All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Tampa – Alissa Nutting Plus ***GIVEAWAY***

on July 15, 2013

Alissa Nutting
Faber & Faber
2013, 263p
Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin

Celeste is 26 and about to start her first official teaching job – 8th grade English in suburban Tampa, Florida. She’s married to policeman Ford, whose family is very wealthy, helping boost their income. Celeste drives a red Corvette and spends hours each week having facials and treatments to preserve her stunningly beautiful good looks. Ford likes anything that Celeste does that boosts her attractiveness, he feels it helps raise his profile, makes the boys he works with envious. But that isn’t the main reason why Celeste devotes so much time to her appearance.

Celeste has a sexual obsession – 14 year old boys. Ever since her first time, at 14 with another 14 year old, she has been drawn to youth. As she grew older, the objects of her affection stayed the same age. She’s positively humming at the thought of having so much fresh meat available to her. Somewhere out there, in one of her classes, is the perfect boy. Almost immediately, her choice is made. Jack Patrick is the son of a single father, he’s modest, not aggressive and ripe to keep the secret. Celeste begins her seduction and Jack is powerless to resist her. They have sex in her car, in Jack’s house while his father is at work, in her classroom, in a cheap motel. Celeste gives him a pre-paid phone that he can use to contact her whenever he is free but above all other things, he must be discreet.

But the danger of exposure lurks everywhere. Jake’s father Buck surprises them at his home one day and begins to fall for Celeste himself and spending time with him is a sacrifice that she must make in order to be around Jake, her real interest. Celeste takes risk after risk to get what she wants, willing to do anything in order to satisfy her craving.

I have to admit, I’ve always found teacher-student sexual relationships interesting to read about. I’ve read many books that tackle this topic and there are plenty of real-life scenarios out there as well. In many cases, the teacher falls in love with a person that just happens to be too young. Society places rules regarding minors in place for a reason and teachers are in an acknowledged position of power. In this book, it is not a simple case of Celeste falling in love with a teenager on the cusp of manhood. She is just 26, young for a teacher but still light years above those she is teaching. In this story, Celeste has an unsatiable sexual hunger for the innocence of youth, eighth graders being her preference. And there’s no denying that she’s in a position of great power over them.

Tampa is no holds barred – there are no fade to black scenes here. Celeste has a ravenous sexual hunger where she must feed it to function. Her brain and body crave it. Whenever I read a novel, I often try and put myself in the protagonist’s situation – to attempt to understand them. I wouldn’t particularly recommend doing that with Celeste because it will probably make you feel ill. This isn’t just a once off sexual attraction with a person who happens to be a student this is a calculated campaign by her to stake out her classes for potential victims. She has a very specific set of requirements and reading through the way she callously examines all the boys in her class, discounting the ones whose bodies have grown and developed muscles, the ones who are loud and outgoing and whom she knows would brag, is a skin-crawling experience. Jack, poor Jack, has no hope. Celeste is beautiful and she turns the full force of her sexuality upon him. In one part of the book, she actually glorifies in what she has taught him, what she has given him, knowing that he will search for it for the rest of his life, unable to find and match it. It is something that excites her and turns her on, but my thoughts turned to Jack, what it would be like for him. He is fourteen. I remember myself at that age, the boys I was friends with. In no way were we mentally equipped for what Celeste bestows upon Jack. He thinks they’re in love, that they’ll get married when he turns 18. He has no idea that Celeste’s attraction to him has a use-by date. By the time Jack is 18, he will be years too old to even attract the interest of Celeste.

It was interesting to read a novel that chooses to use a female teacher and a male student – other books I’ve read depicting these types of relationships tend to be the other way around. As a female, older than Celeste, it’s difficult for me to even ponder an attraction to a teenager. But you don’t need to look too far to know that it does happen – and often. The internet is littered with stories of women teachers who have had affairs with male students, giving birth to their children, going to jail for it, being shunned by society. However there’s an interesting double standard when it comes to victims sometimes – male victims are often not looked at the same way, especially when the sexual aggressor is a beautiful woman, like Celeste and this book takes that view and expounds upon it in hideous detail, holding up society’s own views to itself and exploiting them. There’s a tendency to snicker, to count them as ‘lucky’, to see them as infinitely less vulnerable than their female counterparts. But I don’t think anyone can count Jack as lucky in this novel. The way in which Celeste takes apart his mind is absolute.

Disturbing, uncomfortable but raw and powerful, this novel brings to mind Lolita in Celeste’s single minded pursuit of her minor. It puts you in her mind, that of a predator and forces you to examine the lowest possible acts and through that, the way in which these acts are seen by society. It’s a bold book, one that will divide. But it’s definitely one that should be read.


