I Believe in a Thing Called Love
by Maurene Goo
Do not go into this thinking that it is going to be anything but adorable. High school senior Desi Lee has everything all together in her life together except love. She meets a guy humiliates herself and decides that the key to love is to follow the steps of a K-drama. Hilarity, cuteness, and drama ensue. If you aren't familiar with K-dramas, don't worry it isn't necessary. Just know that you are going to be binge watching them after you finish reading.
First of all, I loved the way that diversity was portrayed in this novel. Desi is Korean-American, and that is an essential part of the story. However, it was not a "problem." She goes about her life being a high school senior. Her best friend is a gay Latinx girl, and her other best friend is a straight white boy.
Desi is such a fun character. She is smart, funny, and determined. She also has quirky control issues and strange gaps in self-confidence. She makes some questionable decisions, but they are so in line with her character that I can't even be mad at her. She makes the choices that she does not because the author wants her to be funny or push forward the plot but because of who she is. She feels like a person that I would have loved to be friends with in high school.
Luca was a surprisingly nuanced character for a cute YA romance. He was handsome, yes but not perfect. At one point a zit is mentioned and Luca kind of honks when he laughs. He sends mixed signals; he has issues with his parents. He isn't great at everything. It just made him all the more adorable.
I loved her relationship with her father. He was so amazing and supportive. I appreciated that he was a mechanic. Not every Asian parent is a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. One of my favorite scenes in the book was Desi and her father making ramen together. The way they automatically and effortlessly divide the cooking tasks illustrates he strength of their relationship.
I enjoyed the writing. The word that comes to mind to describe it is "gentle." Maurene Goo is understanding and kind to her characters. Does that make any sense or does it work only in my head? I was smiling throughout the whole book. Plot wise it was a bit far fetched in places, but that was easy to overlook as even those moments felt authentic and realistic. I enjoyed the sense of humor.
One theme that resonated with me was the illusion of control. I think that there are a lot of us who, even if we don't consciously admit it, feel that the more we micro manage our lives, the better we can deal with the unexpected (or prevent the unexpected.) Desi thinks that having the concrete steps for something and determinedly following those steps will invariably lead to success.
I read I Believe in a Thing Called Love in one sitting and regret nothing. I have already bought Maurene Goo's debut novel Since You Asked.
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.