Tampa - Alissa Nutting
"thirty-one is roughly seventeen years past my window of sexual interest"

i'm not sure i've ever been as horribly conflicted over a book as i am over tampa. there's this instinctive urge to mark it as one star because it was fucked up, it was dark and horrible and disgusting, but... that's what i wanted. that's what i expected. i wanted to feel uncomfortable, i wanted to feel a bit of hesitation any time an attractive teacher takes a second glance at one of her male students in front of me, and i got that. this book made me grimace and left me pouting and feeling ever so slightly nauseated for the biggest part of it, and that's exactly what i signed up for.

this is not for the faint of heart. this is not for the easily offended. this is not for those who want to read about an unrelenting monster of a woman that literally does not care about anyone or anything outside of her own sexual satisfaction.

celeste is, in the most basic of terms, horrible. she is an evil queen, manipulative and unfeeling, distant and controlling. she's virtually dead on the inside with a disregard for humanity in its entirety, and a complete lack of even slight concern for anything that doesn't help her to achieve what she wants: sexual relations with adolescent boys. her attraction is not tethered to a particular boy, nor is it emotional to any degree. she's detached and predatory, only doing what she has to do to ensure their silence and their consent. she will do whatever it takes: more-or-less prostitution, thievery, lying, murder. nothing is too much for her, as long as it helps her to fulfill her own desires and to avoid getting caught - not out of fear or shame, or even anything akin to being sorry, but because she couldn't possibly survive in prison. there would be no (and i quote) adolescent boys there.

she is a starving, hungry animal and she views the boys in her class (and the rest of the world) as an all-you-can-eat buffet, just waiting for her to ravage them with as much or as little animosity as she chooses. their innocence is what she thrives off of. she is, in theory, the very same as the infamous countess erzsébet báthory, also known as the virgin killer: she feeds off of and thrives from the innocence, naivete, and adolescence of the young boys of the world, particularly the virgins.

i loved everything about this book, from the beginning to the very end. the only criticism i might have is that it was, at times, disgusting to me. there were plenty of explicit displays of statutory rape but, oddly enough, the things that stood out as disgusting and memorable weren't directly related to that. the word "genitals" grosses me out for some reason, because it's so scientific, and i'm not the craziest about "penis" either, although i'm not sure what i expect to see. there were quite a few bowel references, and the word "testicles" was used quite a few times, too.

anyway, i'm going to leave a couple of the most memorable passages here - the disgusting/disturbing ones, i mean. the good ones are basically everything that i'm not showing in this review.

at times i wished that my genitals were prosthetic, something i could slip out of. they were a constant drone of stimulation; their requests hummed aloud throughout my life like a never-ending soundtrack.


while most students had left mild phrases of encouragement peppered with misspellings, steven had only written his signature. i stood, feeling my underwear drop to my ankles, and tore down the card to his name, ripping it out in isolation, then stared at the tab of paper sitting on my finger like a square of acid. i let my head hit the side of the bathroom stall as i shoved his name as far up inside me as i could.


i knew if i ever had a son, at a certain age, it would be impossible to ignore him.


jack came in a few moments later, a tracing of rain around his shoulders; he'd used a folder to shield his head and his hair had managed to stay nearly dry, but the calves of his legs had been showered. i watched each one of the drops snaking down his legs, some of them traveling all the way from above his knee in a manner that recalled urine. the innocence of that thought -- a frightened jack in the middle of the classroom, wetting himself; me undressing him from his soiled clothes, his damp tender skin cold to the touch -- briefly clutched me in a fantasy of erotic mothering and made me long, oddly and briefly, for a more intimate relationship with jack. there was a turn-on to the suggestion that i might one day see him troubled, perhaps crying; that i might soothe and reassure him with a sympathy that could lead to a feeling of gratitude on his behalf. one that he would repay sexually, his eyes smiling up at me during cunnilingus.


i stroked his forehead and offered him a nipple in an act of mothering.


i figured that if i made an advance on him how he'd push me away, but i began anyhow -- he seemed so dependent and clung to me with such maternal need that it was easy to channel jack's embrace into sexual action.


"be sure?" jack cried. mucus streamed from his nose and began to mingle with his lips. his tears and high-pitched cries had a way of making him seem pleasantly preadolescent; in the moment, i was not opposed to intercourse.

there were more, but those are the ones that popped into my head to look up first. there are far more striking passages than disturbing or disgusting ones, but the thing about this book is that it is horrific and amazing all at once, and to only highlight one of those things in this review would be showing an unfair bias.

if you like your stories dark, your women (defiant toward the gender roles that dictate that women can't be disgusting, depraved pedophiles just the same as men) complex and beautifully disturbed/broken, and overall, you just enjoy things that are fucked up and exploitative and addictive, this book is the one for you.