I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson
Rarely in recent times has a book called out to me as much as this one. You see, in common with the teenagers in this novel who are all fanatical David Cassidy fans, I was too.
David was Godlike, with his shell necklaces, feathered hair, and whispery voice. You were either a Donny (Osmond) or a Cassidy fan in my neck of the woods – the Bay City Rollers and Jackson 5 didn’t get a look-in I’m afraid. My walls were covered with posters; I made scrapbooks with every cutting from mags and newspapers I could find. I sat in front of the telly holding the microphone of my little cassette recorder taping the Partridge Family’s songs in each episode. The first record I bought was a Cassidy single – It was Could it be forever (b/w Cherish) in 1972. I designed a Keep Britain Tidy poster for a Blue Peter competition he was promoting - part of the prize would be to meet ‘him’. I nearly got there – I won a Blue Peter competition runners up badge and got a signed photo which I treasured – until I sold it years later – wish I hadn’t now!
Teenybopperdom was – and is – a serious business, but it doesn’t last. One day in 1974, after his world tour in which a girl died from being crushed in the audience at a London concert, I realised I’d grown out of him; this phase essentially coincides with a growing awareness of real boys. Our relationship may have been over, but you never forget your first fantasy loves.
So back to the book… I bought it soon after publication, but restrained myself from immersion until I was really ready. This week, when I’ve been rediscovering all sorts of bits of my childhood whilst clearing my Mum’s house, seemed to be the right time, so I dove in …
It starts off in Wales, at home with Petra and her best friend Sharon. Petra is a promising young cellist who is a secret Cassidy fan – her uptight German mother frowns against such things, so she goes round to Sharon’s – she has a shrine. Together they devour every word in the monthly fanzine, memorising all his favourite things, doing all the quizzes to see if they could be the perfect Mrs Cassidy. They believe every word.
Of course, a lot of it is made up – that’s Bill’s job. He’s the degree qualified journalist who ends up working on a teenybopper mag and acts as the voice of Cassidy. He’s embarrassed by it – his girlfriend thinks he’s a proper rock journo, but somehow he manages to make David seem real to all his teenaged fans. It’s coming up to David’s UK concert dates soon, the last dates in his world tour. The magazine plans an ultimate David quiz which Bill creates – the winners will get meet their hero after the concert.
Back in Wales, Petra and Sharon are researching the answers – they only have a couple to go. Petra is under pressure though to name the class it girl Gillian as her friend on her entry, and not Sharon. Gillian isn’t a real fan though, but she is trying to cultivate Petra to her clique. A group of girls from school manage to get tickets for David’s London concert. Petra has to weave a web of lies to be able to go – her mother thinks she’s going to see the Messiah in Cardiff. So the stage is set for a night to remember, but not necessarily for the reasons they’d longed for.
I’m not going to tell you any more about the story, but it was totally satisfying and romantic. The author manages to capture the mind of the teenybopper perfectly: the idolisation of their heroes, the insidious jockeying for position, pettiness, and the bullying of all shades that goes on in school between teenaged girls. The nature of celebrity and the role of the press are also examined - is it right to embellish or re-write the truth to keep the fires going? Cassidy’s clean-cut and youthful image was also somewhat at odds with his actual years, penchant for slightly older women and, as a musician a yearning to be taken seriously.
This novel will appeal to anyone who’s had a teenage crush on an unobtainable fantasy figure. Admittedly, anyone who grew up in the early 1970s will have an advantage - I did and I loved it. (9.5/10) I bought this book.
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I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson