×

Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

I'm Not Scared
     

I'm Not Scared

4.2 10
by Niccolo Ammaniti
 

See All Formats & Editions

“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,

Overview

“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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A suspense story as gripping as any Hitchcock classic.” —The Washington Post

“Niccolò Ammaniti is talented, and his descriptions of the sun-baked Italian earth give off a heat that singes the reader’s fingertips. . . . Enjoy this book right down to its bittersweet Faulknerian ending.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Ammaniti [has an] almost cinematic ability to conjure detail . . . utterly convincing.” —The New Yorker

“This book is breathless, and surprising, to the last word.” —The Baltimore Sun

The New Yorker
Ammaniti is one of Italy's most acclaimed younger writers, and this carefully constructed thriller is the first of his books to appear here. During a piercingly hot summer, a few kilometres from a bone-dry hamlet in rural Tuscany, a shy, nervy, nine-year-old boy called Michele explores a derelict house and discovers, under moldering leaves, a horrifying secret. The novel is saved from sensationalism by Ammaniti's almost cinematic ability to conjure detail -- the look of scraps of meat on a plate, the sheen of a new bike, the whispers of adults in the night -- and by his utterly convincing re-creation of a child's perspective, as Michele's discovery propels him into ever more uncertain territory.
Publishers Weekly
This gripping American debut by Italian novelist Ammaniti captures well the vagaries of childhood: the shifting alliances, the casual betrayals and the mix of helplessness and earnest audacity with which children confront adult situations. Nine-year-old Michele Amitrano lives with his little sister, devoted mother and distant father in a rural Italian hamlet consisting of five dilapidated houses. In the sweltering summer of 1978, he and a group of his friends strike out on their bikes across the barren, scorched hills. While exploring an abandoned house, Michele discovers what he believes to be the dead body of a boy his own age. He cannot bring himself to tell his friends. When he tries to tell his father, the elder Amitrano brushes him off. Drawn back to the site, Michele discovers that the boy is not dead, but weak, disoriented and unable to account for his presence there. Michele brings the boy food and water and slowly learns more about him. The boy's story-which includes kidnapping and ransom-are too much for a nine-year-old to fathom and involve virtually every adult in the tiny community. Yet Michele decides that he must do something to help the boy. Part mystery, part morality play, the novel is written in simple, spare prose. The characters, particularly that of Michele, spring to life, and the story builds to a heart-stopping climax. Readers will find this accomplished work hard to put down and even harder to forget. (Feb.) Forecast: This novel was a bestseller in Italy, and while that doesn't usually translate into U.S. sales, Ammaniti's masterful use of suspense should help win him an American following. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
KLIATT
Italian author Ammaniti paints a picture of Southern Italy that is sweltering, claustrophobic, and rife with desperation and despair. Speaking from the vantage point of adulthood, the narrator, now in his thirties, remembers the summer when he was nine years old. He captures the cruelty, the fears, and the confusion of childhood. Michele, the narrator, is bound to a group of friends from his village. The alliances they make shift, turn, and reform. While exploring the neighboring hills on their bikes, Michele and his friends come upon an abandoned house. Michele, in a moment of gallantry, takes the punishment intended for a girl in the group. In performing the dangerous "forfeit," Michele discovers what appears to be a dead boy concealed in a hole. However, the boy is alive—very weak, disoriented, and seemingly out of his head. Michele takes pity on him and begins a series of regular visits during which he provides food and water and the boy tells Michele about himself. Michele soon discovers that the boy is a kidnap victim and the kidnappers are close at hand. The secrets he uncovers are terrible and shatter his world completely. The childhood need for trust and security are all but destroyed and Michele enters a new world. He has come of age far too soon, and in a way that leaves him scarred. But, he has survived and that is the most important lesson he learns. This morality tale (which was recently made into a film) is also a mystery and a literary portrait of a place and the people who make it their home. It is slow going, particularly at the beginning. However, if the reader is willing to stick with the story, the effort pays off. KLIATT Codes: A—Recommended for advancedstudents and adults. 2003, Random House, Anchor Books, 200p., Ages 17 to adult.
—Joseph DeMarco
Kirkus Reviews
A boy in rural southern Italy learns about crime firsthand when he discovers that his own father is part of a kidnapping gang. Rich in setting and detail, Ammaniti's third, his first to be published here, rests contentedly on its YA bedrock. Michele Amitrano is nine when one hot summer day in 1978 he falls-literally-onto a boy his own age being held prisoner, chained in the bottom of a deep pit out in the country. Michele is with a group of four or five kids from his village-including his five-year-old sister Maria-when he plummets out of a tree right onto the hidden pit, which is covered by a mattress and sheet of corrugated Fiberglas, but he decides at once not to tell any of them ("He was mine. He was my secret discovery"). How, though, could Michele have known that changes at home-his truck-driver father having recently come back to stay instead of making more long hauls, for example-were connected with the bound and bloodied boy in the pit (Filippo Carducci by name, as Michele will learn from the TV news)? The arrival-as a houseguest, the children are told-of an old man named Sergio Materia, and then the gatherings of still other men, who argue angrily among themselves around the dining table into the wee hours-all are ominous signs. After Michele is discovered out at the pit trying to comfort Filippo, not only is he beaten up by gang-helper Felice ("Felice Natale was Skull's big brother. If Skull was bad, Felice was a thousand times worse"), he's made to swear never to go back to the pit again, since if he does, his father says, Filippo will certainly be shot. But Michele promised Filippo he'd return. Which will prove stronger: oath to father or promise to the boy? Either way,something terrible is going to happen. Readable and slight.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400075638
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/09/2004
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
208
Product dimensions:
5.16(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.58(d)

