I’m Not Scared by Niccolo Ammaniti

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A title which represents as much bravado as you might expect a nine year old Italian boy to have: I’m not scared. And while he might boldly declare he’s not afraid, the farther I read the more fearful I became. Because the subject of this book is not about ogres, or witches, or fanciful creatures. No, the fear comes from a much deeper place: the darkness and confusion of humankind.

Michele Amitrano and his friends are playing on a scorching day in the fields of their small, country town named Acqua Traverse. Inherent to the games a group of children may play, are the dares and the forfeits. “Let’s race to the top of this hill. Whoever is last has to do a forfeit.” Of course, fat Barbara is last. She can’t possibly compete in such a challenge and come out on top. Her forfeit, invented by Skull, involves taking down her pants from which Michele bravely saves her. But now he must accomplish the dare of crawling through the abandoned house behind the hill and coming out the window on the other side.

What he find inside the house is a dead boy. At least this is what he thinks. But when he comes back alone, the next day and the next, he keeps discovering something worse about what he has found in the hole of the house, a hole covered by corrugated fibre-glass and an old mattress, yet unable to conceal the truth inside.

Even though he promises his father, Michele cannot stay away. He is the one of unparalleled courage, he is the one with integrity, although he is only a child. A boy with limited power, defenseless against the very thing he calls home.

This is a shocking book, brief but unforgettable, illuminating a world of darkness that makes me thankful for the childhood that I had. That reminds me the things of our childhood stay with us forever.

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