Allison Pearson's I Think I Love You: David Cassidy and the craziness of teenage fans.

Reading between the lines.
Feb. 14 2011 7:06 AM

One Weird Cinderella Story

What is Allison Pearson up to with her portrait of David Cassidy fandom?

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White City provides the climax of the first half of the book. I won't give away the drama, but there's a bit of by-play where Bill finds one of Petra's shoes, abandoned on the stadium floor. And then we leap ahead to 1998. I have no idea why 1998, but there we are. Petra is almost 40, a mom, a music therapist, a Londoner. Just as her marriage is ending, her mother dies, and she returns to Wales to clear out their old house. Rummaging around in a wardrobe, she discovers that long ago, unbeknownst to her, she and Sharon won a contest to meet David Cassidy. Her mother had hidden the letter announcing their prize.

Here the book, never strong on plot, starts to really unravel. Through a series of events that is too wearying and ridiculous for me to recount here, Petra reconnects with Bill, now the head of a group of popular magazines, and Petra and Sharon and Bill head to Las Vegas. Petra and Bill fall in love, and—spoiler ahead—all live happily ever after.

I Think I Love You is meant to be a Cinderella story, right down to the shoe Bill found all those years ago. But it's so weakly organized and paced, I lost interest in the romantic payoff. Not only that, but on the most rudimentary terms of juicy women's fiction, the book doesn't deliver. To wit: When they're about to be swept off on their Las Vegas adventure, Petra and Sharon get treated to a makeover. But we never hear how it turns out. In women's fiction this is a crime of the highest order. Does their hair look better? Worse? What about their lip gloss? Is it, you know, shiny? If you're going to introduce a makeover, you must tell us how it turns out. It's like Chekhov's gun going off by the final act—simply necessary once introduced.

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Nothing, in fact, goes off by the final act. Bill and Petra's love affair; Petra and Sharon's friendship; Petra's newfound confidence—all of it seems jumped-up, inauthentic, and worst of all, pallid. The made-under makeover is emblematic: You get the feeling that Pearson somehow thought she was above delivering the satisfactions of a mere romance. And yet a romance—albeit one deeply imbued with 1970s nostalgia—is exactly what she set out to write. I don't need Pearson to write I Don't Know How She Does It all over again. But she might've written this particular book, the book she set out to write, with a bit more conviction.

The most interesting thing about I Think I Love You is the part where Keith Richards gets mobbed by fans. Wait. That was another book. I guess, then, the most interesting thing about this book is when David Cassidy describes being mobbed by fans—a less colorful account than Richards', admittedly. This does not come in the course of the novel, but in an afterword that includes an interview Pearson did with Cassidy a few years back.

Asked what the young girls wanted from him all those years ago, Cassidy answers: "Well, I think they wanted to take a piece of me home so they could have it next to their bed or something. Like a scalp on their wall." This book will do very well with nostalgic David Cassidy fans. It will be another bit of him to hang on the wall. And they are most welcome to it.

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Claire Dederer is the author of Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses.

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