on 13 April 2006
Michele Amitrano is living the life of a normal nine year old boy, in his tiny village of four houses, until one day, whilst completing a bet, he stumbles on something so secret and so unbelievable, he has no choice but to keep it all to himself. A discovery that challenges his view of his family, his friends, and ultimately sends him riding his bike down a dusty trail of blackmail, hatred and murder.
I picked up this book in a special edition copy for 99p, making it the cheapest book ever that kept me awake until the following morning. Ammaniti's nostalgic and painfully accurate portrayal of childhood is set against a devastating and heart rendering story of the bitterness and corruption of the real world, and of a society willing to do anything for a better way of life.
The portrayal of this world seen through a child's eyes, a child so real he lives on in the reader's mind long after the book is put down, adds a chilling aspect of innocence to an otherwise dark story. Ammaniti leads the reader seamlessly from an idealistic world and in one moment buries them in confusion and terror.
An excellent read! Buy it, read it, and let it live in your memory, and your bookcase reading to beautifully chill you again and again.
on 17 November 2006
Brilliant and thought provoking, this book belies its appearance as a short, simply written novel. I loved its spare prose style as it made the events that happen even more stark and powerful. And it conjures up the nature of children's friendships really well, while drawing a vivid picture of Italian rural life. The intensity of the summer is reflected in the intensity of the book's events. On the surface it's a simply told tale, but also speaks of the betrayal of childhood and the nature of the parent-child relationship. The book turns on its head all notion of what is normal, with the essence of good and evil explored subtly and with devastating effect.
on 1 May 2007
The cover of this particular edition may be charmingly rustic, but the rural Italy of this short novel is entirely devoid of charm. It is flat, largely featureless, impoverished and peopled by people on the edge of criminality. Criminal or not, all its inhabitants dream of escaping to the tower blocks and diversions of the big city.
The story is narrated by a young boy who makes an alarming discovery outside an old abandoned house. Being very young, he does not immediately comprehend the meaning of his discovery, but as the days and weeks go by he is forced to confront a series of disturbing truths about all those around him.
This is short, a pacy read. The boy's voice is authentic and the setting believable. A bundled-up ending spoils what is otherwise a very good book.
Reportedly, the Italian film version (2003) was not bad either.
on 1 March 2008
When you discover the 'secret' behind our protagonist's accidental find, it will chill you to the bone - well, it did me. I read this book in 2 sittings and on the night in between, I was dreaming about it, so dark and dastardly are its machinations.
That said, I found this thrilling page-turner to be a bit of a let down as regards the ending. So many loose ends left untied, and such a sudden finish it's almost as if the author ran out of paper. Nonetheless, a dark-hearted tale with plenty of panache.
on 23 May 2007
This is a little gem of a book which made me want to keep reading, in fact I read it all at one sitting as it is not a long book. I love the way the author shows an understanding of the way children view the world and the innocence of their actions. The main character, Michele is a wilful boy but is caring and kind and does what is right even though he is scared. The theme is about the bad things adults do and the mess they can get into, while the child sees instinctively what has to be done. I don't want to tell you the plot and spoil it for you but there is a warmth and poignancy in the story which will delight you.
on 19 May 2013
First off, I actually agree with a lot of what is written in the more positive reviews on this page. There is a lot to like here, and were it not for one huge glaring error (in my eyes at least) this novel would have been pretty enjoyable. The novel is written as a retrospective of a man who at the time of writing is at least 30 years old. This retrospective isn't used for anything other than making the final outcome of the novel a partial certainty and sucking a great deal of suspension out of the story. The author doesn't use this retrospective to reflect upon the happenings of the novel in anyway, and not even the age difference between the time of the events of the novel and the present in which the main character is telling his story, is in any way apparent. It could just as well have been told the weekend after the events of the book, and that just makes the retrospective seem like a pointless gimmick with little purpose other than referring to a skiing trip that happened later in the life of the main character.
Not an awful novel by any means, but with a little bit of clever editing, it could have been so much better.
on 24 February 2003
I am extremely pleased to see that this wonderful book has finally got its greatly deserved english translation. A literary sensation in Italy two years ago, Ammaniti's "I'm not scared" is a tale of an uspeakable crime, unfortunately still all too common in Italy: the kidnapping (for ransom) of a young kid from a rich family, his hiding, in inhumane conditions, in an abandoned shack somewhere in the wheat fields of Puglia. But it is also the tale of another kid, Michele, who during that summer will see his innocence and childhood smashed in the cruellest of ways, and will have to face moral dilemmas that go well beyond his years and his understanding.
