cover image Me and You

Me and You

Niccolò Ammaniti, trans. from the Italian by Kylee Doust. Grove/Black Cat, $14 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-0-8021-7090-3

Already a bestseller in Italy, Ammaniti’s slim but immensely engaging fourth novel presents Lorenzo Cuni, a precocious 14-year-old desperate for some space of his own. He achieves this respite from reality with “Operation Bunker,” an elaborate ruse whereby his parents believe he is skiing in the Italian Alps, when actually he has secluded himself in the basement of the family’s apartment building. Settling in among dust, sheets, and other items of a “Fifties household amassed in a cellar,” Lorenzo surveys the food and video games he’s stockpiled and hunkers down for a glorious week of self-induced solitary confinement. Lorenzo describes his childhood as a friendless existence, much befitting the diminutive outcast that he’s become, and as narrative sympathy swells, Ammaniti expertly ratchets up the suspense with a rare appearance by half-sister Olivia, 23. Feigning homelessness and a mysterious illness, she joins him in an emotional reunion that soon morphs into a bittersweet, heartbreaking alliance. Both tender and emotionally arresting, Ammaniti’s novel is unforgettable. (Feb.)