Though the novel’s subject matter is controversial, Tampa is also impeccably written, full of smart cultural observations, and no small amount of wit. Tampa is far bigger than the buzz, and more significant than the catchwords that will inevitably be attached to it … This is a novel about sexual deviance, relentlessness, and desire. It is compelling and disturbing, much like Lolita. Wrongs are committed, and flagrantly, but Nutting commits to her premise without wavering and demands the reader do so, too.
Through Celeste's eyes, no one except her young targets, particularly the inexperienced and sensitive Jack Patrick, is quite human, nor does the world hold much beauty, except when she finds herself in the throes of her perversions. Her sociopathic view of the world is a flat, bleak rendering where people more closely resemble machines and where their feelings are inconvenient, if they are detected at all … Tampa is erotic fiction: With Celeste at the narrative helm, we are brought quickly and irretrievably into her singular, compulsive and insatiable mind-set. We watch through parted fingers as she uses her looks as a weapon to both mollify her targets and shield herself from punishment. In this sly and salacious work, Nutting forces us to take a long, unflinching look at a deeply disturbed mind, and more significantly, at society's often troubling relationship with female beauty.
Tampa seems to belong to the literary-fiction-infused-with-sex, Rothian genre—a novel with titillating interludes but also a core idea: how much less disturbing we find relationships between grown women and young boys than those between men and underage girls...but Tampa’s challenge to that the double standard is not especially potent. Because its sexual content is both highly graphic and purposefully off-putting, it occupies uneasy, unresolved territory between erotica and satire … Unmitigated monstrosity is not the most incisive means of approaching the subject of female pedophilia. By making Celeste essentially inhuman, a satirical cartoon of a predator, Nutting avoids the tangled issues of power that lie beneath cultural norms for gender and sex. If Celeste were complicated beyond her fixation, the novel would be more erotic, more transgressive, and sharper in its commentary.