Book Review: Tampa

‘Tampa’ by Alissa Nutting

Dubbed by the Guardian as ‘The most controversial book of the summer‘, I was initially pretty skeptical about reading this novel by Alissa Nutting. But after reading a few reviews – equal amounts people who loved and hated the book – I decided to give it a go, if for nothing more than to work out which of the two I would be. The book is Nutting’s debut novel and covers a pretty ‘interesting’ (for want of a better word) topic. The content is in fact so explicit and unorthodox that it has actually been banned from some Australian book stores. Tampa Alissa Nutting book review girls in polka dots So what is it about? Tampa is the story of Celeste, a high school teacher with a sexual obsession with teenage boys, who sets her sights on grooming one of her 14 year old pupils. From the outset it is clear that Celeste’s sexual obsession is what controls every moment of her life. Every decision that she makes, and almost thought that she has revolves jointly around her unusual sexual desires for teenage boys and her obsessive need to look attractive and youthful – from her loveless marriage which allows her the financial circumstances to help keep her looking young and beautiful, to her job working at a school that gives her access to the teenage boys that she desires. Verdict I started the book and found myself really struggling to get going with it – mainly because I found the content to be really full-on right from page one. But I kept going, and once I got over the initial shock of such a difficult topic, I found myself storming through it. Our main character’s one-track narrative is like stepping into the mind of a full-blown sociopath that keeps you wondering what on earth she’ll do/think next. At times horrifying, I found myself embarrassed when reading it in public (what a prude), but unable to put it down. Some books I find myself sad at having finished, but with Tampa, I found myself ready for it to be over. The whole story is a clever depiction of subversive female sexuality and how one person can use their looks to manipulate every person around them. It is not in any way a classic read that I will go back to year on year in the same way I do other books, but I would thoroughly recommend this book – particularly if you have an interest in psychology or criminology – or just want to read something a bit different o your ’50 Shades of Grey’. Rating: 4/5