of Nutting’s mesmerizing storytelling ability.