In swampy Ischiano Scalo, where the adults are all losers and the children dream of escape, meek little Pietro is tested to destruction by the school psychopath, and is betrayed by his parents, his favourite teacher and, in his most self-fulfilling act, himself. As Pietro struggles against the bullies and revels in his friendship with Gloria (the prettiest and richest girl for miles), his lonely teacher, Flora, devotes herself to her catatonic mother, until Ischiano's one glamorous son returns to seduce and forget her. In the painful aftermath, Pietro's attempts to escape his own crushing sense of failure lead him to destroy everything he holds dear in one futile moment of hurt and anger. Through the eyes of a desperate boy and a self-aggrandising small-town Don Juan, Ammaniti gradually reveals his cast of grotesques, from idiot policemen to self-obsessed would-be starlets, terrified headmasters to lustful janitors. With charm and irony, he exposes the grand dreams and sad realities of these ordinary people living extraordinarily ordinary lives.