While the originality and the power of the plot are striking, the real strength of the book lies, in my opinion, in the vivid descriptions that make places, emotions and events literally jump at you and envelop you in the torrid, claustrophobic, incomprehensible and frightening world that is Michele's in those hot summer days and nights. Ammaniti has an incredible talent for descriptions, but he also has an impressive 'eye' and 'ear' for childhood and this has to be one of the best books about childhood by and for adults that you read in years. A definite winner.
on 9 February 2004
I picked this book purely by chance and started reading it without any preceptions as I had never heard of the author before and certainly never read any of his other works. Within the first couple of pages I realised that this was going to be one of those books that you simply can't put down! Set in Italy during one of the hottest summers of the 20th century, the story is told through the eyes of Michele, a 9 year-old boy, who lives in a tiny village with his younger sister, his mother and his frequently absent father. During the hot weather, the adults of the village stay indoors throughout the day and Michele, his sister and the local children are left to do as they please. They wander around the wheatfields, performing dares and taking forfeits. Killer pigs, little wash-bears and monsters are all part of their perceptions of the world around them but betrayal, fear, loyalty and social status are all very real powers within their lives. Whilst exploring at the edge of the gang's territory, Michele makes a terrible discovery and takes a course of action which underpins the whole novel. The author's ability to view the world through Michele's eyes is quite wonderful. The book was particulary poignant for me as I was the same age as Michele in the year the book is set (1978) and although our lives could not have been more different, it was enlightening to remember I too saw the world in the way he describes. In fact, I had forgotten how cruel and confusing childhood can be! As an adult reader, you make inferences which put the lives of the adults in a larger social context of the time but Michele, as a 9 year old, is too young to understand much of this and it is not stated in the novel, merely left for the reader to pick up. Despite his innocence, his courage and strong sense of justice make you stay firmly with him thoughout the book and his integrity seems to only falter when a Subbuteo team is within his grasp! It's succinct 195 pages mean that there is not one wasted word, or unnecessary comment and it keeps you on tenter hooks throughout. The ending comes all too soon (I read this book in two sittings) and is startling and dramatic. A great read but it reminds me more of the film 'Stand By Me' than 'The Blair Witch Project'.
on 11 June 2004
I was prompted to buy I'm Not Scared after reading the review for the film (released 11/6/04) in The Times. Right from the outset the book grips the reader. The book is very fast paced and portrays a brutally honest account of a young boy's (Michele, 9) childhood and realisation of the evil in the world around him. The book has similarities to the Lord of the Flies, not least with the mounting of a chicken on a stick as a flag. However here it is not the children who have lost their innocence. I highly recommend this book!
Nine-year-old Michele Amitrano and his friends have little to do one very hot summer besides explore the Italian countryside around them. When the leader of their little gang, Skull, forces Michele to go off on his own in an abandoned house after a forfeit, he makes a discovery that is destined to change his perception of his friends, family, and life itself.
The outside of this book promised that it would be scary, but it wasn't at all in the way that I'd expected, and to be honest I vastly preferred what I got to what I expected. Rather than a scary book in superficial ways, this is a book about human nature, about a boy discovering what adults can do to other little boys just like him. Michele's loss of his childhood innocence is totally heartbreaking, but riveting. I can understand why this book kept others up all night to find out what happens next. I myself read it in just one day. It's a very absorbing read.
This is also a beautifully written book. I don't know whether to give credit to the author or the translator, but I could feel the heat of that Italian summer, see the wheat fields and the abandoned farmhouse, just as I could see inside Michele's realistically wrought child mind. Michele is almost unbelievably genuine, which of course only adds to the emotional impact of the book, especially the ending. He watches as the people he trusted turn out to be fallible, which everyone realizes eventually, but hardly in this way. And of course it isn't only the adults he's already wary of, but those he loves and trusts.
From the adults' perspective, I think the novel shows the desperation people have to make their lives better. Apparently crimes of this type (I'm being vague, but I think it's worth not knowing) are still commonplace, and that only makes it all sadder. They want to move to northern Italy, which is richer, but it seems they'll do almost anything to achieve it. I was left wondering if it was worth the sacrifice, and perhaps glad that at least one of the adults may have finally realized the amount of harm he was doing.
I would definitely recommend I'm Not Scared to anyone with an interest in thoughtful thrillers. It's a gripping read with strong emotional impact that will leave you considering what happened for days afterwards. I'm looking forward to my next book by Ammaniti.