Saturday, 19 November 2011

Book Review: I'm Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti

BookI'm Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti, trans by Jonathan Hunt, Canongate Books, 208 pages, adult fiction.

Source:  Library.

Synopsis from Barnes & Noble:
“Stop all this talk about monsters, Michele. Monsters don’t exist. It’s men you should be afraid of, not monsters.”
A sweltering heat wave hits a tiny village in Southern Italy, sending the adults to seek shelter, while their children bicycle freely throughout the countryside, playing games and getting into trouble. On a dare, nine-year-old Michele Amitrano enters an old, abandoned farmhouse, where he stumbles upon a secret so terrible that he can’t tell anybody. As the truth emerges, Michele learns that the horror in the creepy old house is closer to home than he ever imagined.

A widely acclaimed international bestseller, I’m Not Scared is a spine-tingling novel that combines a coming of age narrative with a satisfying, enthralling story of suspense.

My Thoughts:
I read this book because it is this month's book club pick at my local library and I didn't know anything about it - I probably wouldn't have picked it up otherwise.  However, I'm glad I did read it, it was a fast, intense, gripping, horrifying read.

The book is told from nine year old Michele's point of view.  We get into his fights, dares and camaraderie with his friends and enter the world of young kids left to their own devices.  Ammaniti does a remarkable job of getting into Michele's head and making him seem authentic.  I could feel things like the boy's lack of understanding at what the adults are doing, how he is bound to oaths he makes with his friends and the seriousness of completing a dare.  I love the leaps in logic that Michele takes, something children do, even when he has absolutely no proof.  He is so imaginative, that he comes to crazy conclusions about what is going on around him.

When Michele makes his terrible discovery, I was horrified.  As the book went on, I got even more horrified.  Michele had a child's reaction to it, though, which is very different from an adult's - this book would never have had the same impact if told from one of the adult's point of view.  It is to the author's credit that I reacted so strongly to the story.

I really enjoyed Ammaniti's writing and Hunt's translation.  There was some amazing description and the use of words was remarkable.  This is a fairly short book and it feels like there was not an extra word added.  There were some sentences that stopped me because they were so well written.  I love reading beautiful writing like this.

I don't want to say too much about this book that would give away the plot.  I am not sure how I felt about the ending, but that's all I'll say about it.  In a way, this book reminds me of Room by Emma Donoghue, in that a terrible situation is described from a child's point of view.  I highly recommend this book for anyone who is looking for a well written, intense, short read that has some good twists and turns.

I'm Not Scared was made into a movie that you can watch on YouTube (here's the link to part 1):

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