Although I’m usually quite content sticking with historical fiction and the occasional classic, every once in awhile I feel I should read something outside my comfort zone. I need a little exercise for my brain. The book reviewer on NPR is great for piquing my interest in "different" books. Like The Lady Matador’s Hotel by Cristina Garcia. Not my usual fare but I loved it.
More recently, a review for I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson grabbed my attention. The reviewer made the book sound so tempting I had to add it to my list.
Petra is the book’s thirteen-year-old protagonist. She’s very insecure, dominated by an unhappy mother who is constantly judging her and finding her lacking, and bullied by a queen bee/mean girl who heads up their school clique. However, what primarily shapes Petra’s young life (and drives the plot) is that she is desperately in love with David Cassidy. David Cassidy the American pop star. Keith Partridge for anyone who remembers 1970's T.V.
In fact, Petra’s whole clique obsesses over David, including her best friend (only friend?) Sharon. They spend long hours discussing him, reading about him, and listening to his music. In between, Petra agonizes over her marginal place in the clique. Will Gillian (the queen bee) kick her out of the group for some arbitrary reason? Or might some miracle occur that will allow Petra to gain Gillian’s favor and feel she truly belongs?
There is a parallel story. One of the fan magazines that they read, The Essential David Cassidy Magazine, is produced in Wales. The main feature writer, Bill, is a twenty-something college educated English major who has discovered to his dismay that writing for a David Cassidy fanzine is the only job he can get. He has to answer David’s mail and write letters and articles as if he is David. And the worst thing is, he’s quite good at it.
Part one revolves around David Cassidy to such a degree that, well, I almost gave up on the book. I understand that the obsessiveness of Petra’s tween love was important for the whole theme, but I found that I didn’t particularly enjoy obsessing over David Cassidy. Plus, the whole mean-girl genre for tweens is getting a lot of attention currently, and I don’t really need to be reading that much of it. Overall, I found the thirteen-year-old Petra to be relatively uninteresting.
However, Bill amused me, and I did want to know what was going to happen with him. That kept me reading on until we shifted gears to 1998. At that point, I became more interested in the story. Petra is now a grown woman. In a single day, she learns of her mother’s death and that her husband (a serial cheater) has decided to leave her for a younger woman. While grieving and cleaning out her mother’s wardrobe, she finds a letter announcing that she was the winner of a long ago quiz contest. The prize was an all expense paid trip to LA to meet David Cassidy. Her mother hid the letter. Petra is shocked into action. She tracks down the corporation that bought out the magazine that held the contest (The Essential David Cassidy Magazine) and asks to claim her prize.
It’s good to watch Petra finally take charge of her life as she sets out to meet her idol, now a singer in Las Vegas. (And we do get to see what became of Bill.)
The book is filled with observations about tween obsession with celebrity. It has a lot to say about the awkward years (young adolescence and early middle age.) I Think I Love You is, not surprisingly, a book about relationships. And although I probably didn’t need to spend quite so much time reading about someone’s imagined relationship with David Cassidy, the book did reward me for sticking through to the end.