From Publishers Weekly
Margherita Dolce Vita, the eccentric 14-year-old heroine of Benni's Italian bestseller, has a "fusilli farm" of blonde curls and lives at the "colorless and necessary outskirts of town" with her quirky family. Like her collector-of-aged-junk father, Margherita prefers the magic and mystery of the past to the digital flash of contemporary youth. So when the Del Benes family suddenly arrives next door in a blaze of gaudy gadgets, it jars her sensibilities, especially after it seems as though Margherita's parents and older brother have blindly fallen for the Del Beneses' "plasma megascreen" and other trappings. Resolving to break their spell, Margherita enlists her science-genius little brother, Heraclitus; her gentle and erratic grandfather Socrates; and her loyal, narcoleptic dog Sleepy, and wages war. That Margherita's is an allegorical war for modern, suburbanizing Italy's soul—indeed for la dolce vita
—won't be lost on U.S. readers: Benni is sly and spiky in his satire (Margherita's faded-beauty mother smokes "Virtuals") and gives Margherita a voice that is sophisticated and funny ("I embraced my teddy bear Pontius in an unobtrusively erotic manner"). Margherita carries one along through this winning romp with nary a false note. (Nov.)
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*Starred Review* Benni is renowned in his native Italy as a shrewd and entertaining satirist. His inventive style must be daunting for translators, but Shugaar's English rendering is dazzling. Margherita Dolce Vita is the 14-year-old narrator's nickname, and the allusion to Fellini's La Dolce Vita
(1960) hints at the uncanny chaos and angst Margherita so ably and drolly chronicles. She is happiest frolicking with her dog in the meadow surrounding her family's modest house, where her father repairs old bicycles, her mother watches her soap opera, one brother obsesses over soccer while the other plays mad scientist, and her grandfather ingests toxins in the hope of becoming immune to pollution. It's a sweet life, all right, until a giant black cube is erected next door, the forbidding high-tech mansion of a wealthy family up to no good. Soon Margherita's once frugal and content parents are caught up in their neighbors' passion for excess and sinister clandestine activities, while the once fecund meadow is poisoned with pesticides. What's an observant, outspoken, and nature-loving girl to do? Benni's seriocomic vision of the drastic consequences of unchecked consumerism, environmental decimation, and End Times mania is at once fantastic and believable, delightful and chilling. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved