Review: Tampa by Allisa Nutting


tampaTitle: Tampa
Allisa Nutting
Genre: Adult Fiction
Source: Library (Hardcover)


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.

my thoughts-01

In the genre-world of writing, I think we should add a new one: books that make us uncomfortable.

While reading is supposed to be for enjoyment, I can’t say that every single book read is written for pure enjoyment. Some books are written to make us squirm, to make us feel uncomfortable, and — most importantly — to make us want to talk to others about it. These books can be tame or they can be super controversial. Like this one.

I had initially thought I wouldn’t read Tampa, a story about a teacher who has a bit of a sexual obsession with 14-year-old boys. I mean, it just sounds a little too serious and a little too crude for me.  But then again, there’s something to say about authors who choose to write something that makes their readers squirm, something that is so outside of the box that readers are left wondering if even writing it was right or wrong.

In this book, we are DEEP in the brain of this sex-obsessed teacher. Normally, it’s not such a bad journey. I mean, the character has their problems, but it’s just sex, right? Except when we factor in the thing that triggers in her sexual obsession (14-year-old boys) and the fact that she’s a teacher, it just seems wrong.

However, while the whole thing seems like it just shouldn’t exist, I felt like it was a very interesting character study. By the end of the story I felt uncomfortable even saying that I liked the book. I mean, no one should like this kind of story, right? But I felt like the character of Celeste was done so well.

My only real qualms with the story was how realistic it actually was. I’d like to think that someone would say something about this teacher. She really couldn’t get away with these things, right? And if SHE is getting away with them, is it a safe assumption to say that there is probably someone out there exactly like her in the real world? There were certain things that Celeste would do in her classroom, or certain things she’d wear that really made me wonder WHY no one would report her. I’d like to think kids are smarter than that.

In the end, though, I felt kind of glued to these pages, kind of like watching an inevitable train wreck. You know it’s going to end bad, you know that you might get squirmy waiting for something bad to happen, but it’s going to happen either way. As I finished the last page, all I wanted to do was talk about the story to someone and tell them how wrong the whole thing was.

Be warned, though, this book is EXTREMELY graphic. If you’ve read romance novels in the past, expect something like that, but times about ten, between two people who should NOT be together. This isn’t swoon-worthy romance and sex, but rather something you will want to look away from.

So THAT is why I liked this book. The subject matter disgusted me and yet I couldn’t look away. I had to know what happened in the end. But it still kept me intrigued. Horrifying subject matter or not, I’d say that’s the sign of a good book.





8 thoughts on “Review: Tampa by Allisa Nutting

  1. Your reaction to Tampa reminds me of how I felt when reading Lolita, such disturbing subject matter but written so well I couldn’t look away. I have always been intrigued by Tampa so may have to read it some time.

    • You’ll have to let me know what you think if you do read it. I wasn’t a huge fan of Lolita, mainly because the main character was always internalizing and in his head, but this one was really good.

  2. This was such a tough book to read – but ultimately I’m glad she wrote it. I think there is a tendency to see female teacher-male student relationships as not as bad as male teacher-female student relationships. And I think Nutting did a great job showing they are just as abusive and predatory.

  3. I have this on my TBR and I keep meaning to read it, but I have the really odd graphic cover and I don’t really feel like I can take it on a train with me!

    I work with sex-offenders for a day job, so I’m fairly accustomed to the subject matter, as horrific as that may sound. I want to read it for exactly what you said though- for the character study.

    I think it’s okay to say that you ‘like’ the book though. I’d take that to mean that you respected the book or it made you think, not necessarily that you related to it or anything!

My home is where my books are. - Ellen Thompson

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