Read an Excerpt

One

I was just about to overtake Salvatore when I heard my sister scream. I turned and saw her disappear, swallowed up by the wheat that covered the hill.

I shouldn't have brought her along. Mama would be furious with me. I stopped. I was sweaty. I got my breath back and called to her: 'Maria? Maria?'

A plaintive little voice answered me: 'Michele.'

'Have you hurt yourself?'

'Yes, come here.'

'Where've you hurt yourself?'

'On the leg.'

She was faking, she was tired. I'm going on, I said to myself. But what if she really was hurt? Where were the others?

I saw their tracks in the wheat. They were rising slowly, in parallel lines, like the fingers of a hand, towards the top of the hill, leaving a wake of trampled stalks behind them.

The wheat was high that year. In late spring it had rained a lot, and by mid-June the stalks were higher and more luxuriant than ever. They grew densely packed, heavy-eared, ready to be harvested.

Everything was covered in wheat. The low hills rolled away like the waves of a golden ocean. As far as the horizon nothing but wheat, sky, crickets, sun and heat.

I had no idea how hot it was, degrees centigrade don't mean much to a nine-year-old, but I knew it wasn't normal.

That damned summer of 1978 has gone down in history as one of the hottest of the century. The heat got into the stones, crumbled the earth, scorched the plants and killed the livestock, made the houses sweltering. When you picked the tomatoes in the vegetable garden they had no juice and the zucchini were small and hard. The sun took away your breath, your strength, your desire to play, everything. And it was just as unbearable at night.

At Acqua Traverse the grown-ups didn't leave the houses till six in the evening. They shut themselves up indoors with the blinds drawn. Only we children ventured out into the fiery deserted countryside.

My sister Maria was five and followed me as stubbornly as a little mongrel rescued from a dog pound.

'I want to do what you do,' she always said. Mama backed her up.

'Are you or are you not her big brother?' And there was nothing for it, I had to take her along.

No one had stopped to help her.

After all, it was a race.

'Straight up the hill. No curves. No following each other. No stopping. Last one there pays a forfeit,' Skull had decided and he had conceded to me: 'All right, your sister's not in the race. She's too small.'

'I'm not too small!' Maria had protested. 'I want to race too!' And then she had fallen down.

Pity, I was lying third.

First was Antonio. As usual.

Antonio Natale, known as Skull. Why we called him Skull I can't remember. Maybe because once he had stuck a skull on his arm, one of those transfers you bought at the tobacconist's and fixed on with water. Skull was the oldest in the gang. Twelve years old. And he was the chief. He liked giving orders and if you didn't obey he turned nasty. He was no Einstein, but he was big, strong and brave. And he was going up that hill like a goddamn bulldozer.

