by Alissa Nutting

Overview -

Celeste Price is an eighth-grade English teacher in suburban Tampa. She's undeniably attractive. She drives a red Corvette with tinted windows. Her husband, Ford, is rich, square-jawed, and devoted to her.

But Celeste's devotion lies elsewhere. 

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More About Tampa by Alissa Nutting

Celeste Price is an eighth-grade English teacher in suburban Tampa. She's undeniably attractive. She drives a red Corvette with tinted windows. Her husband, Ford, is rich, square-jawed, and devoted to her.

But Celeste's devotion lies elsewhere. She has a singular sexual obsession--fourteen-year-old boys. Celeste pursues her craving with sociopathic meticulousness and forethought; her sole purpose in becoming a teacher is to fulfill her passion and provide her access to her compulsion. As the novel opens, fall semester at Jefferson Jr. High is beginning.

In mere weeks, Celeste has chosen and lured the lusciously naive Jack Patrick into her web. Jack is enthralled and in awe of his teacher, and, most important, willing to accept Celeste's terms for a secret relationship--car rides after school; rendezvous at Jack's house while his single father works late; body-slamming encounters in Celeste's empty classroom between periods.

Ever mindful of the danger--the perpetual risk of exposure, Jack's father's own attraction to her, and the ticking clock as Jack leaves innocent boyhood behind--the hyperbolically insatiable Celeste bypasses each hurdle with swift thinking and shameless determination, even when the solutions involve greater misdeeds than the affair itself. In slaking her sexual thirst, Celeste Price is remorseless and deviously free of hesitation, a monstress driven by pure motivation. She deceives everyone, and cares nothing for anyone or anything but her own pleasure.

With crackling, rampantly unadulterated prose, Tampa is a grand, uncompromising, seriocomic examination of want and a scorching literary debut.

  • ISBN-13: 9780062280541
  • ISBN-10: 0062280546
  • Publisher: Ecco Press
  • Publish Date: July 2013
  • Page Count: 272

Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Psychological
Books > Fiction > Contemporary Women

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2013-05-06
  • Reviewer: Staff

In Nutting’s graphic first novel (after her story collection, Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls), soon-to-be eighth-grade English teacher Celeste Price can barely contain her excitement about her adolescent boys; the 26-year-old passes the night “in an excited loop of hushed masturbation” while her good-looking but dull-witted husband slumbers. Celeste’s mind is as pragmatic as her body is luscious, and her patience (“I had to regard the students like a delicate art exhibit and stay six feet away at all times, lest I be tempted to touch”) pays off. Before long, she coaxes shy Jack into what becomes the first of many liaisons. Unlike American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman, Celeste is aware of her depravity—she fears that were she to work as a model, as some suggest, photos would capture “a soulless pervert”—but she indulges anyway. Her bold choice of meeting Jack at his house after school leads to unsurprising complications, as does the boy’s budding love. When Celeste’s usual caution erodes, all might be lost were this young woman not lover and fighter both. Nutting’s work creates a solid impression of Celeste’s psychopathic nature but, unlike the much richer Lolita, leaves the reader feeling empty. Agent: Jim Rutman, Sterling Lord Literistic. (July)

BookPage Reviews

Into the mind of a predator

Readers who insist that characters must be “likable” for them to enjoy a story had best steer clear of Alissa Nutting’s debut novel, Tampa, a black comedy whose protagonist’s soul is as dark as a thunderstorm at midnight. But for those of a more adventuresome literary bent who are looking for a frank—and often, frankly funny—glimpse into the troubled mind of a female sexual predator, this swiftly paced novel will generate as many intriguing questions about contemporary sexual mores as it does laughs.

Inspired by the true story of Debra Lafave, a Tampa middle-school teacher charged in 2004 with “lewd and lascivious battery” for engaging in sex with a student, the novel is narrated by her fictional doppelgänger, Celeste Price, a 26-year-old teacher who’s entered the profession solely to gain access to sexual prey. She soon fixes on Jack Patrick, a 14-year-old student in her English class, where most of the tutelage involves works of literature with strong sexual themes. It doesn’t take long for them to begin a lust-fueled affair, one that unsurprisingly provokes strong emotions in Jack, while allowing Celeste to sate an appetite for sex that’s like “seafood with the shortest imaginable half-life, needing to be peeled and eaten the moment the urge ripened.”

Take note: Nutting’s descriptions of Celeste’s frequent sexual encounters with her adolescent lover are graphic, even shocking. Equally disturbing is the darkness at the core of Celeste’s being, a depravity that allows her to watch impassively as a character dies of a heart attack or coolly assess how she’ll bring her affair with Jack to what she knows from the beginning will be its inevitable end.

Nutting has taken a considerable risk in tackling such a transgressive subject at a point in her career when she’s being discovered by most readers for the first time. But a novel can’t succeed based only on a bold premise. It’s a tribute to Nutting’s considerable talent that she adds style and wit to make this a convincing, if deeply troubling, story.

BAM Customer Reviews