As soon as I finished Tampa, I took a very, very long shower. The book is disturbing and left me feeling kind of gross. Nutting's plot is based on the true case of Debra Lafave, a 24-year-old English teacher in Tampa who pleaded guilty to having sexual relations with a 14-year-old, male student. Unfortunately, that plot description was not enough to turn me away. I've seen too many readers rate Tampa with 4 stars and I wanted to give Alissa Nutting a chance. I tried to prepare for Tampa by reading lots of reviews. It was all for naught: nothing could have prepared me for this book.
A few things: (1) Nutting puts the reader into the mind of a sexual sociopath swiftly and successfully. I felt kind of sick while I was reading this (hence the need for a long shower). (2) Yeah, Nutting is a super talented writer. She's hilarious in a dark way. At points in the novel, I erupted with laughter then caved with shame in reaction to my own laughter. This gets kind of old at some point. By half way through I was no longer okay with the fact that my moral compass had seemingly evaporated over the last 100 pages. (3) In Tampa's most interesting reviews, readers argue that Nutting's portrayal of a female rapist makes for a feminist novel (or at least serves to break down stereotypical gender roles). I agree with parts of this. I read so much about male sexual abusers that it's engaging to read about a woman exerting that same (terrible, illegal, sick) power. I don't have much more to say about Tampa besides the fact that I would only recommend it with caution. And if you see anyone under 16 reading this book, tear it out of their hands.