Second was Salvatore.

Salvatore Scardaccione was nine, the same age as me. We were classmates. He was my best friend. Salvatore was taller than me. He was a loner. Sometimes he came with us but often he kept to himself. He was brighter than Skull, and could easily have deposed him, but he wasn't interested in becoming chief. His father, the Avvocato Emilio Scardaccione, was a big shot in Rome. And had a lot of money stashed away in Switzerland. That's what they said, anyway.

Then there was me, Michele. Michele Amitrano. And I was third that time, yet again. I had been going well, but now, thanks to my sister, I was at a standstill.

I was debating whether to turn back or leave her there, when I found myself in fourth place. On the other side of the ridge that duffer Remo Marzano had overtaken me. And if I didn't start climbing again straight away Barbara Mura would overtake me too.

That would be awful. Overtaken by a girl. And a fat one too.

Barbara Mura was scrambling up on all fours like a demented sow. All sweaty and covered in earth.

'Hey, aren't you going back for your little sister? Didn't you hear her? She's hurt herself, poor little thing,' she grunted happily. For once it wasn't going to be her who paid the forfeit.

'I'm going, I'm going . . . And I'll beat you too.' I couldn't admit defeat to her just like that.

I turned and started back down, waving my arms and whooping like a Sioux. My leather sandals slipped on the wheat. I fell down on my backside a couple of times.

I couldn't see her. 'Maria! Maria! Where are you?'

'Michele . . .'

There she was. Small and unhappy. Sitting on a ring of broken stalks. Rubbing her ankle with one hand and holding her glasses in the other. Her hair was stuck to her forehead and her eyes were moist. When she saw me she twisted her mouth and swelled up like a turkey.

'Michele?'

'Maria, you've made me lose the race! I told you not to come, damn you.' I sat down. 'What have you done?'

'I tripped up. I hurt my foot and . . .' She threw her mouth wide open, screwed up her eyes, shook her head and exploded into a wail: 'My glasses! My glasses are broken!'

I could have thumped her. It was the third time she had broken her glasses since school had finished. And every time, who did mama blame?

'You've got to look after your sister, you're her big brother.'

'Mama, I . . .'

'I don't want to hear any of your excuses. It hasn't sunk into your head yet, but I don't find money in the vegetable garden. The next time you break those glasses I'll give you such a hiding . . .'

They had snapped in the middle, where they had already been stuck together once before. They were a write-off.

Meanwhile my sister kept on crying.

'Mama . . . She'll be cross . . . What are we going to do?'

'What else can we do? Stick them together with Scotch tape. Up you get, come on.'

'They look horrible with Scotch tape. Really horrible. I don't like them.'

I put the glasses in my pocket. Without them my sister couldn't see a thing, she had a squint and the doctor had said she would have to have an operation before she grew up. 'Never mind. Up you get.'

She stopped crying and started sniffing. 'My foot hurts.'

'Where?' I kept thinking of the others, they must have reached the top of the hill ages ago. I was last. I only hoped Skull wouldn't make me do too tough a forfeit. Once when I had lost a bike race he had made me run through nettles.

'Where does it hurt?'

'Here.' She showed me her ankle.

'You've twisted it. It's nothing. It'll soon stop hurting.'

I unlaced her trainer and took it off very carefully. As a doctor would have done. 'Is that better?'

'A bit. Shall we go home? I'm terribly thirsty. And mama . . .'

She was right. We had come too far. And we had been out too long. It was way past lunchtime and mama would be on the lookout at the window.

I wasn't looking forward to our return home.

But who would have thought it a few hours earlier.

That morning we had gone off on our bikes.

Usually we went for short rides, round the houses. We cycled as far as the edges of the fields, the dried-up stream, and raced each other back.

My bike was an old boneshaker, with a patched-up saddle, and so high I had to lean right over to touch the ground.

Everyone called it 'the Crock'. Salvatore said it was the bike the Alpine troops had used in the war. But I liked it, it was my father's.

If we didn't go cycling we stayed in the street playing football, steal-the-flag, or one-two-three-star, or lounged under the shed roof doing nothing.

