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CRUSH: Writers Reflect on Love, Longing, and the Lasting Power of Their First Celebrity Crush

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As seen in Cosmopolitan, Elle, O the Oprah Magazine, Redbook, InTouch, People, BUST, on Vogue.com and Harper's Bazaar Online.

An Amazon Best Book of the Month in Humor & Entertainment

A star-studded collection of essays from acclaimed and bestselling authors and celebrities that illuminates the lasting power of desire and longing, and celebrates our initiation into the euphoria, pain, and mystery that is our first celebrity crush.

You never forget your first crush . . .

CRUSH brings together stories of heartbreak, humiliation, and hilarity from a roster of popular luminaries, including James Franco, Stephen King, Roxane Gay, Jodi Picoult, Emily Gould, and Hanna Rosin, who share intimate memories of that first intense taste of love. Here are funny, whimsical, sometimes cringe-worthy tales of falling head over heels for River Phoenix, Mary Tyler Moore, Howard Cosell, Jared Leto, and a host of other pop culture icons.

A few contributors channeled their devotion into obsessively writing embarrassing fan letters. Some taped pics in school lockers. Others decorated their bedroom walls with posters. For tweenaged Karin Tanabe, it was discovering bad boy Andy Garcia—playing the gun-loving mobster Vincent Corleone in The Godfather III. Barbara Graham unsuccessfully staked out an apartment on Park Avenue for a glimpse of her blue-eyed soulmate, Paul Newman. There was only one puppy for six-year-old Jodi Picoult—Donny Osmond—while Jamie Brisick’s pre-teen addiction was Speed Racer.

Swoon-worthy and unforgettable, the essays in CRUSH will leave you laughing, make you cry, and keep you enthralled—just like your first celebrity crush.

272 pages, Hardcover

First published February 2, 2016

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Cathy Alter

4 books6 followers

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5 stars
28 (10%)
4 stars
70 (26%)
3 stars
121 (44%)
2 stars
41 (15%)
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9 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 62 reviews
Profile Image for Bibliovoracious.
339 reviews27 followers
November 26, 2020
Who was your celebrity crush? Why them? What did it mean at the time? What did you learn about yourself from it? What do you realize about it now?

This book will definitely provoke some self-examination, but it's kind of amazing that a book that should be vividly thrumming with the intensity of early adolescent sexuality is so darn...flat, overall.
Half of the book seems to be halfhearted contributions from names they wanted to put on the cover (Stephen King's bio in the back was longer than his entry).

The gems are scattered among the dross (graphic essay on John Lennon, Roxane Gay on Almanzo Wilder, etc), and are sometimes poignant, insightful, sweet, or self-mockingly humourous.

Maybe only one story hits the authentically pubescent over-the-top desperate I'm-going-to-die-with-yearning note: Caroline Kepnes on Brian Austin Green, which is hilarious and weathers the maturation of both crusher and crushee very well.
Profile Image for Randee.
811 reviews32 followers
May 16, 2016
I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway. This is a fun read as authors write about their first celebrity crushes. I think most of remember a time in our youth that we developed a crush on someone unattainable. As you would imagine, some writers had crushes on musicians, actors, athletes, etc. which is to be expected. One writer's first crush was on Speed Racer and another's was Rydia from Final Fantasy. I don't think that is even particularly weird to be honest. When I was a teen, I had a good friend who had a full blown crush/obsession with Errol Flynn. (Errol Flynn, incidentally, had been dead several decades by then.) As much as I liked her as a person, I thought it was weird and it made me feel badly for her. I could not understand how one of my peers could be crushing on a dead actor. I, myself, had a crush on Steve Tyler (singer of Aerosmith, the first of many rock musicians, usually guitarists, who I worshiped from afar.) I found these essays interesting, sweet and innocent. Unless one becomes a stalker, I think crushes are normal and fun. I would love to see a sequel and read more.
Profile Image for Ash.
576 reviews114 followers
June 14, 2016
A couple of years ago, I stumbled onto one of my old journals, roughly chronicling ages 12-17 in my life. One of the more cringeworthy entries involved my total obsessions with whatever man I enjoyed on television or movies. A lot of those crushes I still have now but with age came practical perspective, thank goodness! Other crushes, I was like, WTF?

Reading Cathy Alter and Dave Singleton's Crush: Writers Reflect on Love, Longing, and the Lasting Power of Their First Celebrity Crush felt very relatable. Especially Caroline Kepnes' crush on Brian Austin Green. Granted, I never did anything that crazy but I felt that crazy.

