4 star, YA

Review: I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

Desi Lee believes anything is possible if you have a plan. That’s how she became student body president. Varsity soccer star. And it’s how she’ll get into 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 guidance 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 Steps to True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos—and boat rescues, love triangles, and staged 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 believed, and still believe, that you can build your dreams brick by brick. That you can accomplish anything with persistence.

Even falling in love.

I Believe in a Thing Called Love is seriously the Asian rom-com I didn’t know I needed in my life. Desi’s drive to accomplish anything with her lists and Type-A attitude generally does achieve the results that she seeks. But not so much in her love life. But when she determines she can do so if only she had a guided list of steps to get a guy to fall for her, then it shouldn’t be so hard, right?

Where does one turn to when in need of romance guide? Why, of course, Korean dramas! Not only are they entertaining, it seems the characters all get the happily ever after they deserve: being together after multiple hardships.

Funny and wholly entertaining, Desi embarks to do just that when the perfect candidate enters her life: Luca Drakos, the new transfer to her high school. From setting up (mild) car accidents to kind of drifting into the ocean, Desi goes to great lengths to ensure this plan works!

I know from the outlook everything seems to be hilarious and hard to take serious, but there are certain more serious elements to the story. I like that Luca wasn’t just a “bad boy with the mysterious past” stereotype without exploring what exactly that past was or maybe where there was misunderstanding.

Representation was also wonderful, and I didn’t necessarily feel like they were completely throwaway. Desi’s two best friends, Fiona and Wes, aren’t East Asians and that’s awesome. In fact, Fiona is Mexican and I love that Desi is close enough to her family that her grandmother makes them Mexican cuisine when they’re over.

The one issue I had with the book was how much I personally enjoyed the romance. I know the whole point of the book is to get Luca to fall in love with her. And I did (kinda) believe that Desi developed such strong feelings for him the way that she did. Sometimes I wondered if she just liked him because he was cute and intriguing, the rest of it was that she wanted her plan to work, to get any guy to fall for her. Of course, I know she started really liking him as she got to know him (love triangles ensuing!), but it was a little bit quick in the beginning.

Then came the believability from Luca’s point of view. Sometimes I wondered after everything that had to happen in order for Desi to fulfill the steps on her list – and K dramas are known for having a lot of little events happening between the meet cute and happy ending – if Luca could still care for her in a romantic way. Is it weird that I semi wanted Desi to have a thing for Wes at times?

Overall, as rom-coms go (including Korean dramas!), predictability is part of the package. You can see where the misunderstandings would probably pop into the plot, and where the characters have the opportunity to make up – and hopefully declare their undying love for each other! This is also true of this book, but it’s part of the charm.

And at the end of the day, the important part is that love in all its messiness and unpredictability can be explored.

Yes, all the antics were fun, the cliches exhausting, and the drama dramatic. But in the end, they were about people sticking together through thick and thin, not knowing if it would work out. Real love: It was all about risk and having faith. There were no guarantees.

And that is why this novel was more than just its silliness and fun. Now I gotta go check out some K dramas! *peace out*

Overall Recommendation:

I Believe in a Thing Called Love is full of wonderful Korean drama references and a wholeheartedly fun love story as Desi embarks to get a guy to fall for her. Having always messed up so spectacularly with boys, overachiever Desi creates a guided plan based on every K drama in existence to help her out. With the new guy in school as her target, Desi pursues him with all that she’s got. Sometimes those antics were wildly crazy in my opinion, and sometimes it made me wonder how authentic a love this could be after all of this. So the romance may have faltered a little in my books, but the journey to love and its messiness when things inevitably fall away from the plan made up for it. Predictable, funny and an all-around sweet book with Asian representation (yay!), I look forward to more from Maurene Goo. And can’t wait until this is adapted on our small screens!

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