Wednesday, October 10, 2012

REVIEW: Me and You, by Niccolo Ammaniti

Me and You, by Niccolo Ammaniti. Published 2012 by Black Cat Press. Literary Fiction. Translated from Italian.

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.

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review.


bermudaonion said...

Wow, what a premise. I have a feeling I know what happens, but you've made the book sound so good, I'm adding it to my wish list.

Zibilee said...

I like the sound of this one, and the fact that Lorenzo has to hide down in the basement pretending to be away with friends just gnaws at the pit of my stomach. This sounds like a masterful story. Definitely something to look for the next time I am in the bookstore.

Alexia561 said...

How sad that he has to pretend to be something he's not, to the extent of hiding out in his basement! Sounds like a good read!

Anonymous said...

It's set in Italy, it's shortish, and you loved it means I need to add this to my wish list!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Yeah, what Stacy said! That is pretty much all I need to know.

Becca said...

I like Ammaniti a lot. Have not read this one, though. I will add it to my TBR!