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I Believe in a Thing Called Love

Review

I Believe in a Thing Called Love

Have you ever seen a K-drama (Korean drama)? Well, if you have not, then you will want to see one soon --- and if you have, then Maurene Goo’s I BELIEVE IN A THING CALLED LOVE is the book for you.

Desi Lee is a soccer-playing, in-every-club-on-campus, straight-A student. She loves formulas more than anything else in the world --- except maybe Luca Drakos. When the mysterious, artistic boy wanders into her AP English class, she is smitten. However, she cannot help but flail (flirt failure=flail) in front of him: on one occasion, her pants drop and she flashes her prospective crush. Whoops! Desi will not be hindered by her flailures, so she continues on. She takes a page from the K-dramas her father loves so much, taking notes and even forming a love of these sappy but heartbreaking shows. From auto to aquatic mishaps, Desi will become Luca Drakos's girlfriend, following the formula she has created based on the K-dramas she has watched.

"I adored the romance in I BELIEVE IN A THING CALLED LOVE....Desi and Luca's love was fresh and perfectly precious."

I have to admit that I have never seen a K-drama. As a loyal otaku (anime fan), I know that if I start, I will become obsessed. I will also admit that I have seen clips of F-dramas on Facebook from K-drama addict friends, and they seem fantastic (I am particularly interested in some of the ones Desi watches).

The thing that I loved the most in Goo’s book was the character development. We learn more about Luca simultaneously as Desi learns more about him, keeping readers on the edges of their seats. He is no longer mysterious by the end of the book; he is a normal teenager (albeit an amazing artist) with very relatable family struggles. To my surprise, he ended up being more human than I ever could have expected, especially for a male love interest. Desi, meanwhile, was deliciously strange. She started out with the mindset of "a boyfriend would be a nice high school experience," but ended up truly falling for Luca, which was adorable.

I adored the romance in I BELIEVE IN A THING CALLED LOVE. I typically do not enjoy romance plots because they are usually trite and repetitive, but Desi and Luca's love was fresh and perfectly precious. They worked well together. When Desi began to notice all of Luca’s quirks and, as she puts it, “neuroses,” I began to see exactly why their relationship worked. The two of them clicked really well. Sure, Desi was awful at art, but she tried. Luca did not always understand her need to achieve and triumph in everything (and I mean everything), but he still stuck around and persevered. Relationships are never about the big moments; they are about the small things people notice and remark about, like Luca's budding germophobia, Desi's easygoing relationship with her father and the embarrassment that follows. Goo shines in her telling of this fun, yet realistic teen relationship.

That said, as a reader I had a problem with Desi herself. If I had to sum her up in one word, I would say "overachiever." She was the girl in all the clubs, from planning committees to soccer to the school newspaper. I did not really like Desi; she seemed too clingy to the idea of dating Luca, and she really went too far at least two or three times. I believe that Goo was touching on the high-achieving attitude of many Asian-American students, and as a Chinese-American student myself, I can confirm that that is definitely a part of the culture. As I know people like Desi in real life, I can say that Goo did a fantastic job of bringing her to life, but her stubbornness and do-everything mindset still got on my nerves.

Lastly, the ending felt a bit rushed, but I appreciated how closely it mimicked the endings of storylines on K-dramas. There was the major conflict: a world-ending, soul-crushing fight which Desi left stranded and lonely --- but then it was all wrapped up with a flailure of prom. The book is mostly focused on Desi getting Luca, but this ending felt too convenient, especially with the focus mostly on the getting the boy part. Again, I did like how this coincided with the steps from the “How to Get a Boy, K-Drama-Style” list, though. That was a nice touch.

I BELIEVE IN A THING CALLED LOVE is for lovers of K-dramas and fluffy romances. This book is for people who want to just indulge in a girl chasing after a boy, even with a little trickery.

Reviewed by Wren L., Teen Board Member on June 13, 2017

I Believe in a Thing Called Love
by Maurene Goo