The story, set in Bologna, veers between impressionistic accounts of 16-year-old Alex's search for love, thrills, and a purpose in life, and transcripts of his annoyingly affected tape-recorded diary. Alex is, of course, alienated from his family, who apparently do nothing but watch television, eat, and drive Alex wherever he can't take himself on his bicyclethis last a relic of his childhood that comes to symbolize his quest for enduring values. When not flying through Bolognese streets on the bike and thinking of himself in rock bands, or as Holden Caulfield, Alex plays the rebel without a clue: sleeping late, scowling menacingly at girls, drinking too much, and nearly failing what few high school classes he doesn't cut. He suffers a brief friendship with Martinoan upper-middle-class teenage nihilist who has all the right clothes and rock 'n' roll posters, and enough money from his divorced parents to spend most of his life intoxicatedthat ends when Martino is arrested and commits suicide. The tale's only variation from earlier interpretations of the coming-of-age formula is revealed in Alex's inability to have sexual feelings for Adelaide, who raises him from his gloom like a Beatrice to Dante. Alas, Aidi departs for a year of foreign study in America. Alex tenderly gives her his security blanket as a keepsake and zooms tearfully away on his bike.
Numerous '90s pop-culture references (the title refers to a guitarist who abruptly quit the Red Hot Chili Peppers) and insouciance that begins to grate. A big seller in Italy, we're told.