Summer book releases show what the readers crave

TampaWHATEVER happened to reading a book about a nice girl meeting a nice guy? A hero defeating a villain? The antagonistic, the undead and sociopathic are what readers crave; influencing publishers and writers to ask: what sells?

Tampa, the first work we’ve seen from Alissa Nutting, is a book aimed towards controversy. It centres topically around the mind of an attractive, female teacher with a sexual obsession with 14-year-old boys. Celeste is narcissistic, cold-hearted, selfish and at times verging on sociopathic in her unrelenting pursuit of fulfilling her sexual desires. Nutting wants to shock, but I feel she could have taken a more interesting route with this story (a story we’ve seen in the news and media a lot over the last year) if she had given us a more ‘human’ narrator. Celeste fits in with the so-bad-it’s-good archetype but in a way that she only mildly disgusts the reader with her shameless plotting and actions; she is so fictitious that she doesn’t warrant any strong or genuine reaction from the reader. The media has taken a strong stance that all child-sex offenders are 2-dimensional sociopaths and Nutting has missed the opportunity here to take a more controversial look at the offenders her protagonists reflects as humans and to delve deeper into the psychology behind paedophilia. Instead we have a rather flat character masturbating in classrooms and simply being the wicked witch of the American classroom.

Neil Gaiman was described by Intelligent Life (a magazine from The Economist) as a ‘cult figure’ this summer and master of marginalised heroes. With this in mind any fan of Gaiman is bound to set themselves up for disappointment when beginning his newest novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane. This unnamed narrator is not on par with his previous creations such as Death and Dream in The Sandman series. But Gaiman’s cult status and previous championships of the fantasy genre should not overshadow what is a fantastically nostalgic and warming novel. The tale of a young boy, told retrospectively by his unnamed older self, captures the eeriness of an old fairy tale as well as the child in us all as we read on.

Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil GaimanMore interesting releases this summer include The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. Prepare to get caught up in the dystopian future world Shannon has created. The first of a series of seven, though wordy at times, I see a lot of potential. After going on a ‘mindfulness retreat’ I picked up Sane New World: Taming the Mind by Ruby Wax. A funny and intriguing read I recommend for anyone studying psychology or simply interested in mindfulness as a happier way of thinking and living.

Other recommended reads from this summer’s array of releases include crime thriller I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes, an absorbing insight into autism in The Reason I Jump by Japanese teenager Naoki Higashida and Margaret Atwood’s latest work MaddAddam.