Everybody knows that all mothers love their children . . . it's an automatic, inborn response, natural and expected. But if that's true, why can't thirteen-year-old David gain his mother's attention, much less her love? I Want You to Love Me, a deeply moving and articulate first novel, explores the concept of love in the mother/child relationship through the voice of an unhappy young boy whose naive but insightful words offer us a shocking and poignant look at the relationship between adults and children.
David loves his mother, Marlene, desperately. The young, beautiful, and frivolous widow, however, would rather spend time with men than with her children. David and his young sister, Sophie, try their best to attract their mother's attention and make her want to stay at home with them. But whatever they do, they never see her really happy unless she is going out, leaving them behind in the small apartment.
Deep inside, David knows that something is wrong with the way his mother acts toward them, but he cannot admit that her behavior comes from a lack of interest or, even worse, a lack of love. He finds endless excuses to forgive her: the early death of his beloved father, the difficulty of raising two children alone, the lack of love her own mother showed her. And, like any child, he blames himself for not being a good enough son, for not being able to make her as happy as his father did.
In a desperate effort to please her, David makes plans to offer his mother the greatest gift he can think of; a gift, he believes, that any mother would love: a trip to Holland, the sort of trip their father used to take her on. He raises the money and enlists his sister's support. Everything is worked out. They will go on the trip, she will love him, and they will be a family.
The surprise turns into a nightmare. Although Marlene reluctantly agrees to go, she accuses David of trying to trick her into the trip. David finally understands that there is nothing he can do, no way that he can win his mother's affection. On their second night away, he finally gathers the courage to ask his mother a terrible question: "Why don't you love me?"