Me and You by Niccolò Ammaniti
The third Ammaniti novel to be translated from Italian into English, he moves away from the thriller format he experimented with in I'm Not Scared and Steal You Away to deliver an intimate, often hilarious, and deeply affecting novel about childhood, lost innocence, and the quality of memory.
His narrator, Lorenzo, opens the novel by reading the start of a letter from his half-sister, written twelve years ago. We are immediately transported back to Lorenzo's childhood, when the letter was written. Lorenzo is a socially-awkward outcast.
Lorenzo emerges as a likable protagonist, his attempts to comprehend the social hierarchy of high school as endearing as they will be powerfully familiar to anyone isolated by the experience of being a teenager. Lorenzo ends up staying in the basement of his parents’ house, unbeknown to them, for a week. Left alone with junk food and video games, he is happy at last – until his estranged half-sister arrives, shivering and rail-thin, looking for a place to kick heroin.
What follows is a tender tale of mutual dislike and utterly despicable behaviour, slowly but surely developing into empathy, and reconnecting Lorenzo with the world at large through his growing love for his sister. Ammaniti's matter-of-fact, unadorned prose captures Lorenzo's angst-ridden, incomprehending world-view with a confident clarity, and as resolution back in the present day beckons, he plots the course of their filial relationship with a deft, understated skill. [Bram E. Gieben]