We could do whatever we liked. No cars ever went by. There were no dangers. And the grown-ups stayed shut up indoors, like toads waiting for the heat to die down.

Time passed slowly. By the end of the summer we were longing for school to start again.

That morning we had been talking about Melichetti's pigs.

We often talked about Melichetti's pigs. Rumour had it old Melichetti trained them to savage hens, and sometimes rabbits and cats he found by the roadside.

Skull spat out a spray of white saliva. 'I've never told you till now. Because I couldn't say. But now I will tell you: those pigs ate Melichetti's daughter's dachshund.'

A general chorus arose: 'No, they couldn't have!'

'They did. I swear on the heart of the Madonna. Alive. Completely alive.'

'It's not possible!'

What sort of monsters must they be to eat a pedigree dog?

Skull nodded. 'Melichetti threw it into the pigsty. The dachshund tried to get away, they're crafty animals, but Melichetti's pigs are craftier. Didn't give him a chance. Torn to shreds in two seconds.' Then he added: 'Worse than wild boars.'

Barbara asked him: 'But why did he throw it to them?'

Skull thought for a moment. 'It pissed in the house. And if you fall in there, you fat lump, they'll strip all the flesh off you, right down to the bone.'

Maria stood up. 'Is Melichetti crazy?.

Skull spat on the ground again. 'Crazier than his pigs.'

We were silent for a few moments imagining Melichetti's daughter with such a wicked father. None of us knew her name, but she was famous for having a sort of iron brace round one leg.

'We could go and see them!' I suggested suddenly.

'An expedition!' said Barbara.

'It's a long way away, Melichetti's farm. It'd take ages,' Salvatore grumbled.

'No, it isn't, it's not far at all, let's go . . .' Skull got on his bike. He never missed a chance to put Salvatore down.

I had an idea. 'Why don't we take a hen from Remo's chicken run, so when we get there we can throw it into the pigsty and see how they tear it apart?'

'Brilliant!' Skull approved.

'But papa will kill me if we take one of his hens,' Remo wailed.

It was no use, the idea was a really good one.

We went into the chicken run, chose the thinnest, scrawniest hen and stuck it in a bag.

And off we went, all six of us and the hen, to see those famous pigs of Melichetti's, and we pedalled along between the wheatfields, and as we pedalled the sun rose and roasted everything.

Salvatore was right, Melichetti's farm was a long way away. By the time we got there we were parched and our heads were boiling.

Melichetti was sitting, with sunglasses on, in a rusty old rocking chair under a crooked beach umbrella.

The house was falling to pieces and the roof had been roughly patched up with tin and tar. In the farmyard there was a heap of rubbish: wheels, a rusty Bianchina, some bottomless chairs, a table with one leg missing. On an ivy-covered wooden post hung some cows' skulls, worn by the rain and sun. And a smaller skull with no horns. Goodness knows what animal that came from.

A great big dog, all skin and bone, barked on a chain.

Behind the house were some corrugated iron huts and the pigsties, on the edge of a gravina.

Gravinas are small canyons, long crevasses dug by the water in the rock. White spires, rocks and pointed crags protrude from the red earth. Inside, twisted olive trees, arbutuses and holly often grow, and there are caves where the shepherds put their sheep.

Melichetti looked like a mummy. His wrinkled skin hung off him, and he was hairless, except for a white tuft in the middle of his chest. Round his neck he had an orthopaedic collar fastened with green elastic bands, and he was wearing black shorts and brown plastic flipflops.

He had seen us arrive on our bikes, but he didn't move. We must have seemed like a mirage to him. Nobody ever passed by on that road, except the occasional truck carrying hay.

There was a smell of piss. And millions of horseflies. They didn't bother Melichetti. They settled on his head and round his eyes, like they do on cows. Only if they got on his lips did he react, puffing them away.

Skull stepped forward. 'Signore, we're thirsty. Have you got any water?'

Iwas worried, because a man like Melichetti was liable to shoot you, throw you to the pigs, or give you poisoned water to drink. Papa had told me about a guy in America who had a pond where he kept crocodiles, and if you stopped to ask him the way he would ask you in, knock you on the head and feed you to the crocodiles. And when the police had come, rather than go to prison he had let his pets tear him to pieces. Melichetti could easily be that sort of guy.

