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.
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.