69 of 75 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2013
'The rage of lust was like an IV drip in my veins; I felt it beginning to spread inside me with the helpless awareness of someone realizing she's been slipped a drug.'
Celeste has the intensity of a psychopath or even a serial killer when it comes to her sexual obsessions. The desperation in doing whatever it takes to satisfy her need was disturbing to say the least. Her complete disregard for how her actions would affect others in her life was unsettling. Celeste is hands down one of the most warped characters in literature I have ever had the pleasure of reading.
Comparisons to Lolita cannot be helped (although it could also be compared to Belinda by Anne Rampling, one of Anne Rice's lesser known novels written under a pseudonym), despite the fact it's actually quite different it still manages to touch upon the same subject. Unlike Lolita, this is not a retelling of events or even a confession but a first person accounting of the main characters sexual forays. But be warned, Celeste makes Humbert Humbert look tame in comparison. Nabokov wrote a truly lyrical story that managed to win over many readers despite Humbert's wrongs; he became one to be pitied. Nutting has done the opposite with her character Celeste and does not ever intend for you to pity her or feel sorry for her affliction. She's extremely lewd and vulgar and the pages reek with indecency and she's not ashamed to admit it.
'I found that sometimes it was a relief to do something unattractive in private, to confirm that I'm deeply flawed when so many others imagine me to be perfect.'
She found anyone that had begun to show signs that adolescence was leaving them to be completely foul and disgusting and was utterly envious of the female children of her class. The fact that she was flawless and appeared much younger than her true age I think was the only mitigating factor that prevented her from personally disgusting herself as she took extremely good care of herself to avoid showing signs of her age for as long as possible. It could also be said that her sexual encounters with the younger boys was seen as a purifying or cleansing ritual in her eyes. Bottom line, she was an extremely disturbed individual.
Tampa is a book that opens up the discussion that women are obviously not always the victim, that they can be just as guilty and just as psychopathic as their gender counterpart. It's a topic that forces you to look at the stereotypes in society today whether it is gender stereotypes or even stereotypes based on looks alone. Also, it definitely brings to light how the pursuing of an older woman no matter the age of the pursuer has become slightly glamorized over time.
In an interview with Cosmo (incredible review, definitely worth a read), the author stated that there is a void in literature about female sexual psychopaths and she sought to fill it. I can't think of any books related to the topic either but I have to applaud the fact that Nutting tackled this subject head-on and didn't water it down simply to avoid controversy. The extensiveness of her sexual conduct did at times seem gratuitous and left you feeling just as empty as Celeste, however, there's no denying this was an exceptionally scandalous yet efficiently written debut novel.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on October 14, 2013
Celeste Price is a true monster. A complete sociopath. Let's get that out there right away. No one is going to condone her thoughts or behavior in this book, but that's not what it's about. Alissa Nutting seems to have set out to create a complete portrait of a sociopath, and she did an excellent job. On characterization, it's hard to argue that she did anything about a terrific job. For those who argue there was no character development, I don't think that's true at all. The character of Jack grew and changed throughout the book. I found him to be a very realistic portrayal of a teenage boy in that circumstance. I will concede the other characters were not particularly well-drawn, but I think that is all part of the creation of the character of Celeste. She is the star of her own drama. None of those other people--her husband, Janet, Buck--were ever anything more than cardboard cut-outs to her. Celeste is the ultimate unreliable narrator. And Celeste has no character growth because she's a sociopath, she's not capable of it. The novel was wittily-written and vividly defined. I do think it's hypocritical that Amazon sells this out in the open, a book with vividly described sex with a 14-year-old boy, while they constantly and arbitrarily restrict access to titles other titles with sexual content in their Romance and Erotica sections, but that has nothing to do with this book. I could not give it 5 stars because some a couple gaping plot holes and a huge factual error that drove me crazy every time I encountered it: Corvettes do NOT have backseats! I find it hard to believe that no one who beta read or edited this book has been close enough to a Corvette to know that, so it's pretty shocking to me that this slipped through considering how much of the action takes place in that very car. It pulled me right out of the story every time it happened.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2013
Tampa by Alissa Nutting is not a book for everyone. In fact, it might not be a book that you even want to read. It's rated 3.33 on Goodreads.
