Before I talk about Allison Pearson’s delightful novel, I Think I Love You, I have to talk about David Cassidy. I think it’s important for you to understand my total predisposition to love this book based on my adolescent feelings about David. I LOVED HIM! Oh, I know I wasn’t alone – millions of girls my age loved him. It’s just that I loved him more. And to illustrate the deep personal connection we had, let me tell you about what happened to me in 1995 at the backstage door of the London production of Blood Brothers. For four weeks only, David Cassidy played the role of Mickey. As luck would have it I was living in England at the time, where I’d been teaching high school English in a little town outside of Birmingham. We were due to fly home for Christmas and so we arranged to go down to London early so I could see the play. I was 34.
Let me back up. My love for David Cassidy came on the heels of my love for Davy Jones (The Monkees). Call me fickle, but who hasn’t heard “Day Dream Believer” and fallen just a little bit in love with Davy’s accented voice?
Then The Partridge Family debuted on television and I was knocked off my feet. I joined the fan club (wish I still had that little plastic record they sent!) I bought TigerBeat magazines by the truckload; I still have have scrapbooks and pictures galore. I sent hundreds of friendship books and slams through the mail. (Anyone else remember those?) I bought all the records – still have them – and the puka shells and the Indian cotton shirts. I believe when I was 13, I even had David’s shag hair style. Trust me, it didn’t look nearly as good on me!
So to be sitting in a theatre where I would be hearing David sing live was slightly surreal. I have to admit, I was a little bit nervous. I was dreading that moment when I learned that my childhood memories of him were eclipsed by the reality. After all, he was 20 years older, too. And what if he couldn’t really sing? I shouldn’t have worried. While he didn’t sing enough, when I did hear that clear beautiful voice live for the first time it took me straight back to my childhood. I think I started to cry after the first note. I think I cried pretty much through the rest of the performance.
The musical was spectacular and so was David. After it was over, I said “I need to meet him.” In my head, our eyes would lock, I would invite him for drinks and because I was from North America and so was he, he’d agree and it would be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. I wasn’t counting on the fact that at least 75 other women of my vintage would also be waiting for their opportunity to have their moment with David. Even when I turned the corner of the theatre and saw them all standing there, I was still convinced that he’d pick me.
Finally the stage door opened and David appeared, with Petula Clark (the hussy!) on his arm. There was an audible intake of breath from all the ladies – and an amused chuckle from their long suffering husbands – and then David spoke: “Thanks for coming. I’m happy to sign autographs for everyone, but if I could just ask you to take a step back that would be great.”
I hung back and rehearsed what I would say to David. “Hi. I’m from Canada. I’ve loved you since I was 10. I have all your records. Do you want to go for a drink?” Something like that. Not very eloquent, I guess, but it was the best I could do considering the blood pounding in my head and my heart racing in my chest. David Cassidy! OMG!
The crowd didn’t exactly thin out, but as women got their autographs, they’d move aside and let others have their opportunity. The kind lady standing next to me offered me her pen when I realized I didn’t have one and then…
I was standing in front of him, playbill in hand, staring up into those soulful hazel eyes (he was standing on a step; height isn’t one of DC’s attributes, sadly!) I think David said “Hi. Thanks for coming.” I think I said, “Grdodvnlsnolrijosrivl.” He signed my programme and then I burst into tears and had to be led away.
Soon afterwards, David and Petula got into a fancy car of some sort and sped off into the London night. I wish I could say that this was the only time a celebrity has made me cry. I’ll save my story about David Boreanaz for another day though.
Here’s a great clip of David and his brother Shaun talking about performing in Blood Brothers on Broadway on the Regis and Kathy Lee Show. Near the end, they sing together. It never fails to make me teary.
All this brings me to Allison Pearson’s novel, I Think I Love You.
Petra is thirteen, Welsh and hopelessly devoted to David Cassidy. She remarks early on in the story:
Honest, it’s amazing the things you can know about someone you don’t know. I knew the date of his birth – April 12, 1950. He was the typical Aries, but without the Arian’s stubborness. I knew his height and his weight and his favourite drink, 7Up. I knew the names of his parents and his stepmother, the Broadway musical star. I knew all about his love of horses, which made perfect sense to me because when you’re that famous it must be comforting to be around someone who doesn’t know or care what famous is.
I Think I Love You captures – in glorious detail – that first giddy adolescent crush just about every girl has had on a celebrity. Petra is a very real creation. She’s smart and beautiful (but not in the right way for a 13 year old) and she plays the cello. She longs to be popular like her classmate, Gillian. Her one true friend, Sharon, shares her love of David and the two girls spend hours in Sharon’s bedroom, making scrapbooks and taking turns kissing David’s posters. (Petra’s stern German mother would never let her put posters of a pop star on her walls.)
Petra’s story is paralleled by Bill’s. Fresh out of college with a degree in English, Bill is hired to write for The Essential David Cassidy Magazine. Not just hired to write, hired to be David Cassidy – writing notes about his life and answering letters from fans. There’s a hysterical moment when he arrives for his interview and mistakes a picture of David on the cover of a magazine for a girl, exclaiming she’s not his type.
Petra and Bill’s lives collide when they both attend David’s famous White City concert. At the height of his career, when David Cassidy was pretty much the biggest star on the planet, he played a show at this London venue and a young girl died. David retired from performing after that.
Pearson’s novel isn’t just a trip down memory lane, though. We revisit Petra as an adult just as her life begins to unravel – as lives sometimes do. Her mother has just died and her husband, Marcus, has recently announced that he is leaving her. Her daughter, Molly, is 13 and has her own celebrity crush on Leonardo Di Caprio. Suddenly Petra is adrift. The life she thought she built is falling apart and she isn’t quite sure what to do about that. Her salvation comes, strangely enough, in a pink envelope addressed in her very own hand.
I Think I Love You was so much fun to read. I was that girl – totally in love with a pop star. I have also been adult Petra, trying desperately to hold onto the dangling ends of my fraying life. Lots of touchstones in this book for me.
And I don’t think you have to have been a David Cassidy fan to appreciate the references to those popstar magazines we all read religiously. Sure, being of a certain age allows certain references to resonate more strongly, but I Think I Love You has lots to say about first love, childhood friendships, dreams dashed and even more miraculously, realized.