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Fan fiction: Pearson’s novel triggers a rush of memories of teenage crushes

April 2, 2011

By Jane Burns
Wisconsin State Journal

David, March 11, 1972

Teen pop idol David Cassidy is performing at New York City's Madison Square Garden, on March 11, 1972.

When David Cassidy performed at the Dane County Coliseum in 1972, he wore brown bell-bottom jeans because his trademark white fringed costumes had been stolen somewhere along the way to Madison.

These are the details you remember about a concert you saw when you were 10 years old, featuring the guy you LUVVED, the one you watched on TV every Friday night and the one you swore would answer your letter when he could find some time.

Yes, I was that 10-year-old, one who grew out of the crush but never forgot what it felt like — and have never forgotten the bravery of my neighbor Darlene, who took my three sisters and I to the show that night. That places me firmly in the target audience for Allison Pearson’s utterly entertaining novel, “I Think I Love You.”

With its blinding pink book jacket and decidedly female premise, “I Think I Love You” has all the markings of standard chick lit. But it has more depth than that. It’s a look at the fan-making machine as well as the fans, a story of a girl at an awkward age trying to fit in who grows up to be a woman still trying to find a place for herself. And Pearson is particularly insightful about the way you can look at things and people from your childhood and see them for what they really are, not trapped in the time capsule of the mind.

Petra is a 13-year-old Welsh girl, and eventually a 37-year-old Londoner. She and her friends LUV (in the parlance of the fan magazines) David Cassidy, the long-haired, whip-thin star of “The Partridge Family.” She and her friend Sharon enter a magazine’s Ultimate David Cassidy Quiz and are convinced their knowledge of All That Is David will be their ticket to Hollywood, the contest’s prize.

“I Think I Love You” also brings a writer named Bill into the picture. Having no affection for David Cassidy but a need for a paycheck, he takes a job with the Essential David Cassidy Magazine and settles in to being the fake David. It’s Bill who pens the magazine’s letters to the fans, creates the quizzes and makes the list of the kind of girl David digs (“Most of all, he likes girls who are FUN!”).

It takes all the intelligence of your average “Partridge Family” episode to figure out where the story is going to go, and that’s fine. Along the way Pearson captures the silliness and seriousness of teeny-bopper fandom, the utter conviction that there’s a chance for a young girl to become Mrs. David Cassidy (or Mrs. Justin Bieber). The book might be about David Cassidy fandom, but it should ring true for anyone who once looked lovingly at a Tiger Beat poster of some fresh-faced young man.

You grow out of it, and you put it in its place. For me, the place was the Metrodome in Minneapolis, where I took my goddaughter to see her beloved ’N Sync, where parents sitting in bars and restaurants blocks away could hear the screaming girls.

“Why are you doing this?” asked my friends, the girl’s parents.

“Because my neighbor Darlene took me to see David Cassidy when I was 10 and I’m paying back the universe,” I replied.

Pearson has done all of us former teeny-boppers a service, too. Turns out we weren’t crazy. We were just young. And in LUV.

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