The old man raised his sunglasses. 'What are you doing here, kids? Aren't you a bit far from home?'

'Signor Melichetti, is it true you fed your dachshund to the pigs?' Barbara piped up.

I could have died. Skull turned and gave her a glare of hatred. Salvatore kicked her in the shin.

Melichetti burst out laughing, had a fit of coughing and nearly choked. When he had recovered he said: 'Who tells you these daft stories, little girl?'

Barbara pointed at Skull: 'He does!'

Skull blushed, hung his head and looked at his shoes.

I knew why Barbara had said it.

A few days earlier we had had a stone-throwing competition and Barbara had lost. As a forfeit Skull had ordered her to unbutton her shirt and show us her breasts. Barbara was eleven. She had a small bosom, just flea-bites, nothing to what she would have in a couple of years' time. She had refused. 'If you don't, you can forget about coming with us any more,' Skull had threatened her. I had felt bad about it, the forfeit wasn't fair. I didn't like Barbara, as soon as she got the chance she would try to pull a fast one on you, but showing her tits, no, that seemed too much.

Skull had decided: 'Either show us your tits or get lost.'

And Barbara, without a word, had gone ahead and unbuttoned her shirt.

I couldn't help looking at them. They were the first tits I had seen in my life, except for mama's. Maybe once, when she had come to stay with us, I had seen my cousin Evelina's, she was ten years older than me. Anyway, I had already formed an idea of the sort of tits I liked, and Barbara's I didn't like at all. They looked like scamorzas, folds of skin, not much different from the rolls of fat on her stomach.

Meet the Author

Niccolo Ammaniti was born in Rome in 1966. This is his third novel and he has also published a collection of stories. At thirty-four, he was the youngest ever winner of the prestigious Viareggio-Repaci prize for I’m Not Scared which has already been sold into twenty languages.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

I'm Not Scared 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great!
ZyskoKid More than 1 year ago
Can a nine-year-old be brave? Brave enough to try to save the life of another boy? Niccolo Ammaniti's little, 200-page mystery is one you'll read in one sitting. You'll have to. You'll just have to find out what happens when young Michele makes an amazing discovery as he and his friends are out exploring in the Italian countryside where they live. Ammaniti captures Italian family life, community tension, childhood fears and blunders that anyone who has been a child will identify with. Best of all is how he puts readers inside the mind of his nine-year-old hero. He lets us see how someone who is just a boy knows the difference between right and wrong and is willing to risk the consequences of doing what his heart tells him he must. This is not a new work but one first published in Italian in 2001 and translated into English by Jonathan Hunt in 2003. That "I'm Not Scared" has been translated into 20 languages should tell you how good a read it is.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Quite simply an amazing read. I didn't think Ammaniti's book would grip me in the way that it did. He can really tell a story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I liked the book, but i just don't understand what happens in the end!! i'm trying to do a school project on this book and how am i meant to write an essay on a book with no ending!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book so much! I was so inspired that I wrote a paper in school. I would definately recommend this book, however it isn't a fairy tale. Very truthful and realistic!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The description of the book left me very curious as to what this book was about. I wasn't thrilled to have a book that had been translated, figuring it would be difficult to follow. This was not. I absolutely thought this was well worth my time. I can not imagine being in Michele's shoes. He is so very brave. He is a small hero in this world. I fell in love with him. I have read different reviews on the ending of this book and have to say I thought it was very well done. For me there we're no questions. I didn't think the ending was very predictable. What I would have expected to happen didn't. This book is 200 pages, reads more like a short story. Well, worth your time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A friend loaned me this book. It took me a couple of months to pick it up, but then I couldn't put it down. The ending is well-done, leaving enough questions that you are unable to put it out of your mind.
Guest More than 1 year ago
...it was a very good read ...until you get to that last page...the one where you want to KNOW what has happened!!! In this book...the reader is left to imagine it for themselves. Too many things left unanswered. :( I have an imagination but in books I like to be TOLD what happens... geez.