I Think I Love You: Q&A with Allison Pearson

In 1974, the biggest musical star in the world was David Cassidy (a fan of club of 30 million teens is nothing to sneeze at). Author Allison Pearson was one of the young girls who claimed Cassidy as her first love -- a time in her life so significant that as an adult, she wrote a book about it: this month's LHJ Book Club pick, I Think I Love You. LHJ's Lauren Piro spoke with Allison about how she turned a teen idol obsession into a case study on love and growing up, and the music that's a thread through it all.
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I know I'm starting at the end, but I loved your interview with David Cassidy printed at the back of book -- he was so candid about his days as a pop idol. Did that interview give you the idea to write the book?

Actually I was thinking about it after I'd written my first book I Don't Know How She Does It [now a movie opening on September 16]. I was in Norway publicizing the book, and I was sitting with all these women from my publisher, and they asked me what my next book might be about. And I said, "I'm thinking about writing something about a girl who is obsessed with David Cassidy." Immediately all the women around the table started to chat about their teen crushes -- "I loved David Cassidy! I loved Donny Osmond!" And there was one woman, the Norwegian translator for I Don't Know How She Does It, and she was a very refined-looking, quiet, academic type of person, and I started to feel a bit uncomfortable. I thought, "Oh my God, she's thinking who are these idiot women talking about some pop star from 1974?'" But then she looked at me when there was a gap in the conversation and said, "But he was mine." And I thought, that's it! We all thought he was ours -- including me. So when I was writing the book I put a little sticky note on my computer that said "but he was mine," and I wrote toward that feeling.

It's such an amazing emotion in a young girl's life. It doesn't last for very long, but when it's there, oh boy, it's the dress rehearsal for love.

It would have been very easy to satirize or make light of a teen girl's obsession with a pop star, but you took it very seriously -- it felt so genuine and honest.

When I started digging into my research on David Cassidy, I realized -- to my absolute horror -- that I remembered more about David Cassidy than I could about men who I'd actually lived with! I could remember his birthday, the names of his pets -- I thought it was amazing. That kind of love is a very potent thing, and I was interested in exploring what it meant.

I think women are natural romantic novelists, and the teen crush is the first love story we tell ourselves, and to some extent we go on throughout our lives telling ourselves stories about love. There's a line in the book when the journalist for the David Cassidy magazine, Bill, has told Petra that he was actually the one who wrote all of the David Cassidy letters and she gets disappointed, feeling like it was all a lie. And he says, "No, it was an incredible love story and you told it to yourself with all your heart, and it was true."

Continued on page 2:  The Not-So-Loving Side


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