James Franco's professional crush on River Phoenix was an interesting read and a chord with me. It's how I felt about various actresses over the years. Crush was kind of a departure from my usual fare as of late but a good one.
Profile Image for Debs.
786 reviews12 followers
September 26, 2017
Some of these stories re: first celebrity crushes were really interesting, and some were far too long. I experienced so much sympathetic embarrassment during the Brian Austin Green remembrance that I had to skip the track and don't know how it ends (hopefully well?). First crushes seem to be an indicator of changes on the horizon, and, like the audiobook said, they are more revealing about the crusher than the crushee.

My first celebrity crush was George Chakiris, of West Side Story fame. My folks showed us the film when I was ten and in fourth grade, at which point he was in his early sixties, lol. Bernardo set my Type, though, and I will forever get swoony over tall, lean dancer boys with thick black hair and slightly shitty attitudes.
Profile Image for Coleen.
1,079 reviews17 followers
March 7, 2018
This is a collection of essays (by writers, some of whom I was familiar with and some not) about first celebrity crushes. Some of the essays were long, some were short. Some were quite interesting, and some, not so much (I fast forwarded through a few). I think most appealing were those crushes from the 70's and 80's, which were the ones I could relate to, and I think most readers would have a similar perception: those from your growing up years would generally seem to be the most appealing. Overall, a hit-or-miss type of collection. Give me a collection of essays geared toward celebrities exclusively from the 70's and 80's, and I'd be sure to rate it higher.
Profile Image for Michelle.
585 reviews156 followers
May 24, 2016
"Crush: Writers Reflect on Love, Longing, and the Lasting Power of their First Celebrity Crush" is a sweet fun lighthearted read of 38 essays by authors contributing from the Baby Boom Generation, Generation X to the Millennial Generation and is edited and compiled by Cathy Alter and Dave Singleton.

Most Baby Boomers can recall February 09, 1964 when the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan show to thousands of screaming American fans. Janice Shapiro contributed the delightful comic pages to the book titled "Soldier of Love" remembering her crush on John when everyone else was in love with Paul. Richard McCann shared the fascinating story of his crush and adoration for the "First Lady of the American Screen": Bette Davis. McCann corresponded with her over many years yet when he matured the story took an unexpected turn. Marion Winik was disappointed over her inability to become a groupie: her two favorite types the "Jerry Garcia's" and the "Gregg Allmans". Her sister loved the Mick Jagger types with the "big luscious lips and womanizer ways".

At 9 years of age, while her friends were watching Nickelodeon Yesha Callahan was enthralled with John Travolta, watching Saturday Night Fever 97 times, Grease 43 times, Urban Cowboy 21 times and Pulp Fiction over 100 times, she shared the story of her first real friendship crush with Enzo which made her meaningful essay a favorite. Nicola Yoon observed that boys in real life were never as nice as the "pretend ones" where she crushed on Michael Jackson and kissed out his paper lips on a photo poster. Hanna Rosin also had a "kissable" crush on Shaun Cassidy.
While most fans thought the cool bravery and swagger of Han Solo was amazing, Shane Harris secretly loved the shirtless and fearless blonde haired Luke Skywalker, though he was never a leading man there were parts of Skywalker he identified within himself.
Cathy Alter shared of her crush on Bobby Sherman and next Donny Osmond where her mother helped her write to him: "I love you" letters while in grade school. Jodi Picoult also recalled her fondness for Osmond and her most treasured Donny Osmond pillowcase. Dave Singleton wrote in "Perfection" of David Cassidy's symmetrical shag haircut, beautiful chestnut hair and easy "complicated' smile. His enjoyment of music and hits of the Partridge family eased his unhappy home life and always made him feel better.

The six word "Celebrity Crush Memoir" was covered by Larry Smith who recalled his fondness for Julia Roberts. The Baby Boomers had "Teen Beat" "Tiger Beat" "16 Magazine" and others that featured poster fold out to pin-up on childhood/teen bedroom walls. There were always books, records, movies and wall posters to stare at adoringly of a favorite crush. Later, cable TV, music videos and DVD's brought the celebrities closer and seemed more accessible than ever. A celebrity crush is a safe, harmless, natural way for youth to the explore love, longing, and desire that follow with adult maturity.
Cathy Alter lives in the Washington D.C. area, her articles and essays have appeared in many notable publications. Alter has written two books, the most recent: "Up For Renewal: What Magazines Taught Me About Love, Sex, and Starting Over" (2008).
Dave Singleton: An award winning author, producer, memoir writing teacher and speaker of the "Writers Circle" Bethesda, MD. The themes in his work are related to LGBT issues, health, and caregiving. He lives in Washington D.C. ~ With thanks to the Seattle Public Library.

