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I Believe in a Thing Called Love

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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.

336 pages, Hardcover

First published May 30, 2017

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About the author

Maurene Goo

34 books1,501 followers
Maurene Goo is the critically acclaimed author of young adult novels, including I BELIEVE IN A THING CALLED LOVE and THROWBACK. She's also written for Marvel's Silk series and lives and writes in Los Angeles with her husband, son, and cats.

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5 stars
2,148 (17%)
4 stars
4,482 (37%)
3 stars
3,902 (32%)
2 stars
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1 star
352 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,940 reviews
May 31, 2017
You just needed a plan, to take action. It’s how I convinced my dad to let me raise geese in our backyard, how I saved our underfunded middle school library from closure, how I overcame a fear of heights by bungee jumping on my sixteenth birthday (with only a little pee escaping me), and how I became number one in my class year after year. 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.
This is the Asian-American YA book the world needs. I hate to say it but god it was so adorbs, and the spunky heroine even won me, a hard-core romance cynic over. The only thing that would have boosted it to 5 stars in my eyes: an Asian romance interest. Come on :\ can't the Asian guy ever be the main love interest for once?

So a bit about me: I'm a 30-something grown ass Asian woman who still loves k-pop. I started off with j-pop and anime, graduated to Taiwanese dramas and music, then switched over to Korean dramas and manhwas and music and here I am. I've never been a huge fan of Asian dramas, to be honest. I watched a few that I liked, like Full House (not to be confused with the American version lololol) but the Korean drama, Meteor Garden, but I found the overwhelming majority of Korean dramas to be annoying as shit. The MC in the book describes it perfectly.
Or how huge obstacles were brought on by class differences, and how it was considered kind of okay for a rich mom to start hitting a grown woman for daring to date her son despite being poor. And the grown woman would just sit there and take it because the rich mom was her elder!

Then there were the emotions. My God, I have never witnessed this level of emotion from human beings, on-screen or off. So. Many. Tears. So much yelling.
The spunky, screeching, shrill, annoyingly positive main character against overwhelming odds never interested me. Like fuck that shit. Real life ain't like that. I'm sick of your fucking chaebol asshole alpha males who fall in luuuuuuuuuuurve too. I feel like you've watched one, you've watched them all, and I honestly can't stand them. The only one I can maybe watch these days is Descendants of the Sun and that's mainly because I don't give a shit about the storyline because I can stare at Song Joong Ki's face the entire time. HNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNG HOW CAN A MAN BE THAT BEAUTIFUL IT'S JUST NOT FUCKING FAIR LIKE DOES HE EVEN HAVE PORES IN HIS FACE? I can only watch it for like 5 minutes at a time over my sister's back as she watches it mainly because - I'm embarrassed to even have to type this - but I just can't stare at him for too long. It's like looking into the sun.

This was my fear about reading this book, the main character sounds like one of the perfect ones in the dramas. Positive and smart and so cute and adorkably clumsy. I don't like k-dramas, but I know people who love them, and I understand their feelings, because fuck, who am I to judge, I who fangirl over EXO.
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 bawled with abandon when couples had to break up, when one of them was suffering. I sighed happily with glazed eyes when my characters finally got their happy endings.
The MC in this book is a tough little cookie. Her mother died when she was just seven, and thanks to a little questionably self-experiment in which she kinda-sorta-convinces herself that she has a teeny bit of magical power that enables her to keep her head high.
But I never lost the belief that you could will something just by sticking to it, by being unwavering. By keeping your eyes on the prize. And by doing that, there was nothing you couldn’t control about your own life.
She's got great grades, good friends, a loving father. Desi just sucks at getting guys to notice her. Finally, she watched the k-dramas to which her dad has been long addicted, and like everything else she's ever done, sets out a plan to get the guy of her dreams.

From my experiences with k-dramas, I expected the worst, but honestly, this list is pretty realistic and not crazy.
“Are you … out of your damn mind?”

I released a tortured breath. “Hear me out—”

“No way, Des. This is the most deranged thing I have ever seen, even for you. Some of these things … I mean … who the hell…”

“Fi, I’m not going to take it all literally. Some of the real wacko stuff you’re reading is part of these formulas but not necessarily things I need to do. It’s a rough … inspirational blueprint if you will. But it essentially lays out, step-by-step, all the ways to get into predicaments that will endear me to Luca and then ultimately get us closer together.”
This book was so fun to read. I didn't like one moment where she kind of blew off her future for him, but I guess the book kind of needed that to prove a point. The relationships were great, I especially liked the one between Desi and her father. I'm a huge critic of books with Asian main characters because typically they're not done to my liking or not realistic or just too stereotypically Asian or self-hating, but ha, the author is Korean and she did this right.
Profile Image for Maggie.
432 reviews429 followers
Want to read
September 8, 2016
Profile Image for emma.
1,867 reviews54.4k followers
September 29, 2020
I am a relatively fearless person.