But I'm giving this weirdly uncomfortable book 4 stars. Why? Because only great writers make you feel REALLY uncomfortable with the topic you are reading about.
Let me explain. . .
Celeste is a (fictional) teacher in Tampa, Florida. She's 26, gorgeous, married to a wealthy handsome man, and is so excited to start teaching English!
Why is she so excited? She wants to sleep with a fourteen-year-old male student and she can't wait to meet "the one," who turns out to be her student, Jack.
This book is sexually explicit. Which isn't always a problem for people (See 50 Shade of Twilight Fan Fiction crap that was a bestseller. Seriously, it's Twilight Fan Fiction. Google it if you don't believe me.).
In Tampa, there IS a problem with the sexual explicitness: it's with a 14-year-old and a 26-year-old. And it makes you feel REALLY uncomfortable.
But Alissa Nutting did a good job writing this book to make you feel that way on purpose. Eliciting a reaction (positive or negative) out of your readers is a goal of writing, and no one can deny that Alissa did that well.
I gobbled up Tampa, felt very disturbed by Celeste, but would read another book by Alissa Nutting in a heartbeat.
Not-really-related side note: In one short scene in the novel, Celeste and her husband are on the phone, and Celeste says, "Isn't it against the law to be on your phone while you drive?" Her husband responds, "Not while you're driving the cop car, sweets." Just FYI for all of you (and to Alissa!!), it's not against the law to be on your cell phone (or text) in Florida while driving. While it's not really related to the book, it bugged me enough to want to add it here.
Thanks to Leah @ Books Speak Volumes & Jennifer @ The Relentless Reader for passing the book along!
So, is this book for you or is it one you will skip?
Thanks for reading,
Rebecca @ Love at First Book
100 of 129 people found the following review helpful
I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.
I think Nutting was trying really hard to create a character in the tradition of Patrick Bateman but, instead, she created a ridiculous caricature. This subject matter has been handled much more successfully in books such as WHAT WAS SHE THINKING? by Zoe Heller, KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD by Rebecca Coleman, and even LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov. Heller and Coleman gave their characters depth and complexity. Nutting's character was a cardboard cutout. Not only was she unbelievable but readers must have a huge suspension of disbelief to believe that not one single person saw any signs into the true nature of her character. As I worked my way through the story, I found that it got incredibly tedious. While the subject matter is certainly distasteful and disturbing, I think Nutting relied too heavily on shock value to give her book any impact.
I think many people who enjoyed this book were probably drawn in by what they saw as the author's clever handling of a difficult subject. However, these same people may not have encountered this same subject matter handled much more deftly in other books. My issue is not a knee-jerk reaction to the subject matter but more a reaction to what I think is inadequate writing. I simply don't believe you should be given kudos just because you chose a controversial topic.
Overall, a pretty disappointing offering.
30 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on July 6, 2013
Initially I was skeptical of this book: a female middle school teacher sexually attracted to her students who uses their vulnerabilities to engage in sexual relationships with them. How could a female pedophile be the lead character? How could she be sympathetic? Seeing the world through the eyes of this horrific character come to life through the author's amazingly powerful descriptions. I still don't like Celeste Price, but I don't at all regret the time I spent with her. I will be looking forward to other great novels from a terrific up and coming writer. Thanks, Ms. Nutting!
26 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2013
I was on holidays, and needed a book. Tampa has attracted a lot of press in Australia, with some mainstream booksellers refusing to stock it. I decided to see what all the fuss is about.
So, let's jump to the reviews, here on Amazon. I read just about all of them with unusual interest.
Several reviewers commented that they found it difficult to decide on the number of stars to give Nutting's book. I had the same problem.
Thinking about it, I believe that there are 2 reasons for this. First, I suspect that there is a hesitancy to award the book 4 or 5 stars because - at some level - that feels like accepting or even condoning the behaviour of the main character.
Second, I found the book uneven, so here is my take on the book as a book. On the positive side, Nutting's portrayal of Celeste as psychopath is outstanding. Celeste's unrelenting heartlessness is presented consistently and convincingly. (Jon Ronson's "The Psychopath Test" is a good reference point here). Right until the last page - and I believe that the ending is another positive about the book - Celeste is a monster.
