Title: I Believe in a Thing Called Love
Author: Maurene Goo
Genres: YA, Contemporary
“Desi Lee knows how carburetors work. She learned CPR at the age of five. As a high school senior, she has never missed a day of school and has never had a B in her entire life. She’s for sure going to 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 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 Rules for True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos—and boat rescues, love triangles, and fake 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.”
I feel so incredibly conflicted about this book. I’m not even sure if I liked this book or not. Oh well, I’ll just write this review and I’m sure I’ll figure it out somewhere along the way. Let’s start with the things I liked about this book!
One of the things I liked most about I Believe in a Thing Called love was the diversity and representation. Desi’s parents emigrated to the US before she was born, and her Korean heritage is still a very big part of her life. One of Desi’s best friends, Fiona, identifies as a lesbian, and is in a f/f relationship, and her best guy friend is described as having brown skin.
Yes, you heard that right, best guy friend. When we first met her best friend Wes, I was extremely scared that this was going to be a love-triangle-situation, but I’m so glad that it wasn’t! I loved reading about their friendship, and we really don’t get enough m/f friendships (that are only friendships) in books, especially in YA.
I also really loved Desi’s relationship with her father. They’re extremely close, and the fact that they love each other very much is incredibly clear. Also, her dad is amazing?? He is incredibly cute and makes a lot of dad jokes and it’s incredible! Also (and this is a mild spoiler), Desi buys a puppy for her dad at the end of the book so he won’t be lonely when she goes away for college. I’m crying.
I really started enjoying this book, until I read the sentence “Are you still thinking about Luca? Damn, you are crazy.” on page 74. I tried to brush this off, because even though these kind of words really hurt me, it happens in almost every single book and I usually just try to pretend it didn’t happen so I don’t feel sad the rest of the day. Does that make sense? I’m not sure.
Anyway, I tried to brush it off, but it happened again. And again. It included a lot of different variations of the word crazy, too. From “I’m sure you think my mom is a total nut.” to “Full range Crazy Des”, “The Living Proof of my insanity”, “my shelf o’Crazy” and “Wacko”. And every single time, it felt like a punch in the face. (Also, if you don’t know why it’s hurtful and ableist, I’d like to direct you to this article about it.)
I also didn’t like how far Desi took it in regards to her “K Drama Rules for True Love” list. It started off as such a cute thing, with Desi and her dad marathoning multiple K-dramas together, but it ended up being very, well, scary. She really took it too far. I totally get needing a list to be able to talk to potential ‘love interests’ because I know I need that too, but making sure your car crashes so you can experience a life threatening situation together and he’ll fall in love with you? Eh, no. That’s just dangerous, and I hope people who read this won’t think it’s okay to do that.
Even though there are certainly things I would have liked to see differently in this book, I did overall think this was a cute story and I did enjoy reading it. But please be careful with this book if the previously stated ableism hurts you.