In fact, it borders on unsafe. Although I am a physically weak and indoors-y young woman, I feel no fright when I walk outside at night. (Relatedly, I’m a poet and I didn’t know it.) I capture bugs in mason jars and take them outside like a romcom character played by Zooey Deschanel. Heights, death, snakes, loneliness: All of these phobias quiver before me.

Only one thing scares me, and it’s books like this one.


I HATE picking up a YA contemporary and expecting a good swoony time and being confronted with the fact that no, I will not be blissfully watching from the sidelines as a sixteen year old with fairytale princess levels of beauty who is totally unaware of them falls in love with a boy she never noticed before even though he goes to her high school which for all intents and purposes seems to have 22 students max.

Not only will I not be getting that experience, but I’ll be getting this one. One where the protagonist is being totally goddamn cringey and embarrasing and you KNOW that it’s going to blow up in their stupid cringey face on page 276 but you can’t stop it and you just have to deal, like you’re watching a slow motion car crash for hundreds of pages, or worse, someone trip and spill a full iced coffee.

See, I contain multitudes. I am a debilitatingly empathetic person, whose day can be obliterated by seeing someone who looks kinda-sorta sad eating alone in public, but I am also profoundly judgmental.

So plotlines like these cause me unrelenting suffering on multiple levels.



(Note: These things actually happened.)

1. When your girl causes you to get in a car accident, leading to extensive damage to your car and minor injuries to you both :) and also she’s not your girl :)

2. That relatable feeling when you give up your life dreams to momentarily support your boyfriend of a week

3. That moment when you’re a genuinely bad friend, and it’s also not a moment, it’s just...a thing

4. When your friend Cassidy has a crush on the guy who will later become your boyfriend except it’s very funny to you, so that’s why it’s okay for you to make her ask him to prom even though it ruins her chance to have a date who actually wants to be there with her :)

5. When your boyfriend breaks up with you because the entire beginning to your relationship was fake and you staged it, including parts that put his life and your life in danger, so you win him back by...staging another fake dramatic thing that puts his life and your life in danger? Whoops.

These #SoMeMoments happen throughout the book. Page 1 to page 894. (What do you mean this book isn’t 900 pages long? I swear I read 900 pages.)

But it’s okay she did all that crazy stuff because she knew she loved him since he *check notes* drew something on her paper once?


Bottom line: Character development? I don’t know the name. I only know pain.


nothing says I'M OUT OF MY READING SLUMP AND I'M GOING TO LIVE FOREVER like finishing four books in one day.

especially when one of those books sucks as hard as this one.

review to come / 1 star


you know that stage when you're finally out of a reading slump and you can't stop reading and you just pick up more and more books?

yeah. that.
Profile Image for Bentley ★ Bookbastion.net.
242 reviews558 followers
April 7, 2017
Full disclaimer, I've never seen a K-Drama before (although this book definitely peaked my interest in them) so I can't definitively judge how well this book actually aligns with the execution of the televised dramas. However, Maurene Goo does a spectacular job of explaining them to readers who have never seen them before, and based on her explanation, I think I have a handle on how they work. Plus, I had my wonderful reading buddy, Josh (Forever Bookish Josh) reading along with me and he helped fill me in too.

I want to be clear: rating this book was difficult! I kept going back and forth between 3 and 4 stars for a number of reasons. There's some super cute and endearing aspects of this book, and it's quite well written, but I can't just overlook some of the more problematic elements either.

One thing I loved about this story was the diverse and widely varied characters. There's so much positive representation and visibility here, which is always a plus in my book. Desi's parents emigrated to America before she was born, so her Korean heritage is still a large part of her life and factors heavily into the story. One of my favorite aspects had to be the quieter moments, between Desi and her father. Maurene Goo incorporates a lot of information about Korean culture: television, language, food, etc., in their conversations and left me feeling like this is one book where I'm coming away from it feeling like I learned a few things.

Also, can I just say how refreshing it is to see a healthy parent/teenage protagonist relationship in a YA novel? I feel like so often the parents are absent from the story, or enemies of the main character and that's certainly not the case here.

