Synopses & Reviews
"Stop all this talk about monsters, Michele. Monsters don't exist. It's men you should be afraid of, not monsters."
A sweltering heat wave hits a tiny village in Southern Italy, sending the adults to seek shelter, while their children bicycle freely throughout the countryside, playing games and getting into trouble. On a dare, nine-year-old Michele Amitrano enters an old, abandoned farmhouse, where he stumbles upon a secret so terrible that he can't tell anybody. As the truth emerges, Michele learns that the horror in the creepy old house is closer to home than he ever imagined.
A widely acclaimed international bestseller, I'm Not Scared is a spine-tingling novel that combines a coming of age narrative with a satisfying, enthralling story of suspense.
"Niccolò Ammaniti is talented, and his descriptions of the sun-baked Italian earth give off a heat that singes the reader's fingertips....Enjoy this book right down to its bittersweet Faulknerian ending." San Francisco Chronicle
"[G]ripping....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." Publishers Weekly
"This book is breathless, and surprising, to the last word." The Baltimore Sun
"[P]rose that is by turns poetic and hard boiled....Reading I'm Not Scared is an exciting and provocative experience and the shock of its language is part of the draw." Lawrence Venuti, The New York Times Book Review
"[S]weltering, claustrophobic, and rife with desperation and despair....This morality tale (which was recently made into a film) is also a mystery and a literary portrait of a place and the people who make it their home." KLIATT
While exploring a dilapidated and uninhabited farmhouse in rural Italy, nine-year-old Michele Amitrano discovers a secret so momentous, so terrible, that he dare not tell anyone about it. To come to terms with what he has found, Michele has to draw strength from his own sense of humanity.
About the Author
Niccolò Ammaniti was born in Rome in 1966. This is his third novel and he has also published a collection of stories. At thirty-four, he was the youngest ever winner of the prestigious Viareggio-Repaci prize for I'm Not Scared, which has already been sold into twenty languages.
Reading Group Guide
1. Im Not Scared
is preceded by an epigraph by Jack London: “That much he knew. He had fallen into darkness. And at the instant he knew, he ceased to know.” Why has Niccolò Ammaniti chosen to begin his novel with this quote? How does it illuminate what happens in the story? What is the literal and symbolic significance, in terms of the novel, of falling into darkness?
2. The novel opens with a scene in which Michele must choose between winning the race or helping his sister Maria. What conflicts and choices does this moment prefigure? What is revealed about Micheles character at this point?
3. How does Ammaniti recreate the texture and atmosphere of childhood in his novel? What aspects of Micheles way of seeing himself and the world seem most authentically childlike?
4. Michele first stumbles onto Filippo because of a sacrifice he makes to save his friend Barbara. What are the ultimate consequences of this decision? Where else does Michele demonstrate this generosity and willingness to sacrifice himself?
5. Why does Michele identify with Filippo so strongly? Why does he think at first that Filippo is his brother? Why does he feel that Filippo “was mine and that they had taken him away from me” [p. 169]?
6. Michele fathers once told him to “Stop all this talk about monsters. . . . Monsters dont exist. Its men you should be afraid of, not monsters” [p. 170]. In what ways does the novel itself prove the truth of this statement? What does it say about Micheles father that he would offer this advice to his son?
7. In the games they play and in their behavior toward one another, how do Michele and his group of friends—Salvatore, Skull, Remo, and Barbara—compare to the adults in the novel? In what ways are the childrens minor cruelties mirrored in the adults more serious crimes? In what way does Michele possess an integrity that the adults, and even the other children, lack?
8. What motivates the kidnappers, Sergio, Felice, and Micheles father? Are readers meant to feel some sympathy for them? How do they manipulate and betray the innocence of childhood?
9. When Michele is running in the night to try to find Filippo, he fights off his fears by asking himself what Tiger Jack, a fictional Navajo hero, would have done: “I must be brave. Tiger Jack. Think of Tiger Jack. The Indian would help me. Before making any move, I must think what the Indian would do in my place. That was the secret” [p. 183]. How does this moment illustrate the value of literature? How does Tiger Jack help him? How might Im Not Scared itself serve as a kind of moral guide?
10. Why does Michele break his oath to his father not to visit Filippo? “I wanted to turn back,” he thinks, “but my legs pedaled and an irresistible force dragged me towards the hill” [p. 164]. What is that force?
11. In the novels final scene, Michele seems to be lead to the hole where Filippo is hidden by an owl whose nest he has accidentally knocked down. Should this be read as a kind of supernatural intervention, or simply as a chance occurrence?
12. Im Not Scared ends suddenly and dramatically, the details of which wont be revealed here. Often, such a climatic moment is followed by a dénouement, in which the storys loose ends are tied up and explained. Why has Ammaniti chosen to end his novel in this way? What does this ending achieve? What is likely to happen to Michele and his family in the aftermath of this moment?
13. Ammanitis novel can be described as a coming-of-age story. In what sense does Michele grow up during the course of the story? What hard lessons does he learn about the adult world?