Another positive for me is Janet Feinlog, a superbly created antithesis to Celeste who seems to me to have wandered into this novel from the pages of "A Confederacy of Dunces." Wonderful character, with a brilliant cameo towards the end.
One of the big negatives was the "unadulterated sex," which I found unconvincing - a bit like Mills & Boon on viagra.
The other negatives were around plot weaknesses and gaps, well-covered by other reviewers. Why did Celeste's husband have to be a cop? Wealthy but dumb bank scion would have worked better, surely.
Finally, returning to a review of the reviews. What is it that we are reviewing - the book, or its subject? I seldom see a book that so divides the regular reviewers, and my theory is that some of us have found that confusing.
My 3 stars is based partly on the plot weaknesses, and partly, I suspect, because I was afraid to give it any more..............
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2014
Celeste Price is a sexual predator – only attracted to 14-year old boys. She’s constructed her entire life to help her fulfil her fantasies, from the strict skin care regime that keeps her looking younger than her 26 years, to her shame marriage that looks Hallmark perfect to outsiders, to her profession. Celeste is an eighth grade teachers and she views the boys in her classroom as targets, not students.
To say this is a disturbing book is an understatement. The book is narrated from Celeste’s point of view, so readers spend 300 pages inside her psychotic head. She is unrepentant, unreflective and thinks about little else then the erotic potential of 14-year olds. Usually, I’m a big chatterbox when it comes to what I’m reading... but how do you casually bring up this book in polite conversation?
Many other readers have made the obvious comparison to LolitaLolita. And it’s true that both Celeste Price and Humbert Humbert are manipulators and predators, but Humbert suffers from a level of self-loathing that Celeste could never understand. She is a textbook psychopath, totally lacking in empathy and totally in love with herself. In the end, Humbert suffers. Celeste is made briefly inconvenienced.
In my mind, the book that Tampa is most like is J.G. Ballard’s Crash. Both deal with sexual fixations that society deems inappropriate and ooky. And both books dwell on that fixation to the point of pure, mind-numbing boredom. Celeste was impossible to care about and since the rest of the characters were viewed through her monstrous perspective, they were impossible to care about too. The two boys Celeste sleeps with are mere objects, her husband is a mindless oaf and the other teachers in the school are naive complainers.
But the intention of this book is not for the reader to like it. I imagine. I hope. Instead, it’s to make us feel disgust, bewilderment... but also to make us realize that while these types of desires are abhorrent, they may not necessarily be abnormal. And they may come from the most normal, even pretty person. I’m glad to be done with this book. I gained some knowledge from it. But I’m not particularly glad I read it.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2014
Goodness. This is definitely a book that everyone’s going to have an opinion about. Never mind whether or not they’ve actually read the book, they’ve got something to say!
Alright, so this book was a little difficult to read. Well, not so much difficult as uncomfortable. Yes, that’s it. I was uncomfortable, but who wouldn’t be? (That’s totally a redundant question, by the way.) I knew the book was pushing boundaries and going for that shock value (let’s be honest, right?). I didn’t quite expect something as graphic as what I got, but I should have known better. I felt torn between whether or not the vulgarity of the book was necessary (it’s generally harder to imagine a woman in such a position) or just purely shock. In the end, I sided with necessary. I think Celeste needed to be painted as she was to really convey that she was as much of a sexual predator/monster as a man could be. That being said, there’s a very fine line between necessary and shock value here.
It was well written. It was disturbing, especially in the “I probably shouldn’t like this. Maybe I should. I don’t know! There’s way too much grey area here… but I do like it!” kind of way. And just to clarify, this is a good book. I don’t condone Celeste’s behavior, whether male or female, so it makes it somewhat strange to enjoy about something I am so against. Weird, I tell you! By the end of the book, I was slightly disappointed. I’m not sure exactly how I wanted it to end, but it certainly wasn’t like it did. I suppose, though, that the ending was, unfortunately, pretty realistic.
While the review was hard for me to write… because really, I don’t know how to express how I feel after reading something like this, it was an easy book to rate. I enjoyed reading it and would certainly recommend it. That recommendation, though, would come with a warning that it is pretty vulgar and cringe-inducing.
Be sure to check out all of my reviews on my blog, KDH Reviews.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2013
This is a book that isn't for the faint at heart, and it will defiantly test you. You will find your self wanting to stop reading it, but your curiosity will keep you from closing it.