Profile Image for Erika W. Smith.
81 reviews57 followers
August 29, 2016
It's a compilation so there are some high highs (Roxane Gay on Almanzo Wilder, Emily Gould on Jared Leto/Jordan Catalano) and some low lows (James Franco's poem about River Phoenix; and various male writers sharing some sexist nonsense about the things that make various female celebrities lose their crushability - like talking publicly about breastfeeding).
Profile Image for Debbie Alter.
23 reviews
December 31, 2016
Everyone can relate to at least one of the stories in this book. Each story is honest and personal and brings you right back to your childhood bedroom and your posters/magazines/album covers or whatever featured your first crush. What a clever idea for a book, it was thoroughly enjoyable.
Profile Image for Lori.
450 reviews1 follower
January 1, 2017
Uneven and disappointing. A book on crushes should read like a crush - making you breathless and shy. Instead, with few exceptions, this read almost like a clinical study. Bright spots included Roxane Gay's piece on Almanzo from the Little House series.
Profile Image for Lisa McKenzie.
277 reviews27 followers
July 3, 2017
There are two reasons to read this book.
Reason One: Roxane Gay's homage to Almanzo Wilder serves as a reminder of the powerful characterizations and world building in The Little House series.
Reason Two: James Franco's poetry will settle any debate as to whether he has literary talent.
894 reviews40 followers
August 16, 2019
This dumb book had a good concept but failed on organization and depth. It's simply a bunch of random short thoughts on star crushes from writers I've mostly never heard. They range from a few sentences to a few pages. Nothing of substance to any of them. A few go inappropriately into politics (condemning Donnie Osmond for failing to support gay marriage?). And there are even inclusions that aren't actual crushes at all but just running into a celebrity. There's not enough to any of it to make it a real book.

The editors are sloppy. There's no clear definition of what makes a crush. No attempt to pull together different perspectives on certain crushes (Donnie Osmond shows up at the beginning, then again much later. Little House's Almanzo is in a couple different spots.) No depth or true insight into the reason why certain people were popular crushes.

It's like they just tossed the writings in random places in the book with no context. It's pretty much a waste of time to read this because so many of the thoughts are dumb childhood recollections of very jaded adults and unless you are a fan of the specific writers their words are meaningless.
Profile Image for Zee.
106 reviews
January 1, 2018
Rounded up from a 3.5.

This is a collection of short - some very short - essays about celebrity crushes. I like that "crush" is defined in many different ways: there's the romantic longing sort of crush, yes, but there's also the "I want to be like this person" crush.

The essays themselves vary in quality and interest; this is subjective, of course, but I felt like there were a few that were outstandingly good and a few that were not very good at all, but most were somewhere in the middle.

I would've liked some sort of editorial voice to tie these works all together, but I found it an interesting, worthwhile read overall.
779 reviews21 followers
June 3, 2017
I don't know for what author I was searching when I came across this breezy book in the library's catalog. This is a fun, fast read where authors, most unknown to me, talk about their first celebrity crushes, including David Cassidy, Donny Osmond, and even fictional characters like Almanzo Wilder. I loved this musing from an essay on Rivers Cuomo of Weezer: And there's the fact that you can still get Tiger Beat delivered to your door, in print. Adolescent girls and their affinity for collage will save print media yet.
Profile Image for kylajaclyn.
695 reviews39 followers
July 21, 2017
Of course this book is for anyone who has ever experienced a celebrity crush (and who hasn't?), but why is the book so... boring? It took me far too long to get through this, especially since I have it as an e-book. It's been a miss for me with all my e-books lately, but I suppose it's a relief I didn't pay more for most of them. Also I would have preferred if this book featured crushes on younger people that I'm familiar with. I mean, I know who everyone mentioned is, but I've never watched their stuff and I don't care about them (for the most part).
Profile Image for Rachel Reeves.
352 reviews6 followers
May 25, 2017
I read this one for one of the book clubs I run at my library. I really enjoyed it and it brought back many memories of my own celebrity crushes and those of friends and family. It's a fun topic that most anyone can relate to, and reading the stories of several writers I enjoy was a neat glimpse into them as a person and not just for their fictional works. It's nothing earth-shattering, but for anyone looking for a light, fun read, I do recommend it.
Profile Image for Annika.
645 reviews45 followers
September 10, 2020
Essays about celeb crushes...most are first celeb crushes and very young crushers...I dig. We've all been there (Bryan Adams, circa 1991). Some of these essays I really loved...the James Franco/River Phoenix one made me so emotional and I did not see that coming. Franco is a beautiful writer.

