Review: Tampa by Alissa Nutting

17225311So there is a bit of an interesting story that goes along with me deciding to read this book. I first spotted its not-so-subtle cover on the desk of my coworker. Being curious and always getting a good laugh out of overly explicit romance novels, I picked it up to see what it was about. It wasn’t quite what I expected.

Tampa is a novel about a 26-year-old English teacher who takes a job at a middle school with the sole purpose of seducing 14-year-old boys. Whoa. It’s no wonder it is one of the most controversial books to come out recently.

Many of you will know this isn’t my usual fare. The only reason I did pick it up for a read is because several weeks later, after I had arrived in New Zealand, I met a music teacher from the States and during one of our discussions about books, he brought up this one. He’s the one that convinced me to give it a shot.

So I did.

The book is very explicit and has a tendency to make you feel rather dirty and maybe a bit perverted as you read. But I don’t think I’d say any of it was written just for the sake of making the book gratuitous. The book was strongly driven by Celeste’s personal struggles: staving off a husband that repulses her, dealing with cantankerous coworkers and working to satisfy her over powering desires to be with these underage boys without being caught.

I certainly don’t condone pedophilia in anyway, shape, or form. But I think this book helps to remind us that people who do have a drive to engage in such acts are still, in fact, people. Maybe they can’t help how they feel, just like someone with a mental illness or some other health problem. It isn’t fair to simply demonize them. Perhaps instead we should help them, or at least try to understand.

That’s what I really liked about this book. It gives you the chance to look inside someone else’s mind, who thinks in a way so drastically different from your own. It’s only when we take the time to get to know someone else and see what they see that we open ourselves up to understanding something we didn’t before.

~Ren

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