Seduced by easy money and pushed by a complex reality, Nicolas Fiorillo is the 15-year-old protagonist of The Piranhas: The Boy Bosses of Naples, which exposes the real-life phenomenon of youth gangs, or paranza. Paranza refers not only to gangs, but to the “boats that go out to catch fish through trickery of light… It takes possession of it, and the fish come looking for it.”
The author, an Italian journalist who grew up in Naples, saw his first murder victim at 13. His own father, a doctor, suffered a beating for trying to help an 18-year-old left to die in the street, who was a victim of the Camorra, an Italian Mafia-type crime syndicate.
Saviano begins his stunning novel with a profound statement:
“What you are about to read actually occurred. Facts have been modified and connected to others in order to make a violent and complex world more comprehensible…”
Violent and brutal and glamorous, The Piranhas is weaved with details found in his international crime classic, Gomorrah, which traced the decline of Naples under the Camorra rule. Since its publication, he has been placed under police protection.
Nicolas, an ambitious and promising teenager from the slums of Naples, has a dark desire to acquire power and wealth. Backed by a group of loyal friends, he sets out to create his own paranza, roaming the streets while learning how to become gangsters. What begins with small-time cheating and stealing soon becomes shooting semiautomatic pistols and AK-47s. Saviano succeeds at reminding listeners of the stark reality of child gangsters, such as having Nicolas and his friends play PlayStation in between committing crimes.
Narrator Edoardo Ballerini‘s ability to portray a variety of characters made listening a smooth and entrancing experience. Filled with inevitable consequences that all criminals face while climbing to the top, The Piranhas will leave you in awe of Naples while also grieving for it.
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