Me and You is a slender story you can probably read in an evening, but it has a quiet, insistent emotional intensity that means that however quickly you read it, it will stay with you forever.
Set in modern day Italy, it's the story of two teens, the time they spend together in the basement of an apartment building and the imprint that time leaves on both of their lives. Lorenzo Cumi is 14 and doesn't fit in. He is a loner whose parents value social success; Lorenzo wants his parents to think he's popular at school, so he invents friendships, anecdotes, parties. He goes so far as to fabricate a story about having been invited on a ski trip, but he wasn't, so when he's supposed to be away he's actually hiding out in the basement which he's prepared with food, music, things to keep him busy. But what he doesn't expect is the arrival of his beautiful, troubled older stepsister Olivia with problems all her own. Suddenly the difficulty of maintaining the lie of the trip is coupled with keeping Olivia at bay, covering her presence and getting along with her moment to moment.
The first time he meets Olivia, who is his estranged father's daughter with his new wife, he is drawn to her:
I had expected Olivia to be ugly and with an unpleasant face like Cinderella's stepsisters. Instead she was incredibly beautiful, one of those girls that as soon as you look at them your face burns red and everybody knows you think she is beautiful, and if she talks to you, you don't know what to do with your hands, you don't even know how to sit down. She had lots of curly blonde hair that fell all the way down her back and grey eyes, and she was sprinkled with freckles, just like me. She was tall and had big, wide breasts. She could have been the queen of a medieval kingdom.But she's in trouble, and so is Lorenzo if his parents find out he's not on the trip. So the idyll he had planned for himself turns into a nightmare.
Me and You is an incredibly beautiful book. The ending is sad and probably predictable, but if you happen to see this little book in the bookstore I would urge you to pick it up if you like coming of age stories. I've already added Ammaniti's As God Commands to my to-be-read pile, and I'll be on the lookout for anything else from this wonderful writer.
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review.