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.
This was one of my most anticipated books of 2017, and though I didn’t get what I was expecting, I Believe In A Thing Called Love was nonetheless full of pleasant and quirky surprises.
The first thing you should know going into I Believe In A Thing Called Love is that it is outrageously silly. Indeed, largely influenced and inspired by romantic Korean dramas, or K-dramas, this book has all the hilarious and heart-melting tropes common to K-drama: tragic family stories, near-miss life and death situations, love triangles(!), and melodramatic moments. If you love K-dramas, I Believe In A Thing Called Love will make you laugh and it will make you feel like rewatching all of your favourite K-drama scenes.
So let’s talk a little bit about Desi; she’s Korean-American, a high-achiever, loves her father, but is an absolute failure when it comes to the affairs of love. She’s so bad that her friends invented a new word to describe her terrible luck with love: fail + flirt = flailure. Though I believe Desi has a good heart, as evidenced by the love she has for her Appa (father), there were times where I thought she was absolutely ridiculous and over the top. Desi may be hard-working, motivated, driven, and outcome-focused, but the story shows that, sometimes and with certain pursuits, these things are not always a good thing. However, the narrative possesses a self-awareness of Desi’s wild adventures and decisions – Desi has an inkling that what she’s doing is wrong, that she is being manipulative and deceptive, but her want for achieving her goal wins out. In essence, Desi was a well-written unlikeable character – a character that possesses obnoxious qualities, was sometimes sweet and endearing, but very flawed to a fault.
Like everything else, Luca could be won over with some good old-fashioned planning … I might be a flailure in love, but I was the motherf-ing boss of studying.
While reading I Believe In A Thing Called Love, I was significantly more interested in Desi’s escapades and her character development than Luca, the love interest. Luca may have the traits of a broody dreamboat and gets some interesting character development, I also thought that he was boring and nothing special compared to the love interests typically found in young adult rom-com’s. Although Luca himself was a little lacking, the outrageousness of Desi’s elaborate plans and adventures in the name of love were undeniably engaging and thus compensated for the former. Moreover, the ending of I Believe In A Thing Called Out was at first dramatic and hilarious and then suddenly resolved. I’m struggling to decide whether the ending is genius on Goo’s part – a climatic ending befitting of a K-drama – or something that was a little underdeveloped. (And, perhaps I considered the latter because the, what I imagined to be, intended fireworks of the ending felt a little dim.)
Although the romance is a focal element of I Believe In A Thing Called Love, there were other things that I adored and appreciated about the story. First, Desi had fantastic character development outside of her love life; she has a strong need to control the things around her and be on top of everything, which is something I relate to. Desi has to learn that she can loosen her grasp on everything and allow some things to simple be, and that not everything goes according to plan. I also loved the relationship between Desi and Mr. Lee; it was pure, affectionate, and a much-needed positive father-daughter relationship in YA and between two PoC! Moreover, I adored Desi’s friends – charming, suave Wes and fiery, confident Fiona; reading about Desi’s friends, the things they do together and how they have each others backs made me wish I had more friends like them.
I Believe In A Thing Called Love comes with quirks seldom seen in YA, but that’s what made it such a memorable read. Parts of the book may feel over the top for some readers (in fact, some parts are over the top), but it’s the narrative’s silliness that gives it its rare charm. If you haven’t read a K-drama before, never fear – it’s still a fun romantic contemporary, though you may miss out on the nuances of the storytelling. At its heart, I Believe In A Thing Called Love is a fun and silly book that doesn’t take itself all too seriously. A good read for those looking for a unique contemporary that gives all is fair in love another name.
Rating: 3.5 /5
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: A teen devises a plan to win over her crush’s heart by studying Korean dramas, and the shenanigans that ensure.
Perfect for: Readers who love and enjoy K-dramas, and who want a unique contemporary.
Genre: Young adult, contemporary, romance
Recommended? Yes, if you love K-dramas; if you don’t know anything about K-drama romance formulas, pick it up if you are willing to try something new.
- Have you read I Believe In A Thing Called Love? What did you think of it?
- Do you like K-dramas, or have you watched any? My personal experience is very limited and I watch them vicariously through my sister. I’ve watched Boys Over Flowers!
- For those who have read it, what do you think about Desi’s behaviour? Does it cross a line for you or did you think it was portrayed well?