In If I Love You, Am I Trapped Forever?, high school athlete Alan Bennett is complacent about his relatively easy life, particularly since he has just started going steady with the popular and attractive Leah. He is completely unprepared for the arrival of Duncan Stein, a half-Jewish student whose parents open an alcoholism rehabilitation center on the outskirts of Alan’s small hometown. Utilizing a first-person, past-tense narrative from Alan’s point of view, the novel immediately creates suspense when Alan states that “unforeseen clouds are gathering in the distance,” thus leading the reader to wonder how and why Duncan’s arrival should affect Alan’s life so profoundly.
Duncan, whose classmates nickname him “Doomed” due to his unusual appearance and his lack of desire to “fit in,” refuses to go out for basketball despite his height and instead starts an underground newspaper that questions whether love can be anything but ephemeral. Alan is surprised and annoyed when most of the female students, embracing Duncan’s ideas of tragic romanticism, decide that going steady has become passé. The fact that Duncan is able to influence such a large number of students so quickly lends realism to Kerr’s portrayal of high school life, where sweeping fads can become so important.
At the same time Alan’s school life is changing, his long-estranged father contacts him and asks him to visit, an invitation that makes Alan...
(The entire section is 402 words.)