Book #182 of 2013

Curious? Want to know more? Think the psychology of this one is something you might be interested in? Thanks to the fabulous Australian publisher of Tampa, Allen & Unwin, I have five copies to give away! Because this is a publisher sponsored giveaway, you must live in Australia to be eligible. Simply fill out the form to enter.

*Winners will be drawn on the 24th July and notified by email. Failure to respond in 48 hours will mean I’ll draw a replacement.

18 responses to “Tampa – Alissa Nutting Plus ***GIVEAWAY***

  1. Mary Preston says:

    How fabulous!!

  2. melaxinyi says:

    Oh wow!! Sounds intense :O

  3. katebellex says:

    Great review Bree! It has to be one of the creepiest novels I’ve ever read. And disturbing how it shows the strange juxtaposition of our views of male vs female sexuality. There is no sympathising with Celeste. She is a sociopath through and through. I think the contrast between Celeste’s two victims was interesting too. It shows that some 14 yo males would revel in such a relationship, while others terminally damaged by it. It will be interesting to see how this book goes. Well written book, but I can’t say I enjoyed it.

    • Thanks Kate! It is creepy and you’re right, she’s irredeemable, the last part of the book certainly proves that. I found the two male victims interesting too, although what Jack went through was much more than what her second victim did as well. I’ve no doubt that her actions surrounding Jack’s father greatly contributed to his mental state and the one person he thought left that actually cared about him was the one that let him down so viciously. I didn’t love it either, but I definitely recognise its value in addressing the other side of sexual predatory behaviour with the female as the aggressor.

  4. Tracy says:

    There seems to be a lot of controversy surrounding the novel. I’m definitely interested in reading this book and making up my own mind about it.

  5. Maria P says:

    After all this controversy how can I not read it?

  6. Wow, the premise for this novel really makes my skin crawl, particularly the predatory way she seems to stalk her victims and grooms them, like all pedophiles do, all the while taking a sick delight in what she is ‘teaching’ them. While I felt immediate disgust as I began to read the synopsis, I would be lying if I said I weren’t a little interested in reading this novel. Like you, I’ve always had a sort of morbid curiosity about this sort of story, particularly because I cannot even begin to understand the motivations for this sort of desire. I find it absolutely repugnant. While I’m not sure that I would enjoy reading this novel, I applaud Nutting for tackling such a difficult subject. Given the constant press about this sort of thing, I think it’s important that we begin to start a discussion as opposed to simply sweeping it under the rug. Hopefully Tampa will do just that.

    I must say I wish that this giveaway were open to Canadian residents as I’m very curious to read this one myself! Lovely review, Bree 🙂

    • I think Canada has a different publisher, which always makes international giveaways pretty tricky! It is definitely a book where I don’t think you’ll LOVE it but some people will be able to appreciate the gender and social issues it raises and explores. The fact that boys aren’t considered victims to the degree that girls are is definitely an issue and this book presents two different boys who react in very different ways to Celeste’s attentions.

      I hope you get a chance to read it and see what you think!

  7. Kelly says:

    OK wow, the Australian cover for this book is WAY more suggestive than the US one!! 🙂
    Bummed I can’t enter the giveaway but I’m thinking I will try to get my hands on this one soon. I’ve read a LOT of blog reviews on it, and they are all making me morbidly curious. I can’t resist a good controversy…

    • It’s very provocative, isn’t it? There’s a button on the back cover that just manages to pull it back, I think, but seeing only the front cover it’s definitely very suggestive!

  8. I’ve got to say that when I saw the cover of this, I didn’t think it was a button hole – looked more like something else! Teacher-student relationships are not something I’m really into (maybe because of the teachers I had!) but after reading The Yearning, I’d like to read more about why some people choose to do this!

    Thank you to you and Allen and Unwin for offering this giveaway – fingers crossed!

  9. Violet says:

    I keep hearing about this book and although it’s not my usual reading fare, I am curious to see what all the fuss is about. I’m wondering if it’s a genuine attempt to highlight social issues, or whether it’s another (Fifty Shades of Grey) jump-on-the-bandwagon book that is more about titillation than issues. I’m quite keen to read it and form my own opinion.

  10. amnawer says:

    Sound’s eye opener for the light hearted. They always say dont judge a book by its cover. Would love to read

  11. Karla Oleinikoff says:

    I would love to read this, it sounds absolutely fascinating, and absolutely controversial.

  12. Anne says:

    I really need to read this book, I know its fiction but having known someone in that situation I think it could go a long way to helping to understand the motivation and reluctances on both sides to discuss what happened and the general taboo from societies point of view be it this way or in the reverse. thank you for writing a book that will finally open dialogue on a subject long hidden by shadows.

  13. […] Review: Naked, by Raine Miller Review: The Stranger (Just One Night #1), by Kyra Davis Review: Tampa, by Alissa Nutting (plus giveaway) Review: The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty Review: […]

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