Me and you by Niccolo Ammaniti
Trans. by Kylee Doust. Text, 2012. ISBN 9781921758775.
(Ages: 14+) Recommended. The Italian author Niccolo Ammaniti is able to present both the innocence and egotism of children and the dark, threatening worlds they may inhabit in a convincing and gripping way. In this novel Me and you, the voice of fourteen-year-old Lorenzo is believable and persuasive. He describes himself as uninterested in, at best, and as frightened by, at worst, the world of his peers, and he gives way to rages. His psychiatrist describes him as someone who cannot empathise with others, except his parents. Lorenzo learns to survive by using Batesian mimicry, pretending to be as his classmates are, boorish, loud and disruptive. However, Lorenzo creates trouble for himself when he overhears a group of friends planning a skiing trip. Lorenzo is a good skier and imagines being part of the group. He tells his mother that he has been invited along. Trapped in his lie by his mother's happiness Lorenzo consequently plans to spend the week hiding in a cellar, in the dark with his computer, cans of drink and food. All seems to be proceeding well until his sojourn is interrupted by his half-sister Olivia who Lorenzo is forced to realize is an addict suffering frighteningly painful withdrawal symptoms. Her desperate need and his ability to help her bring about a change in Lorenzo, symbolized by a story he invents about a robot, created to unfeelingly destroy, that learns to live and breed like sea turtles. Lorenzo realizes that he can change his behaviour and learn to become a friend to others. The outcome for Olivia is not so positive. As in Ammaniti's earlier work I'm not scared the resolution is shocking. The novel is simply written but thematically rich. The world of Lorenzo is created with acute observations and details. Me and you compares well with other novels written from the point-of-view of main characters with a difficulty in relating to others. This is recommended for secondary readers.