Tampa by Alissa Nutting

“There was something repulsive (and revealing) about talking on a cell phone while handling garbage. Why did anyone pretend human relationships had value?”

‘Tampa’ by Alissa Nutting is a raw look into the mind of a female paedophile, so it isn’t entirely surprising that many readers shunned the narrative of this story. I, however, sit on the side of the fence that would put this book onto a ‘Must Read’ list.

Here’s why.

Celeste Price, a young and attractive school teacher, admits early on in the story that she chose to be a teacher solely to feed her unquenchable thirst for teenage boys. Not the type of boys who have matured early, either. Celeste is compelled to seek out teenage boys who are yet to go through puberty. The sexually-obsessed protaganist doesn’t shy away from graphically describing the sexual acts she’s involved in with pupils, nor is she afraid to express her resentment towards having sexual contact with her husband or other adult males.

Alissa Nutting does an excellent job of portraying female sexuality in a way that society is not accustomed to. Her candid descriptions that are absent of vague and flowery prose, portrayed through Celeste’s self-awareness, shed a naked light on the yearnings of female lust. Celeste knows that, in society’s view, she’s a paedophile but her desire to have sex with minors outweighs the potentially catastrophic consequences of her actions.

Later on in the book, we’re given a first-hand look at how the legal system still views females as the fairer sex. For example, Celeste is granted some mercy in the court because of her physical appearance. It’s almost accepted that young boys would want to have sex with their teacher, especially this one. Although this is deemed to be ‘wrong’ within the parameters of the law, the burden of blame isn’t placed solely on Celeste’s shoulders for grooming her pupils.

This book was always going to raise hackles. After all, it focuses on a topic that is entirely taboo within our society. Isn’t that what a compelling story is supposed to do, though? By reading ‘Tampa’, it doesn’t make you immoral. By peering into the mind of a paedophile, it doesn’t mean you condone their actions. By enjoying watching the story unfold, it shouldn’t make you feel guilty.

If we turned our backs on everything that seemed alien to us, how would we come to understand it? Without understanding, how would treatment be developed? Without opening our eyes to reality, however unpleasant it may be, how are we to grow as people?

‘Tampa’ is one of those books that resonates with you, long after you’ve finished. It will make you feel uncomfortable. It will make you question humanity. It will make you feel nauseated at times.

But that’s what I enjoyed so much about it.

Book Worm’s score: 8.5/10

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