Matteo Bussola: “I’ll tell you about my first love”

«Chat happens when you realize, for the first time, that you like someone?” The new book by Matteo Bussola begins with this confession by Viola, Half an apple. The beauty of loving each other as equals (Salani). The writer returns to his heroine of Purple and Blue which has grown in the meantimegoes to middle school. Her historic friend, Marco di lei, is suddenly something different for her: “Suddenly it’s as if I were really seeing him for the first time,” says the girl.

A portrait of Matteo Bussola. His new children’s book is Mezzamela (Salani).

The same goes for Marco (in the book the two voices alternate in each chapter), even if for him the awareness of the new feeling came much earlier: «I’ve liked Viola for almost a year. She never knew, I was very scared that he would find out», is his thought. “Girls, when they realize you have feelings for them, start looking at you differently: their eyes change, they fill up with embarrassment, and then classmates start making fun of you.”

The writer’s gaze on the two little boys is lucid and at the same time affectionate. Viola and Marco could be his children. «In this book I wanted to understand how to talk to each other. I believe that the way in which the male gaze is built towards the female, and vice versa, begins right in the middle school years », he tells us. “AND I also wanted to go beyond sentimental stereotypes: in many of the recent young adult hits there is on one side a shady boy with a dark past who needs to be saved, on the other a sweet and submissive girl who saves him. But reality isn’t like that, reality is made up of real kids who want to be loved and are afraid of being hurt. I wanted to represent both points of view».

Viola and Marco are both frightened by this new and unknown feeling. When Marco asks her to go to the pond with him, Viola runs away. “For the past few days it has been as if someone had suddenly raised a very high wall between us,” she says.

The cover of Matteo Bussola’s new book for children, Mezzamela (Salani).

Yet, “it would be easy to talk to each other,” says the author. “Unfortunately we are educated to defend ourselves from others. Males are treated as unreliable simpletons, who look at females as pure physicality, are “professional curmudgeons”. If, on the other hand, they let themselves go, if they made peace with their fragility, it would be better for everyone”.

Viola feels like a “mezzamela”, «a type in half, neither meat nor fish. According to the stereotype, love is about finding our other half. Instead I I think love splits you in half, and makes the part of you appear more authenticis the opinion of Bussola. «The challenge is to accept that this feeling enters you. If you don’t accept the risk, if you want to remain protected within your certainties, nothing will happen. Instead it is the fragility that we need, especially us males, to stay in touch with what is outside of us. If you make your humanity flourish you will not have betrayed yourselfand you will find someone who sees you authentically».

Will Marco be able to get close to Viola? And Viola? Will they both stop “pretending” and telling each other things frankly? You will have the answer by reading the book. But we can anticipate that Cyrano de Bergerac will get in the way.