Tampa by Alissa Nutting

Tampa by Alissa NuttingTampa by Alissa Nutting
Published by Harper Collins on May 21st 2013
Source: Publisher
Pages: 100
Buy from IndieBound

BookRiot sparked a rather heated debate in its comments last week when it posted an article focused on going From Zero to Well-Read in 100 Books. Despite clearly fitting the definition of “well-read” for the purpose of the article, there were several readers appalled by the inclusion of 50 Shades of Grey and Twilight. I would love to make them even more frustrated by nominating  Tampa for next year’s version. 

Alissa Nutting’s forthcoming novel centers on Celeste Price, a first-year teacher with an intense sexual obsession with young teenage boys. With eerie precision, Celeste aligns each piece of her life to meet her sexual demands; she is well provided for by her wealthy husband and able to take a job teaching eighth grade English to scout potential prey. As the school year progresses, she lures her student Jack into a secret relationship, inching closer to exposure each day.

I could hear the teacher-verse exploding from the moment I heard Tampa discussed on the Bookrageous podcast. In general, we teachers tend to be uproariously opposed to anything that paints us in a bad light. Can you imagine what the general consensus will be just from reading the blurb? Unfortunately, I fear that’s where many teachers will stop, despite the fact that they may remain caught up in the discussion. I figured if I was going to have a real opinion of the novel, I should probably read it. 

There is no doubt, from the first page of Tampa, that Celeste Price is on the far side of sanity, with Nutting shouting her perversions loud and clear. Even readers well traveled in the smutosphere may find themselves shocked and appalled. It takes a jarring, disturbing, what-the-Hell-am-I-reading first few chapters to accept the fact that Celeste’s blunt descriptions of her intentions and actions are not going anywhere. 

At this point, readers can begin to appreciate Nutting’s devotion to her character. From beginning to end, Celeste’s vain, predatory, one-track mind never wavers. While it is something no one is comfortable with,  Nutting’s ability to crawl inside Celeste’s mind and pick apart her thoughts on not only teenagers, but her husband and co-workers, is spot-on and often brilliantly funny. 

I think it was wise of Nutting to forego a backstory for Celeste, though it left her feeling somewhat one-dimensional at times. Had readers known her family history or the path she took to her compulsions, Nutting would have opened the door for debate over the causes of pedophilia and might have distracted from the novel as a whole. 

In the end, Tampa is a daring, well-written book willing to push boundaries and spark conversation. While it will surely leave readers feeling uncomfortable, it may also leave them feeling surprised by the change in a sometimes monotonic reading atmosphere. 

 

  • I just got this in the mail the other day. I read the blurb and my mouth dropped…because I know this is going to cause a splash in the reading world. The teaching world! I have to say, I love me a good controversial read and I can’t wait to crack this one open!

    • SO many splashes! I will be here as a support group when you read the first few pages and don’t know what to do with yourself.

  • I just got this in the mail the other day. I read the blurb and my mouth dropped…because I know this is going to cause a splash in the reading world. The teaching world! I have to say, I love me a good controversial read and I can’t wait to crack this one open!

  • I’m intrigued as long as its purpose isn’t entirely to shock

    • I think the author is aware that people will be shocked, but I don’t think that’s her purpose. She mentioned in the PR notes that she wanted to revisit books like Lolita in a contemporary way by reversing the roles.

  • I immediately went and tried to see if I could get this digitally from the library (nope) and then added it to my to-read list. As a former elem school teacher, this book sounds super controversial and crazy, but in a way that will be exciting to read.

    • It won’t be published until July 2nd, but there is a free Kindle preview up on Amazon (I can’t remember what e-reader you have, though!). That’s exactly the reason I wanted to read it, I can’t resist controversy.

      • Ah thanks for the tip! I do have a Kindle. Controversy and controversial books are awesome!

  • I love how fearless you are when it comes to books like this.

    • Well, it did sit on my kitchen table for over a month before I “was reading it” for two weeks on my end table…and then I was brave enough.

  • I love how fearless you are when it comes to books like this.

  • Well, it did sit on my kitchen table for over a month before I “was reading it” for two weeks on my end table…and then I was brave enough.

  • It won’t be published until July 2nd, but there is a free Kindle preview up on Amazon (I can’t remember what e-reader you have, though!). That’s exactly the reason I wanted to read it, I can’t resist controversy.

  • I think the author is aware that people will be shocked, but I don’t think that’s her purpose. She mentioned in the PR notes that she wanted to revisit books like Lolita in a contemporary way by reversing the roles.

  • SO many splashes! I will be here as a support group when you read the first few pages and don’t know what to do with yourself.

  • Ah thanks for the tip! I do have a Kindle. Controversy and controversial books are awesome!

  • I second Monika- kudos to you for reading this. Your review is honest and insightful and I appreciate it because I know I won’t be reading the book. Daddy Love was as bad as I could stand. But now, at least, I feel like I have some idea of the book’s merits.

    • That’s really all I hoped to get from it when reading was the ability to have a leg to stand on in the controversy I’m sure will swirl around it. It’s so far from anything I’ve ever read, and while it’s hard to like something that makes you so uncomfortable, I really give tons of credit to Alissa Nutting and Ecco for being gutsy enough to write/publish something like this.

  • I second Monika- kudos to you for reading this. Your review is honest and insightful and I appreciate it because I know I won’t be reading the book. Daddy Love was as bad as I could stand. But now, at least, I feel like I have some idea of the book’s merits.

  • That’s really all I hoped to get from it when reading was the ability to have a leg to stand on in the controversy I’m sure will swirl around it. It’s so far from anything I’ve ever read, and while it’s hard to like something that makes you so uncomfortable, I really give tons of credit to Alissa Nutting and Ecco for being gutsy enough to write/publish something like this.

  • whatsheread

    I have been hearing SO much about this one that I am more than intrigued. I love books that push boundaries and make you uncomfortable and tend to relish controversy. I think this is one I need to read immediately. Thanks!

  • I first heard about Tampa from the discussions on Bookrageous too; It had me intrigued. Interesting point about backstory; would be nice if there was more of it. Excellent review

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