It is impossible to read this book without considering the vastly different ways in which male and female sexual predators are presented in the media. Celeste Price is without a doubt, a voracious sexual predator. Her appetite for teenage boys on the cusp of adolescence is the primary driving force of her life. Everything she does – her decision to become an eighth-grade teacher, her extensive beauty regime, her decision to marry a man she can control – are all so that she can continue her relentless sexual pursuit of these boys. Though told by Celeste in the first person, she does not offer any justification for her actions as a pedophile, and does not identify herself as such. She considers that she is simply what she is and strives to fulfill her need.
The novel begins with Celeste taking her first teaching role. She studies the boys in her classes, looking for the ideal child to groom:
“I dunno,” another football player said. I confess I didn’t trouble myself with learning their names or distinguishing one from another. Physically, they were far too developed to be appealing – their growth spurts were finished, their muscles already wrought into the structured mold of the finished male form.
I was absolutely appalled to see this novel classified as a ‘beach read’. Again, the offhand way that female sexual predators are treated is horrifying. I think the author does a wonderful job of presenting the monstrous character of Celeste Price in a way that appears honest, without seeking to justify or excuse her actions. Her need to seek out young boys for sex is not shown as a preference, but as a base need, which confronted my own belief that sexual offenders make a choice to offend. The author is certainly not excusing the character’s behaviour, but simply lays the story out for interpretation. The real irony is found in the way Celeste’s victims are not treated by the media and society as such:
On one talk show … a picture from my early college modeling days appeared behind them on a large screen – I was bikini clad, lounging on the hood of a sports car, my blonde hair fanned back in the wind. “If you were a teenage male,” the commentator began, pointing a leering finger back at the photo, “would you call a sexual experience with her abuse?”
Celeste’s single minded pursuit of her victims without any real regard for the consequences and inevitable outcomes was confronting, but overall I found the book to be interesting and well written.