However, despite how cute and fun I may have found those smaller, more intimate moments, I was really dismayed by the main character, Desi, and found her behavior extremely problematic. Despite being the Valedictorian of her graduating class, Desi has extreme self-esteem issues and can't talk to boys without embarrassing herself, so she comes up with a plan to land herself Luca Drakos, the hottest boy in school.

Utilizing steps meticulously taken from the K-Dramas she watches with her dad, Desi sets out to seduce herself a boyfriend. There's just one problem: she becomes totally complicit in lying, and hurting other people in order to do it. Which I just can't get behind.

I'm not even going to beat around the bush here. Desi's actions reach a point where the only way I could enjoy the story any further was to pretend that I was reading a psychological thriller. Seriously, that's how absurd some of the choices she makes are. The poor girl was in need of a therapist by the end of the book, not a boyfriend. One question I like to ask myself as I read, is "if the genders were reversed, would we still support this character's choices," and in all honesty, I don't think we would.

I don't mean to imply that I disliked this book. On the contrary, I really enjoyed most of it. It's fast-paced, and the conversations between characters are really cute. I just wanted more accountability for Desi's actions in the end than we ended up getting.

★★★✯✩ = 3.5 stars!

See this review and more like it on my bookblog: Book ★ Bastion___________________________________

Buddy Reading this with my good friend Josh (Forever Bookish Josh). I've realized recently I'm woefully under-read in YA contemporaries, so this book seems like a perfect starting point to rectify that!
Profile Image for Tweebs♥️ .
184 reviews836 followers
June 3, 2017
*looks at title*

Me: okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay I'll roll with it

*reads synopsis*
*mentions "kdramas" *

Me: *slaps the table*
Me: Vhat vhat vhat vhat vhat
Me: sign me up
Me: be still my beating heart
Me: y'all I'm in tears
Me: rip to me because this is everything I ever wanted
Me: my prayers have been answered #praisethelord
Me: am I being tested in this life?? because I NEED MORE OF THIS I NEED A SEQUEL !!
Me: to be honest, I just want a Luca in my life because that love interest is 😍😍👌🏼👌🏼
Me: seriously can Luca just come and be the male lead in my nonexistent love life pls & thx
Me: but why is the main character so relatable? She's the definition of me.

Guys I'm just going to go scream so expect a review in 3 years ok.
Profile Image for may ➹.
494 reviews2,065 followers
May 21, 2020
2.5 stars

Me: Asian rep!!! Asian characters!!! I will read this no matter what!!!!
Me: *actually reads the blurb*
Me: …I am going to hate this
Me: *reads the book anyways*

That was really not one of my finest moments. I should have dropped this as soon as I read the blurb, because I knew exactly how it would turn out to be: cringy, dramatic, cheesy, and stupid.

And that’s exactly how it turned out, BUT it was also unexpectedly addicting and engaging. I remember staying up a few hours at night just to read the book, because I was caught up in the drama of it all. Trust me—I despised the drama. Not only did it stress me out but also facepalm myself because the characters were just not using their brains???? But somehow I was hooked and wanted to read more.

The main reason I wanted to read this book at first was because of the Asian main character. The rep wasn’t even that remarkable? It was really great to just see Asians in literature without having to offer deep thoughts about being Asian, but it wasn’t anything special. (Of course, I’m not Korean like Desi, so maybe Koreans will find themselves more than I did in this book!)

I think there was like one part where Desi mentioned defying stereotypes by being an Asian nerd AND a jock (or something like that) and I laughed. But that was pretty much it.

But honestly, what the hell is wrong with Desi. She follows “steps” of K-Dramas to get a boy she likes to like her back. But she goes to so many extremes to do this that it’s literally RIDICULOUS. She literally concocted a plan for a minor car accident just to get her crush like no ??? You are going to kill him ???? He’s going to be dead and the only kiss you’ll be getting is on his cold blue lips in the morgue ????

And the thing is, it’s so predictable. We’ve all seen this: girl does the outrageous things to get the boy—girl gets the boy—some kind of drama ensues to make them break up—girl and boy end up back together. And even worse, Desi knows of these steps and actively follows them… as if they makes it any less predictable. But no, it just makes it twice as predictable??

I honestly don’t know what else this book was about. Everything was just so forgettable, besides the ridiculous things that Desi did (which is really hard to get out of your mind). I mean, I couldn’t even remember Desi’s name without looking up the book. I don’t know what the love interest’s name was. Luke? Lucas? Luca? Some typical Mysterious Brooding Hot White Guy name, that’s for sure.

