Me and You

Me and You, Niccolo Ammaniti

Fourteen-year-old Lorenzo Cuni hates people. Having seen a documentary about a type of fly that makes itself look like a wasp in order to protect itself, he has learned how to fit in by appearing to be like those around him. In order to stop his mother in particular by turns nagging at him and worrying about him, he has told her he is off skiing for a week with some classmates. In fact, he heads down to the cellar with his headphones, his Playstation, some tins of tuna, and a fake tan spray. He hasn’t counted on his half sister Olivia turning up  . . .

The setting is ripe for comedy, and there are amusing moments in this short but thoughtful book. However, taken as a whole there is more here that is sad than funny. The larger picture is painted in apparently simple brush strokes but, looked at closely, reveals telling details of a broken family and some damaged people. At times the narrative threatens to veer slightly into soft terrain, but manages to stay the right side of schmaltz.  The ‘me and you’ of the title, for example, becomes a poignant refrain when Olivia recounts an incident from Lorenzo’s childhood that he himself has forgotten, and he is patently struck by the idea that at one moment at least he was not alone:

‘Then the motorboat took off. And me and you, we stayed down in the cabin where it smelled of bilge and everything was shaking and rocking.’

‘Me and you?’

‘Yes.’ She took a drag of her cigarette. ‘Me and you.’

A one-sitting read that will repay a second visit.

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