If not an outright hormonal hell, puberty is at the very least an awkward and uncomfortable age. Nevertheless, it is out of this familiar coming-of-age that Alberto Moravia crafts a graceful and sensual short novel and modern parable. The Freudian myth is placed up front, as well as the nasty hierarchies of class, power, and beauty that have such an impact on us when they first force themselves, usually quite rudely, upon our awareness. The boy Agostino will be the father to the man, just as love turns into a hard carapace to protect his innocent childhood sensibility. New identities are tried on, none of them particularly attractive. Agostino’s father is dead and his other role models are poor if not downright degenerate. I find this such a tragic story. After thirteen it’s all downhill.