I'm Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti
A bestseller throughout Europe, and soon to be released as a film, Niccolo Ammaniti's impressive I'm Not Scared is a gripping piece. Michele Amitrano is nine-years old and lives in the tiny hamlet Acqua Traverse: "Two houses on one side, two on the other. And a road, rough and full of holes, in the middle." With five other kids, including his sister Maria and Antonio Natale ("Skull was the oldest in the gang. Twelve years old. And he was the chief.") they explore the local countryside in the overwhelming summer heat. One day a dare leads Michele to a disturbing discovery, a secret he knows he must keep and which seems to involve all the village's adults, as well as the old man, Sergio Materia, who has mysteriously come to live his family. Ammaniti builds the pressure well, the writing is unfussy (the translation, by Jonathan Hunt, never wobbles) and the plot is satisfyingly oblique: the story is told from Michele's viewpoint and the exact whys and wherefores are never fully explained. Michele's "loss of innocence" is made more poignant by his fall into an adult world that never lives up to the moral transparency it so hypocritically preaches. Recommended.