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!

4 star, YA

Review: Heartbreakers and Fakers by Cameron Lund

From the author of The Best Laid Plans comes another fresh voiced, hilarious rom-com perfect for fans of Tweet Cute and The Rest of the Story.

Penny Harris just ruined her life.

As one of the most popular girls in school, she’s used to being invited to every party, is dating the Jordan Parker, and can’t wait to rule senior year with her best friend, Olivia. But when Penny wakes up on Jordan’s lawn the morning after his first-day-of-summer bash, she knows something went terribly wrong the night before.

She kissed Kai Tanaka.

Kai, her long-time nemesis. Kai, Olivia’s boyfriend. Penny can’t figure out what could have inspired her to do it–she loves Jordan and she would never hurt Olivia–but one thing’s for sure: freshly dumped, and out a best friend, the idyllic summer she pictured is over.

And despite the fact that Jordan seems to be seeking comfort (and a whole lot more) in Olivia, all Penny can think about is winning him back. Kai wants to save his relationship too, so they come up with a plan: convince their friends that they really do have feelings for each other. After all, no one can resist a good love story, and maybe seeing Penny and Kai together will make Jordan and Olivia change their minds.

But as summer heats up, so does Penny and Kai’s “relationship,” and Penny starts to question whether she’s truly faking it with Kai, if he’s really as terrible as she always thought he was, and if the life she’s fighting so hard to get back is the one she really wants.

In her second novel to date, Cameron Lund has shown me that her romances can do this girl no wrong. Hearbreakers and Fakers is the perfect combination of the fake dating trope PLUS enemies to lovers. After a night she can barely remember, Penny wakes up in the morning realizing she not only lost her boyfriend but also her best friend when she was caught drunkenly kissing her best friend’s boyfriend. Which happens to be her nemesis Kai Tanaka.

Continue reading “Review: Heartbreakers and Fakers by Cameron Lund”
3 star, YA

Review: Sunkissed by Kasie West

Will the stars align?

Avery has always used music as an escape. But after her best friend betrays her, even her perfectly curated playlists can’t help her forget what happened. To make matters worse, her parents have dragged her and her social-media-obsessed sister to a remote family camp for two months of “fun.” Just when Avery is ready to give up on the summer altogether, she meets Brooks—mysterious, frustratingly charming Brooks—who just happens to be on staff—which means he’s off-limits.

What starts as a disaster turns into . . . something else. As the outside world falls away, Avery embarks on a journey of self-discovery. And when Brooks offers her the chance of a lifetime, she must figure out how far is she willing to go to find out what she wants and who she wants to be.

Fan favorite Kasie West is back with another unforgettable summer romance that reminds us falling in love is full of wonder, heartache, and—most of all—surprises.

With the last rays of summer making its descent, what better way to end it off with a Kasie West book? Set in a remote camp getaway (that means no internet!) for literally the whole summer, Sunkissed follows affable, peace-loving Avery as she figures out what it means to step outside one’s own comfort zone to chase her own wants and dreams.

I thought the premise was cute and perfect for summer. Camp is always a great book setting at this time of year, with the descriptions of the fun camp activities like watersliding and trail hiking that makes me wish I was actually enjoying a summer-long getaway. I’m not sure I’d be down for the “no internet” part of it, but who knows? Maybe I’d surprise myself if I had less distractions.

With every camp story comes the perfect set up for a cute romance. Kasie West is remarkable for her romances, but I will say, something fell flat for me here. Brooding musician Brooks immediately did not like Avery after mistakenly thinking she was a fellow camp worker instead of a privileged camp guest. (Also, the book never dives in deep as to WHY Brooks thought guests were super privileged to have that kind of visceral response? I don’t like this loose thread!). I was okay with this set up. I mean, he wasn’t nice to her AT ALL, but hey, this could be a great enemies to lovers book.

Wasn’t true to that at all, so don’t get your hopes up, friends. In fact, it’s probably more of a forbidden love trope since workers shouldn’t date guests, but this could’ve been better too.

While Avery and Brooks figure out things after communicating better (yay for better communication?), the focus on the story really falls on an upcoming music festival that hosts a band competition with a generous grand prize. Brooks, along with his band of fellow camp workers, are hoping to compete and win that prize. But, as we all know, things can’t and won’t be easy, because what YA romance would be described as easy or simple?

Without saying too much, I just felt this particular romance formula was overdone and way too predictable. Maybe it’s just the whole camp setting and I’ve moved beyond that romance trope (if it was a mystery at a camp, now THAT’s another story). Maybe it’s the heroine arc where they once were aimless and then “something” brought them to realizing their dreams. I don’t know, but either way, I couldn’t love this book. At most, it was okay.

Because it’s Kasie West, I haven’t rated this too poorly as there are markers of her brand of writing and romance throughout. I liked the portrayal of familial issues Avery also faced so it wasn’t just a boy who changed her (thank God!). However, this is definitely not one of her greatest works in my opinion, though it should satisfy enough fans, particularly those in her age-appropriate audience she actually caters to (not old people like me).

Overall Recommendation:

Sunkissed is a decent summer read set in a remote family-style camp that boasts of its “no-internet” policy. With cute camp workers around and less distractions than usual, of course a budding romance comes alive. Whether you’d call it an enemies-to-lovers or forbidden romance, either way, the romance fell a little flat to me while the focus of the story centred on a band competition Avery’s crush, Brooks, wanted to enter and win. I didn’t particularly love the predictable formula the book took, especially in shaping Avery as a character from someone with almost no backbone to risking big things for her dream. It may be that I’ve read too many books following this same path, or that camp books just aren’t for me anymore. Regardless, if you love this romance and character growth formula, then this novel is a great one to end off your summer.