Title: I Believe In a Thing Called Love
Author: Maurene Goo
Release Date: May 30th 2017
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
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 her answer 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 forumla, 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 fake car crashes ensure. 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’ve been looking forward to I Believe In a Thing Called Love since way back when in early 2017 when I posted my Most Anticipated Reads of 2017, which featured this book. In April, I went to the LA Times Festival of Books and heard that they were giving them out. Naturally, I waited in line for one and was lucky enough to snag a signed copy.
Going into I Believe In a Thing Called Love, I expected a cute trope-y YA romance read. To some extent, I got that but there were also some areas that were seriously lacking. While I Believe In a Thing Called Love didn’t fully live up to my expectations, it was overall an enjoyable read that had its sweet moments.
I Believe In a Thing Called Love follows overachieving Korean high school senior and Stanford hopeful, Desi Lee. Her neurosurgeon mother died when she was seven, so she lives with her K Drama watching father. Desi’s determination turns into a plot to finally get a boyfriend and overcome her flirting failures, which her friends mock her constantly for. By binge watching her father’s beloved K Dramas, Desi creates a formula to finding love and turns to the new broody artist in town, Luca Drakos, to test it out.
I adored Desi in the beginning. The opening chapter tells a story showcasing her determination as a child. Honestly, it was one of the best openers I’ve read in a long time. It set up the story perfectly and made me fall in love with her (and the quote I featured above is from it… such a good scene). I enjoy characters who think they have a plan for everything and then find out that life can’t always go according to plan.
Around halfway through the story, Desi’s steps start to get… reckless. In two different incidents, Desi creates and plans situations in which either of them could’ve gotten seriously hurt. And I mean more than just some scrapes. Her plans went too far for me. Desi stopped being endearing at that point. Also, it didn’t feel like something she would do. I was just left in shock that she actually did the two things she did. In the end, when she gets reprimanded for the things she did, I’m not sure she actually learned her lesson.
Those two events put a huge dampen for me on her as a character. Like, I can understand her doing the first thing and then being like “Hey, wait. That was super dangerous and I probably shouldn’t do something like that again”. I can even understand her reasoning for the second thing she did because it needed to be a grand gesture and the dangers were dubious, but having both of those created moments in the story felt forced. If those two events were not in the story, I probably would’ve enjoyed it substantially more because her overall character arc was heading in a strong direction.
Another thing I wasn’t to fond of was Desi and Violet’s relationship. Violet is apart of the Art Club that Desi joins to get closer to Luca. She acts as the competition for Luca and both girls are extremely rude to each other. I was fuming for the majority of their interactions. I absolutely despise when girls are pitted against each other over a boy in Young Adult. There ends up being an explanation for the animosity which goes deeper than just competition over a boy. While I liked the reason, their relationship was never resolved. I didn’t need them to be best friends, but I didn’t feel a sense of closure with regards to their relationship.
One of the highlights of the book was Desi’s relationship with her father. I’m grateful every time I see positive relationships between children and their parents. Desi and her father’s relationship was especially unique. There’s a lot of Young Adult that doesn’t have that. I wish we could’ve gotten some more scenes with them bonding.
Some of the other details I liked in I Believe In a Thing Called Love were related to the cute formating. I’m not sure how different it will be from the ARC to the finished copy, but in the ARC there’s a handwritten part that shows Desi’s K Drama steps which was super cute. Some of the chapter titles are also “Steps” instead of chapters.
I Believe In a Thing Called Love also gets bonus points for taking place in Orange County. I adore reading books that take place where I live. Seeing all the references to places I know is so much fun. However, Orange County was referred to as “the OC” a lot, which is something you just don’t do here.
You’ll get weird looks if you do. Maurene Goo actually lives in southern California so I thought it was strange that all of the characters in the book call it that. I felt like Michael Bluth a lot while reading it.