I Think I Love You, Allison Pearson

I think I love this book. Thirteen-year-old girls Petra and Sharon are huge David Cassidy fans who love reading The Essential David Cassidy Magazine, especially the section with a letter from David himself. Alternating chapters reveal the other side of the story: Bill, a writer in his twenties, who ghostwrites David’s letters, has a musical snob for a girlfriend and sneers at the young girls who go gaga over David. Petra enters a contest for a chance to meet David Cassidy in person, and only finds out she’s won twenty-five years later.

I’ve never listened to David Cassidy myself, and in fact, when a friend told me about this book, I had to ask her who David Cassidy was. But I could definitely relate to Petra and Sharon’s obsession. Can barely even remember the titles of the magazines I read (Tiger Beat?) and under no duress will admit my personal versions of David Cassidy (okay, so I attended a recent Backstreet Boys concert and shrieked like anything). But I do remember the squealing, the dreaming, and above all, the pure girly bonding, with much affection. And that’s what I Think I Love You celebrates. With Petra, we relive our own teen idol years. Like Petra, we’ve all had a Gillian, the popular girl everyone wants to impress and befriend, and for whom we may even consider, however briefly, betraying a Sharon, the true blue yet less popular BFF. And like the adult Petra, we have become more jaded, and look back at our teenage years with nostalgia.

The chapters from Bill’s perspective lend a nice, adult POV that balances out the story. In one of my favourite scenes, Bill sees a photo of David Cassidy at his job interview and says, “Not my type. That bird there, on the cover.” Bill vacillates between contempt for teen girl fantasies and grudging affection for David Cassidy fans. As David’s ghostwriter, for all intents and purposes, Bill is the David Cassidy these fans know. And against his better judgement, against his own desire to be too cool for David Cassidy, Bill is also drawn into the world of fandom, and as an adult reader, these sections really spoke to me as well. I may poke fun at fans of Twilight and Justin Bieber, but that’s kind of like poking fun at the tween girl me who liked Sweet Valley and boy bands.

At times, I Think I Love You gets a bit too pop psychological. I get that teen idols are a non-threatening psychological transition between stuffed animals and real, adult males. I didn’t need characters in the story telling me that. Other times, adult commentary interrupts a teenaged Petra scene, which just felt like too much telling rather than showing. The action and dialogue are strong enough, and tug on the reader’s memories powerfully enough, that overt commentary just seems superfluous.

Overall, though, I love this book. When Petra gets a chance as an adult to meet David Cassidy, she realizes it won’t be the same at all – she’s not the same Petra who was in love with David, nor is David the same teen idol millions of girls had swooned over. In an especially poignant passage, Petra realizes what she really wants is to go back in time and take her thirteen-year-old self to meet David Cassidy. I Think I Love You speaks about female friendship, music fandom and the always complex, ultimately unfulfilled desire to recapture that innocence we had at thirteen, where we joined millions of other girls in believing that a celebrity was singing especially, solely, to us.

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