Thank you MacMillan for the review copy!
I started this book with the goofiest smile on my face, and ended it with that same goofy smile intact. I Believe In A Thing Called Love follows Desi Lee, a Korean-American on her way to medical school and Stanford who gets captured by the grasps of first love. Known for her flailures in flirting, however, Desi composes a plan derived from the beloved K dramas her and her father watch to snag the crush, an artist struggling to reconnect with his father. Gripping, off-the-charts hilarity, and ultimately triumphant, readers will fall in love with Desi as she navigates her way through love and life.
We begin with Desi talking about building dreams, which is further reinforced in the story as we see her tackle all her activities and academics with passion and precision. She’s on her way to valedictorian, is a member of many clubs (and on the cabinet of just as many), and plays in two varsity sports. This is your A+, all-around, fun girl friend who… unfortunately cannot get a boyfriend. Cue her brilliant idea: use K drama tropes to form a formula where the new guy in school, Luca, is bound to fall for her.
“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.”
Desi is utterly relatable, hilarious, and lovable. Her relationship with her single father, who is a mechanic, is wonderful to see. They’re very close, and his absolute support of where she goes and what she does was so heartwarming to see. We also see her interactions with best friends Wes and Fiona, as well as a friend found again, Violet. Her character was a shining star in the story, and truth be told, quite reminiscent of the clumsy but good-intentioned K drama heroines out there. (Seriously, the storyline follows these plot devices pretty well.) She has the wits and hilarity (as well as embarrassing moments) to match any K drama lead out there.
“K dramas bottled up swoony true love in addictive ten-to-twenty hour packages. My reactions to chaste first kisses were akin to heart attacks.”
I loved seeing snippets of Korean culture on the page, as this was written by an Own Voices author. Goo weaves ramen + kimchi and other delightful dishes easily into the script, as well as a lovely backstory to how Desi’s parents ended up immigrating from Korea to America. My favorite were the K drama references and all the familiar titles. I was internally screaming “YESS!!” at references to dramas like King 2 Hearts, Protect the Boss, Boys Over Flowers, and more. ❤
Despite her K drama formula, however, Desi soon realizes that some things in life… can’t be controlled. Including love. This happens as she gets more feelings for Luca and learns more about him. While Desi was absolutely relatable and hilarious, I had more minor feelings for Luca. His character captures the morose artist vibe, although he can be quite silly at times. I think what ultimately stands out is that all these diverse characters are perfectly imperfect, with all the flaws and idiosyncrasies of people we see in real life. And that’s the kind of characterization I adore in contemporaries.
“Real love: It was all about risk and having faith. There were no guarantees.”
So, silly antics, embarrassing real life K drama scenarios, and down-to-earth characters that you will utterly fall in love with completes I Believe In A Thing Called Love. Desi is a girl after my own heart, and I enjoyed following her journey from beginning to end as she explores the possibilities of love that resounds with a triumphant conclusion.