Our new Book of the Month, I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson, sends ANDREW FFRENCH on a nostalgic trip back to his teenage years.

THE BOOK: A FEW years ago, newspaper columnist Allison Pearson decided she would write her first novel and when it was published, I Don’t Know How She Does It became a bestseller.

But with a big hit on her hands the writer appeared to be having difficulty producing the follow-up and it didn’t arrive in the bookshops until last year.

Fortunately, I Think I Love You, the tale of a teenage Welsh girl’s obsession with David Cassidy, right, in 1974, didn’t give me the impression that she experienced major problems telling this story.

The prose is sparky and bright and the subject matter, 13-year-old Petra’s efforts to get close to her idol, make entertaining reading.

Petra’s character is reasonably well drawn. By her own admission, she is not the most popular or good-looking girl in the class and feels hounded when her classmates start howling during the register because she shares the same name as a Blue Peter dog.

The author clearly knows her stuff about Cassidy and the detailed background material about The Partridge Family, the TV vehicle for the singer, all rings true, although I did get the impression Pearson is not a total muso when she referred to Stones guitarist as Keith Richard. Here’s hoping it was just a typo.

Petra’s wide-eyed idealism is countered by the cynicism of a young writer called Bill who works on the official David Cassidy magazine. He can’t believe some of the efforts the fans will go to as they compete to meet the slightly effeminate pin-up, and as the weeks count down to a big Cassidy concert at London’s White City, Bill starts to wonder what the singer is really like.

Petra and her pals sneak off to the White City concert, which gets rather overcrowded, and Pearson captures the hysterical mood of a concert with little or no crowd control.

About 200 pages in, Pearson switches the setting to 1998 and, after the bubbly first section, the reader comes down to earth as we meet Petra in part two at her mother’s funeral.

Now, she’s 40 and about to get divorced.

But while cleaning out her mother's wardrobe she finds a reminder of her youth, which brings a smile to her face.

The letter reveals Petra and her schoolfriend Sharon won the Cassidy competition they entered all those years ago and, in a rather audacious plot twist, Petra and her pal claim their prize. Twenty-four years on, they are flown out to Las Vegas for an all-expenses paid trip to meet their idol. And journalist Bill, now a magazine publisher, flies out with them.

One of the reasons this novel will sell well is its universal appeal. Most people have succumbed to a little nostalgia once in a while and many will have great memories about how they nearly met their teen idols.

These meetings almost inevitably end in disappointment. When I met Feargal Sharkey at the end of an Undertones gig at Malvern Winter Gardens in 1981 I asked him for an autograph, but the only thing I had for him to sign was a copy of the Clash single Tommy Gun I bought after the gig.

Sharkey wrote down a signature but when I had a closer look, I realised he has signed “Joe Strummer”.

Feeling snubbed, I went back to get Sharkey’s real autograph, ending the night with two for the price of one.

As Pearson explains in the afterword, she was lucky enough to meet her idol David Cassidy in 2004 when she interviewed him for The Daily Telegraph.She alludes to the problems she had writing this book, mentioning the death of her agent Pat Kavanagh.

But she shouldn’t worry – the story she has produced captures the joy of teens’ obsession with music and the inevitable disappointment as the harsh realities of adult life crowd in. Cassidy, who encouraged Pearson to write this book, would no doubt be proud to be such an inspiration.

THE AUTHOR: Allison Pearson was born in South Wales. An award-winning journalist, she was named Newcomer of the Year at the British Book awards for her first novel.

She has also written for many magazines and newspapers including The Observer, London’s Evening Standard, Harper’s Bazaar and the Daily Mail.

She was voted Critic of the Year at the British Press Awards in 1993, and has been a judge for the Orange Prize for Women’s Fiction and the Forward Poetry Prize.

With poet Tom Paulin and fellow author Tony Parsons, she was a regular on the BBC’s Newsnight Review forerunner, Late Review.

She is now a staff writer at the Daily Telegraph and lives with her family in Cambridge.

* I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson is published by Vintage, priced £6.99, but you can get it for half price at Waterstones in Oxford and Witney with the voucher on this page