Book Review: Tampa by Alissa Nutting
Celeste, a 26-year old middle school teacher, is obsessively obsessed with 14-year-old boys and uses her profession to get closer to them and pounce, as a lion does a gazelle.
Hoooooo noooo. Oh no no. No no no no no.
There’s no denying Alissa Nutting is a gifted writer. And there are nuances to Tampa for sure. Celeste, the main character, is singularly focused on sexually consuming 14 year-old boys, and seeks a new conquest each school year.
There are many ways to describe her, all of them having to do with obsession and victimization. She is hunting her prey, sometimes to the point that she could get her own metaphorical foot maimed and keep limping along after her latest toy boy, bloody stump trailing behind her.
But it goes even further than that. Celesteâ€™s obsession is filled with pathos. She can barely control her impulses. In one scene, she has to swallow several times just to keep from calling across the room to her latest boydle (thatâ€™s boy idol).
The boydles are victim to her strategic seductions, and Celeste is victim to her own desires. But that doesnâ€™t clear her from responsibility.
I have the same hang ups here as I did with All the Ugly and Wonderful Things. Both are beautifully written books. Beautiful. I want these authors to both write with fearlessness and abandon. I donâ€™t want my review to hold them back in any way (nor do I have any illusions that it would).
At the same time…ewwwwwwwwwww! Both books deal with kids who have just barely entered teenagerdom having sex with adults. And itâ€™s straight up gross.
Not to mention illegal.
Maybe itâ€™s my proximity. I canâ€™t look at the book as just a book. I kept thinking of my own kidâ€™s teacher going after him like this, and…just…NO.
But where in todayâ€™s society would this even be acceptable to anyone? Iâ€™m not some oversensitive mom imploring everyone to â€œpleeeeease think of the children.â€
Itâ€™s hard to justify stuff like this. And to be fair, the two books Iâ€™m mentioning here are completely different. Ugly & Wonderful seems to condone the relationship while Tampa is clearly critical of its main character. Completely different books. Both subject matters are difficult.
There may be head shakes and judgments of â€œshe just doesnâ€™t get it.â€
- So be it.
- Oh shush. You donâ€™t get it.
Having said all of this, there is still nuance to each story, and Iâ€™ll be following each author in their future books, as theyâ€™re both incredibly talented authors and storytellers.
Iâ€™m a fan of edgy material and get impatient when a book seems artificially PG-rated when R-rated stuff would clearly be going on there. I canâ€™t wait to see what both of these authors write next. But I just canâ€™t deal with adults having sex with kids.
Scuse me while I dry heave.