Pretty ridiculous main character and predictable, cheesy, CRINGY romance… but I guess it’s kind of nice to see an Asian girl get the boy this way instead of a white girl like it usually is.
Profile Image for Lea.
473 reviews74 followers
July 6, 2017

Let me start with what I liked about this book:

- The writing style was VERY Princess Diaries, very fun and snappy. I really did laugh reading this book, at least in the beginning.

- The relationship between the main character, Desi Lee, and her father. It. Was. THE. Cutest. I would have liked more space for them in the book.

- The love story between Desi's parents. THAT I would have liked a whole book about. Every time their story was brought up I thought "Why am I not reading a book about that instead?", which is not really a good sign for the main story I guess.

Which brings us to... the things I didn't like. Which turn out to be the main character, the love interest, and the plot lmao.

- Desi Lee needs a psychologist more than she needs a boyfriend. Her personality was kind of a mesh between Paris from Gilmore Girls (the Chilton years) and Mia from The Princess Diaries. With a liberal dose of crazy all her own. Seriously, she is beyond. She has a K-drama based list of "steps" to fall in love, which is a cute rom-com premise, except that her list involved almost killing the guy she was crushing on. Thrice. She is incapable of remorse. She is one of those scary "ANYTHING is fair in love and war" people. Newsflash, baby. Not everything is fair in war. Which is why we have the Hague and Geneva Conventions and the International Criminal Court. And not everything is fair in love either. For example, orchestrating car crashes to get closer to your crush.

Here's a sample of her twisted thinking: “When a guy goes through obstacles to get a girl, it’s considered ‘romantic.’ Think climbing through a girl’s window unannounced to watch her sleep. However, when it’s a girl making dramatic gestures for a guy, it’s creepy. Double-standard bullshit!"

SIS, THEY ARE BOTH CREEPY. It's creepy to climb through a girl's window unannounced to watch her sleep. And it's creepy to spread nails on a road to make your crush crash his car!

Sidenote, this is the second YA book I've read where a main character uses faux-feminism to justify her sociopathic behaviour. (The other one was The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart).

- I didn't like the love interest, Luca Drakos. Some of it is because he just isn't my type (he wears a beanie everywhere, all the time - ew). But some of it is because he's a big whiny overprivileged emo baby? He is someone who would also benefit from a psychologist. Or from military academy.

He is pretty terrible to his perfectly nice dad, who saved his ass from going to jail not once but TWICE. The guy is just trying to make sure his son doesn't go down a bad path, but Luca can only complain about how his dad has so much money and connections. Cry me a river! He even whines about how his dad invented a life-saving medical equipment because it would make him money and not because he actually wanted to save lives. Who gives a shit? Go read some Adam Smith, you horse's ass. (Turns out his dad - a medical engineer - did care about saving lives. Little Lenin wouldn't know because he isn't actually interested enough in what his father does to even know WHAT it was that he invented).

I ended up liking Luca's dad wayyyy more than I did Luca. I totally agreed with him that Luca needed more discipline. Too bad we don't actually see him apply that to Luca (he was never really punished for anything, ever?).

- Other things: 1) The instalove. 2) Desi makes a CRAZY sacrifice for her boyfriend, basically throwing her entire life's dream in the trash for a guy she's known like, a couple of months? And it turned out to be over a damn silly thing. I don't know what kind of message that is for girls. 3) Desi never gets the come-uppance she deserves after manipulating the hell out of Luca, which weirdly vindicates her crazy list. It worked after all!

Anyway, this book was a mindfuck, especially towards the last third. If you like some of the more outlandish K-dramas, like Boys Over Flowers (which was totally BONKERS), you might actually like this? But if you are into er, healthy relationships, maybe skip it.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Aj the Ravenous Reader.
1,051 reviews1,049 followers
November 6, 2017

“Unexpected things happen. But it’s how we react to them, how we learn and evolve from these things that shapes into who we are.”

I Believe in a Thing Called Love is one of the most hilarious, most adorable contemporaries I’ve read. So funny, it’s ridiculous.

"And then.
My fashion sweatpants fell off. In a puddle at my feet."

But what I liked about the book is that it isn’t just funny, romantic and silly. I actually appreciate the message of the story through the main character and the narrator of the story, Desi . I love her “can do” attitude and how she always takes charge of her emotions, reactions and her life in general.

"But I never lost the belief that you could will something just by sticking to it, by being unwavering. By keeping your eyes on the prize. And by doing that, there was nothing you couldn’t control about your own life."

It’s so amusing how she got inspiration in achieving her romantic interest named Lucas through Korean Drama and even though there is a sad story behind her controlling attitude, it was presented in a very light and heartwarming writing that I just enjoyed every bit of the plot especially Desi’s relationship with her dad and her friends.
Profile Image for Amber.
387 reviews38 followers
August 27, 2019
EDITED: Actual review time below!!