Tampa is one of those books that everyone will be talking about, and all your friends will be reading even when they say they will never. It's the case of Curiosity killed the cat. We're all curious of what the hell lays inside 'Tampa' Right off from the first page you will know how this book will go. This book is very controversial; I would think everyone was crazy if they didn't think it wasn't.
The plot it's self is a good one. A 26 year old, sexy, attractive teacher who hunts out her prey, which in this case are young adolescent boys, and they have to be a certain way for
Celeste's taste. Just right at their peak of transforming from a boy into a teen. After staking out her classes she finds the right boy for her in Jack Parker...but everything after that could have been so much better. Okay, you are crossing boundaries here, so go the hell on and write it. I thought some of the stuff was laughable, and many times
I found my self saying "Oh my God" out loud. I've read reviews saying it was the new 50 Shades, and by no means is it. This book isn't even close! How could you put these two books into the same category?! This book is about a sexual predator, not two age appropriate adult having an amazing love affair.
In Tampa, we are inside the predators mind; we get to read her thought and fantasies. The book was VERY well written it took you into the mind of Celeste. The way the author drew it out for you, I thought her words were great, the way she perceives everything around her.
I had to push back the bile that was rising in my throat the whole time. Celeste is a predator at their very worst; she will do whatever she possibly can to get the young boy she wants. As a mother, it freighted me, as a reader it made me turn the pages like it was suppose to do.
This book has my mind bouncing off the walls and my thoughts going haywire. First off, I see why they made the cover just black, if you have seen the original cover....holy &^#&!! Second, I don't even know how to rate this book....So I will give it 3 stars.
Tampa is very incredibly disturbing incite into the mind of a predator and to the heights they will go to get what they want.
I will be honest and say, I will look at my son's teacher differently from now on...it opens that part of you that wants to protect this child, that wants to strangle Celeste and make her pay for what she is doing to these children, YES, children. She doesn't see what she is doing wrong, and I guess that is what makes a psychopath a psychopath.
Sit down and take a ride on the crazy train, and be prepared to have your world rocked and not in the good way.
14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2013
This review contains spoilers.
I think this is one of the most horrific things I have ever read.
Back when I saw the first Hunger Games movie in the theater, people cheered when the tributes died. The Hunger Games was a book about the horrors of human sacrifice and the way the spectacle was used to pacify and entertain a society. When the story was made into a movie, the audience became a part of the story of the spectacle of violence toward children, and it became apparent that they were not invested in the morality of the original text.
Reading Tampa reminds me of sitting in that theater. It is a story of a sociopath who treats the children she preys upon as objects. Tampa describes, in painful and exact detail, the rapes of two children. Rather than imply, rather than allude, Nutting writes out whole scenes of coitus between an adult and a 14 year-old. It is pornography that the reader participates in by reading. Perhaps Nutting did not intend her close look at a woman pedophile to be a pornographic instruction manual. Perhaps the fact that Tampa contains child pornography is intended to be a commentary on society. I have no idea what her intention was, but this book sure scared the hell out of me.
I think the arc of the story is the progression from the main character feeling revolted at her speculation of how her victims will look, behave and think once they age out of being attractive to her, to the moment she concludes (spoiler alert!) that she would have been most satisfied by the experience of violating them were they to die after she was finished with them. Of course they would have to die, that is the only way they could be perfect and unchanging objects.
It was impossible for my reading of this book to not be informed by Nabokov's Lolita, a story of child sexual exploitation that is also considered a literary masterpiece. The ending in particular came to mind, for when Humbert Humbert meets Lolita again, she has aged, he is horrified by her, and she (spoiler alert for Lolita) is obliquely shown to have died at the very end of Nabokov's book.
The main character of Tampa has also internalized and participates in her own objectification (she considers keeping herself looking youthful and beautiful both vital to her ability to prey on her victims and keeping her husband from becoming too critical or questioning of their odd home-life) which is really quite interesting and strikes me as plausible.
The writing is fluid and dream-like, the characters are consistent and believable.
I wouldn't recommend reading it, though.
Amazon won't let me review without giving stars, so I am choosing three, because I can't decide if I should give it a 1 or a 5.