Youth can’t be maintained forever. This theme has been done often enough in fiction, referring to the lead character. Alissa Nutting’s Tampa subverts this by introducing a narrator who tries to maintain her lovers’ youth. Celeste Price is a twenty-six-year-old teacher of high school English. Her preferred lovers are fourteen-year-old male students.
This is not a romance, nor presented as one. Instead, it’s a tale of psychological suspense, even a crime thriller – you know something bad will go down, but how is less certain.
Celeste’s voice grips right away, and though one can’t condone her perversion, she’s a great teacher, really engaging the classes in the core texts. And though she initially does it for selfish reasons, she seems to care about a fellow teacher’s wellbeing. She’s not the type of person to have friends, but Janet is the closest.
Tampa is a sordid tale with a sharp voice and strong narrator. Celeste Price is a fully-formed anti-hero, who’s as smart, funny, and just plain interesting as she is depraved. Tampa may be marketed as literary fiction, but it’s a modern noir with a particularly memorable femme fatale. I’m so looking forward to whatever Alissa Nutting writes next.