I Believe In A Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo – Cute, fluffy, and bloody outrageous

Summary:

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.

My review:

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

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | My review on Goodreads


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.


Let’s discuss!

  • 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?
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16 thoughts on “I Believe In A Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo – Cute, fluffy, and bloody outrageous

  1. This book sounds like it has a cool concept! I’ve watched a couple of Korean dramas and enjoyed them both, so I’m looking forward to picking this book up. Nice review 😁!

  2. ooooh, I’m super interest in this book because it sounds adorable but I have never watched a K-drama so I wasn’t sure if picking it up would be a good idea but your review definitely made me feel intrigued because I love over the top situations and unlikeable characters!!! I think I might add this to my TBR for the month, thank you CW!

    • Hi Maf!!
      Yessss I think even if you haven’t watched a K-drama before, it’s still a fun book. And you’ll definitely love the OTT situations – there are many and so so funny.
      You’re so welcome!! I hope you enjoy it if you pick it up!

  3. Lately, I’ve been seeing mixed reviews about this book. I love watching K-dramas and this one made me quite excited when I first heard about it. I still want to give it a shot and I really hope I enjoy it! Nice review! :)

    • Hi Michelle!
      Thank you so much! I think you’ll love it if you enjoy K-dramas. I’m not an avid watcher but have watched enough to appreciate the tropes – but maybe you’ll pick up on more tropes than me? :D
      Thank you so much! Pleaseee let me know if you ever read it – I’d love to hear your thoughts!

  4. I usually avoid romance and contemporaries in general but this seems like it might be a fun book to read during a slump. I love flawed, well-written, unlikable characters as well–they are so much more complex and interesting than the characters who are tulsi-pani-pure (it’s a cultural phrase we Bengali people use to describe Mary Sues :p I have decided to use more and more of phrases and words from my culture in an attempt to spread awareness as well as to celebrate my culture more).

    • Hi Tanaz!
      Haha, it definitely is a fun book! Expect outlandish, but if you find that charming, then this book is fantastic. I loved flawed and unlikeable characters too! Do you have any specific favourite unlikable characters? I feel like they need more love – or appreciation.
      That’s wonderful! I totally welcome and encourage you using more Bengali phrases. 💛

      • So many! But the first that comes to mind atm is Cheryl from Riverdale 😂 Maybe because I just finished watching the first season last night. Adelina from The Young Elites is definitely on the list, and so is Alabaster from The Fifth Season, The Darkling from The Grisha Trilogy, Maven from Red Queen. I wish I could name more but my brain isn’t cooperating 😂

  5. I read this a week or so ago! Like you, I did find it ridiculous at some points and Desi unrealistically oblivious about how she’s being a manipulative idiot. And I didn’t find Luca a compelling character in the slightest. However, I did relate to Desi learning to let go and not be so controlling, as well as her work ethic (because I also like to think that if I work hard I cane do anything). Great review, CW!

    • Hi Shar!
      Ooh what did you think of it in the end? I agree with your points about Desi and Luca. I found Luca so bland, and wish that he was more interesting beyond his passion for art.
      I relate to Desi there too, and it’s really cool to see a protagonist in YA who is so driven to achieve and succeed. It’s very refreshing.
      Thank you so much!

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