Contemporary, Young Adult

#BookevinReads I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

Teenage model in hear shaped glasses laughing

I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux BYR (30th May 2017)


Desi Lee knows how carburetors work. She learned CPR at the age of five. As a high school senior, she has never missed a day of school and has never had a B in her entire life. She’s for sure going to Stanford. But—she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation-magnet whose botched attempts at flirting have become legendary with her friends. So when the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides to tackle her flirting failures with the same zest she’s applied to everything else in her life. She finds her answer in the Korean dramas her father has been obsessively watching for years—where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. It’s a simple formula, and Desi is a quick study. Armed with her “K Drama Rules for True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos—and boat rescues, love triangles, and fake car crashes ensue. But when the fun and games turn to true feels, Desi finds out that real love is about way more than just drama.

I’d like to thank Macmillan USA International for sending me an ARC of I Believe in a Thing Called Love for review.


Rating: 2.75/5

I Believe in a Thing Called Love had the makings of a wonderfully adorable contemporary YA novel that would make you gush about how adorable the relationship of the heroine and her love interest and swoon with the heroine as they both ride off into the sunset at the end.

Unfortunately, I felt that this supposedly cute K-drama inspired YA novel failed to keep me engaged with the plot and at most times, I found myself struggling to relate to the heroine.

I am not saying that Maurene Goo’s I Believe in a Thing Called Love is not a good book. I thought she incorporated the elements of the typical K-drama into the book quite wonderfully into her book. The main issue I had with the book was the heroine, Desi Lee.

The book started off really well and I was really amused with Desi’s antics and her awkwardness when it comes to talking to boys.

I did have high hopes because the opening chapter had me laughing out loud in a moment and cringing in the next. However, I began to lose interest when Desi Lee talked about how “perfect” her life was.

Sorry but not sorry to say this, but I am just not a fan of Mary Sues.

Yes, we get it. You get straight As, you’re in charge of a million clubs in high school, everyone likes you.. blah-blah. It gets boring. I like reading about characters who have flaws. Characters who struggle to discover things about themselves and learn about new things around them.

For me, I thought Desi Lee was just a bit too perfect and if you want to talk about how “real” she is, you could bring up the fact that she’s got zero luck in the love department. Considering that the book is a supposed love story of a teenage American-Korean girl who finds ways to land a guy based on a checklist of things she has to complete in order to achieve her K-drama-worthy happy ever after, I thought I’d give this a pass.

Granted, at times, Desi Lee is quite endearing as I could relate to her naivete, being awkward and shy around guys and there were some really funny yet embarrassing moments for Desi, but against the backdrop of the scheming and lying and manipulating her way into her love interest, Luca’s arms? No thanks.

The plus point for I Believe in a Thing Called Love would be the representation of Korean culture. I liked that Desi and her father had a wonderful relationship and Maurene Goo succeeded in introducing the readers to a part of Korean culture, which I could relate to because I felt that it’s quite similar to my own upbringing, especially in terms of parents’ expectations, respect and familial ties. (To be honest, I liked Desi’s Dad way more than I did Desi..)

Another plus for healthy parent-child relationship. I liked that Desi’s Dad was an important figure in her life and they shared a really sweet and positive relationship.

The romance was cute, I’d say. I did like Luca but I would have liked the book more if Maurene Goo had further developed Desi and Luca’s relationship more.

Although I wasn’t a huge fan of Desi, but I have to commend Maurene Goo for capturing the feelings of young love really well. And the ending that led to Desi’s happy ever after was sweet, but rather rushed, in my opinion. I expected Maurene Goo to introduce us to Luca more, as I would have liked to read a bit more about his culture (he’s a POC). Other characters were likeable, especially Desi’s best friend, Fiona, who is lesbian and she’s a total riot. Without a doubt, Desi’s Dad is awesome in my books.


I Believe in a Thing Called Love is a K-drama fangirl’s dream come true and I think it is definitely a case of “It’s not you, it’s me” because if you’re a fan of cutesy romantic love stories with the dramatic flair of K-dramas, you might like this one more than I did. It had its cute moments in the romance department between Desi and Luca and I liked the representation of Korean culture in this.


14 thoughts on “#BookevinReads I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo”

  1. I felt really similarly to you about Desi. I started to feel like she wasn’t easy to relate to when she just went on and on about how smart she was, and how she was good at everything she touched – except talking to boys. Feeling embarassed around boys does not constitute a real character flaw in my opinion. In fact, I think Desi’s biggest flaw that went totally unchecked during the story was how out of touch she was with reality following the K-drama steps. I really wanted her to actually express some guilt over everything she’d done and to throw away the K-drama steps, win over Luca on her own. Unfortunately she just clings to them even harder.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My thoughts exactly. She wasn’t a bad MC, granted she had flaws and I am totally fine with that. But it’s the part where her actions that caused others harm wasn’t even acknowledged at the end of the book. Faking an accident as a ploy to get the guy? Honey, go home.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved your review Kev! I’m so glad you pointed out the things that fell short specifically Desi’s personality. I’m also not a fan of Marie Sue’s lol & was really rooting for this one. Always a fan of healthy parent-child relationship’s in YA, father/daughter relationships are always a magnet for me since I had a beautiful one with my dad. The diversity seems to have been A+ but I can see myself also wanting Luca’s perspective. Hmmmm…If I score a copy @ Bookcon next mth then I’ll give it a go. I can see this one appealing more to fans of K-Drama’s though which I’ve been meaning to check out ;)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve never seen a K-drama but I know it’s very much like the drama series set in Hong Kong, which I’ve watched when I was younger. Maybe someone who appreciates K-drama would relate more to this one!


  3. Lovely review, Kevin! I had high hopes for this book but I think you’re the second reviewer mentioning that you were a bit annoyed by the main character. I’ll definitely get into this with a bit less expectations now. I’m happy to hear about the Korean Culture representation though, that’s also what made me impatient to read this and I won’t be disappointed on that front for sure :)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh I’m sorry to see this wasn’t a book you enjoyed that much. When I read the blurb it sounded like a really interesting, and really cute YA story, but then I saw your rating and guessed there were a few issues here and there. Character development is so important in contemporary books, all books really but I feel in contemporary the most, so it’s a shame Desi Lee’s character was a little too Mary Sue for you.
    Still great review for this book. :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Beth. It’s hard to write a review for a book you didn’t really enjoy. Granted, I was very excited to read this after reading the blurb, but ultimately, it was quite a disappointment for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I, for one, loved this cute rom-com! I loved the Korean culture and the parent-child relationship. I could see why one would think she’s a Mary Sue, but it also is SUCH the Korean way, my cousins are just like Desi’s character in terms of achievements, extracurriculars, and grades, etc… stressing about college. I also really want to check out k-dramas now!

    Rachel @ A Perfection Called Books

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was totally on the fence when I finished it. I really liked that there was such a positive father-daughter relationship between Desi and her father.

      Which K-drama do you think you’ll want to watch first? :P


  6. I loved this book while I was reading it, but once I finished it and thought about the story a little bit more I realized how many aspects of the story I didn’t really approve of (e.g. Desi lying about her interests in art just to get close to Luca, for example 😐). It did serve its purpose as a fun and entertaining book, though, and I loved the details Goo added in the novel about the Korean culture. 😊 I agree that it was hard to relate to Desi’s character — I wished Goo expanded on Desi’s motivation to succeed and explained why she’s so driven to accomplish things. It didn’t seem like Desi was especially passionate about any of the things she was good at; rather, it just seemed like she was passionate about… being successful? 🤔 I enjoyed reading your review! 📚

    Liked by 1 person

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