Also noteworthy...Kareem Abdul Jabar one, and for personal reasons, Jared Leto. Specifically Jordan Catalono. Circa 1995.
Profile Image for Amy Johnson.
Author 1 book3 followers
August 18, 2017
As a proud Fangirl I loved these essays. Some were funny, others moving but so much to relate to if you've ever loved a celebrity from afar and possibly beyond reason. My faves were Cathy Alter's charming Donny Osmond letter writing campaign aided by her mother, and Caroline Kepnes LOL letter writing campaign to Brian Austin Greene aided by his mom!
Profile Image for Mòrag.
37 reviews
December 29, 2017
I really liked this, as it was really sweet. Personally though, I'm maybe a little bit too young and didn't recognise all the names in the book (or did, but didn't realise that they were once heart throbs!).
Profile Image for Hanna.
497 reviews7 followers
August 14, 2018
What a total joy to read about other people's crushes and beliefs and mindsets during the teen years as you start to feel like you weren't the only one thinking a member of a band was singing "directly" to you.
Profile Image for William.
427 reviews11 followers
December 27, 2019
This was a neat idea but it lacked the sense of a coup de foudre that I was seeking. In short I could care less about the celebrity part and that was a pretty big part of the gist. I was hoping for more of the heart. Wasn’t quite there as much as I’d hoped. Not bad by any means though!
Profile Image for Karah.
Author 1 book19 followers
June 17, 2022
Vast array of valuable perspectives presented in this book. I anticipated seeing David Cassidy and Donny Osmond mentioned more than once. The ardor in the prose made me wonder if these writers still held a torch for their first fixations.

Worth the time.
Profile Image for Jim.
243 reviews
October 14, 2018
I enjoyed this light read and it sparked some fun conversations with friends about their firsts.
Profile Image for Katie.
380 reviews1 follower
June 3, 2017
This isn't a complex book, but it has its charms. It's a series of essays written about people's first celebrity crushes. Some people outgrow their crushes, others still love them years later. Whether it was a crush on David Cassidy, Brian Austin Green, or John Travolta, the authors reveal something about themselves by describing their obsessions.
Profile Image for Rachel Haas.
1 review1 follower
February 13, 2017
CRUSH is delightful - both hilarious and provocative, I found the wide range of stories incredibly entertaining and deeply personal! And in a period that feels increasingly divisive and polarized, it is so important, now more than ever, to remind people that we are all human - and this is exactly what CRUSH delivers! That first crush is universal (even if only a 'celebrity' in the eyes of the CRUSHER) - something I think all readers can appreciate and enjoy. This would be a great book club book - definitely a conversation starter!!
Profile Image for Erik.
395 reviews35 followers
June 27, 2016
I went into this book thinking it was going to be like those cringe-worthy gatherings in bars where folks read publicly from their teenage diaries. Some of the essays qualified, no doubt about it. However, overall I have to say the collection wasn't as cringe-worthy as I had hoped. There's juicy stuff here, just not a large quantity of it.

The last section of the book is my favorite, the one where folks start with goo-goo eyes for a celeb but end with "eww." If the book had more of that I may have enjoyed it more than I did. At some level, I guess I enjoy wreckage. I'll accept that as a personal flaw and move along.

I got this book as a Goodreads Giveaway in exchange for an honest review. I honestly don't understand what anyone sees in Jared Leto. He's like Paris Hilton, famous for being famous, right? Something like that. Also, I don't have any celebrity crushes. None. NONE. So don't ask.
1 review
February 8, 2017
This book is pure joy to read. Seriously the perfect Valentine's gift as it is sweet, insightful and fun.
What really made the book enjoyable for me is that I could relate to virtually every single story. Each celebrity crush mirrored the many I developed as a kid. A genuinely charming rememberance of that special time in life when everything seems possible thru love.
Profile Image for Beth.
548 reviews12 followers
April 24, 2016
This was a very sweet book that made me smile.

Celebrity crushes take many forms. For some, it is a matter of a feminine or masculine ideal that will stick with them throughout their lives. It can be a matter of sexual awakening. It can also be completely platonic and instead be focused on aspirations and trying to achieve goals in order to emulate the object of the crush.

This book looks at various aspects of "crushitude" (I just made that up) and how it affects people throughout their lives. Learning that the letter you get isn't really from your crush but from a surrogate is a lesson in itself.

For the record, the first crush I can remember is Bobby Sherman. I've had many since then and remain an unabashed fangirl. The devotion is different, but it is still heady and potent.

Recommended for anyone who is a fan of anyone.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 62 reviews

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