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I'm Not Scared Paperback – February 24, 2004

4.0 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From 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.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From 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.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (March 9, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400075637
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400075638
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #225,214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jessica Ferguson VINE VOICE on October 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Told through the thoughts and views of a young boy, I'm Not Scared is a searing look at the struggles and truths of childhood morality, the formidable situations many children's parents force them to face, and the untimely death of childhood trust and safety. Jonathan Hunt has translated Niccolo Ammaniti's disturbing story beautifully, capturing the hard realities of desperate and self-righteous people along with the sinister and surreal atmosphere that slowly descends around Michele and his family. A difficult book to discuss without revealing plot lines and endings, Ammaniti has, in an unusual sense, written a compelling psychological thriller and has created a story that does not end with the printed page but within the reader's own imagination.
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Format: Hardcover
I, too, read the novel in Italian and have not seen the English translation. In Italian, at least, it's an intelligent, well crafted, exciting story with beautiful language and some real edge-of-your-seat scenes. The immature perspective of the unsophisticated, underinformed boy Michele (remembered by his adult self, who narrates) is very believable. I liked how the concept of not being afraid is inserted in several different aspects, among more than one character. The contrast between the seemingly pristine surface world of endless golden wheat and the filthy conditions inside the dark hole in the ground creates a perfect metaphor for a story that, in the end, is about not being afraid to grow up, for that is what Michele does, voluntarily leaving behind the innocence of childhood to enter the shadowier moral world of "i grandi," the grownups. The novel has been made into a movie in Italy that I saw recently on DVD. Like most movies, it simplifies the plot and alters the ending somewhat, but it follows the novel fairly closely. The all-important role of Michele was well cast, and the vast dreamy landscape was made a virtual character in the story.
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Format: Hardcover
Loose ends? Where? Obviously I read the novel in Italian--being Italian myself--and loved the book. Now I'm glad English-reading people may read it and posslibly love it too. The novel is tight and has a perfectly wrought plot mechanism. Ammaniti does not explain everything, but on a second reading all that was not explained becomes clear. But what is important is the atmosphere of those years, when all those of us (Italians) who lived in rural areas felt that living there meant being imprisoned in a medieval world, and that everything good was to be found in big cities. That feeling is wonderfully rendered in the novel and that's what I like most. As for kidnapping yeah, it was a major industry for some regions of the Deep South (namely Calabria) and yeah, sometime whole smalltowns or villages were involved. And then the vipers, well, what's the problem? We don't have rattlesnakes and copperheads in Italy (luckily!), so everybody knows the only dangerous snake is the viper--and that's the snake everybody knows and is afraid of. Anyway, enjoy this novel... it is much better than Benigni's stale comedy, or musty stereotypes of mandolin-playing captains...
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Format: Paperback
I'm Not Scared is a brilliant novel. The plot involves a group of young friends who go out exploring the Italian countryside around the village they live in. One of the friends, Michele, discovers a boy he believes to be dead in an abandoned outbuilding. The novel follows the story of what happens when Michele returns to the boy and finds out that he is not dead, but is chained up in the hole. When Michele discovers the reason why the boy is imprisoned, his whole world starts to crack and every last drop of his courage and bravery is tested.

The book wouldn't be brilliant if the characters weren't so strong and recognisable from our own childhoods. The book shows with great skill the various sides of being young and realising that the world isn't perfect and that our family and friends do not always behave as we would like. I felt like I knew Michele and his sister Maria and their little group of friends. Michele's character was so realistic, and all the elements of growing up were described with such clarity - the fear of the outside world coupled with reckless bravery, the love / hate relationship with his parents, and the struggle between right and wrong. I also thought that the characterisation of Michele's mother was spot on - a woman who is desperately tired and scared, whose personality is caring one minute and harsh the next. The use of language is light and beautiful. I read the book in a single sitting and am sitting at my computer in the early hours of the morning writing this review because I simply couldn't go to sleep without writing something down about it.

Overall this book is a literary treat. It is absorbing, shocking, suspenceful, terrifying, touching. The end doesn't tie everything up with a nice little bow on top, but it is realistic and frightening and hopeful. I loved it.

JoAnne
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Format: Hardcover
The publication of Niccolo Ammaniti's work in English is long overdue. "I'm Not Scared" lacks the black comedy and outrageous situations of his earlier work but, in this novel, one of Italy's most important young writers attains something close to perfection. Like "The Great Gatsby", this is a novel with zero padding. Every word has its place and contributes to the whole. The style, the sensitive descriptions of the hero's world and attitudes and the construction of the story are first class. The whole book unfolds like a movie (the first few pages brought back vivid images of Terrence Malick's "Days of Heaven" with the undulating fields of grain) in vibrant, striking images. And that's all that I'll say because any more about the plot could ruin the pleasure of discovering a great modern novel.
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