A book about a girl who uses k-dramas as a guide to flirting and romance????


So, here's the thing: this book read like a k-drama. I love-love-loved the parallels. Desi creates this list of steps based on k-dramas for how to get her man, but in reality, she's basically a k-drama star herself.

Desi is this super smart, super capable, super spunky girl who flails at romance and has a sad family story.

Luca is this supposedly unattainable perfect guy who's amazing at his chosen hobby/profession.

Cue family tragedy, cue great parent-child relationship, cue annoying/probably-conniving-and-evil-if-she-showed-up-for-longer mother-in-law (Luca's actual mom, not Lillian). I enjoyed every moment in this book. Desi, you cray.

Also, YAAAS.

Profile Image for Amerie.
Author 5 books4,151 followers
June 3, 2017
I absolutely loved this book. Tying in K-drama structure while also being so important to Desi's master plan was cleverly done, and seeing Korean home life/relationship dynamics/details depicted so well was refreshing (see my status updates for specific thoughts). I couldn't stop turning the pages, even when I should've been doing other things (like sleeping). One of my favorites of 2017.

1 of my status updates: "Of all the books I've read, this best sums up what it was like to grow up in my house. Eating Korean food 90% of the time, the dynamic between myself and elders, trying to bridge my American life with my mom's very Korean, immigrant perspective, having many of our lunches sitting on the floor on the low Korean table... Our house was/is VERY Korean, from food to rules to furniture. To see it in a YA novel... wow."

Sidenote: my parents live in Korea again and this book has me extra-ready for my upcoming trip!
Profile Image for Cindy ✩☽♔.
1,092 reviews803 followers
December 11, 2021
Rating ~3.5

Well the K-drama nerd in me absolutely adored this. Is it a tad cliche and somewhat predictable? Sure, but so are K-dramas lol

Desi is a smart, dorky, endearing heroine and even at her craziest I could not help but like her.

Her two best friends Fiona and Wes, honestly seem like two of the most loyal friends ever. They always support her through all the crazy hijinks, while also being completely honest with her about how crazy it all is 😂

It is important to note that you probably should not take this book too seriously. Again, like K-dramas, it requires some suspension of disbelief. Because no way in real life should you approach a relationship the way our heroine does in this book. Odd schemes and point-by-point plans. This is crazy type-A, in fiction only, behavior. If you're looking for a sane, realistic portrayal of a teen relationship this is not it lol.

- - -
Okay, so I am usually not one for cover models, like ever, though it sometimes works for contemporary or modern setting book I guess. However, I must say it is pretty nice to see an Asian cover model on this. Basically, it's just nice to be included.

 photo giphy_zps2tcli2t2.gif
Profile Image for Hilly 🎐.
709 reviews1,323 followers
February 21, 2020
DNF 54% | 11/07/19

This is becoming a movie??? HOW. ABOUT. NO.

I wish I could say I loved this. I waited so long to get my hands on this book and I was so excited when I finally got to read it. The main character mentions that she has an overbite right at the beginning, and I’ve never felt more represented. But then I frickin HATED the book. This is probably my most hated book of all time.

The main character in this is insufferable, creepy, manipulative and straight-up PROBLEMATIC. If she and her love interested switched gender, everyone would riot and say she’s a damn stalker. But she’s one in a cute pretty little girl form, so that’s okay?

PLEASE. Let’s try not to promote books about psycho people who do their LITERAL WORST to get the “guy of their dreams”, even try to kill them.
Profile Image for alexandra.
230 reviews1,522 followers
September 3, 2020
i binged this novel harder than a k-drama.

I BELIEVE IN A THING CALLED LOVE is sososososo hilarious, adorable, and heartwarming. as a person who loves korean dramas, this story was a dream come true. i couldn't help but laugh situations (and Desi's internal monologue!). although it was obviously cliché and predictable, i loved every second. <3333
Profile Image for Sophia.
270 reviews2,023 followers
June 28, 2017

i have some pretty huge issues with the main character (i.e. she's out of her freaking mind and her behavior would not be condoned under, like... any normal circumstance), but WOW this book was so adorable. i honestly kind of regret reading it when i did, because i should have saved it for a time when i really need a good contemporary.

very much recommend!!


video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVVvK...
Profile Image for Sara (sarawithoutanH).
512 reviews3,461 followers
February 8, 2018
Okay, I'm normally not a fan of YA contemporaries, but I thought this one was so cute! I was a huuuuge kdrama fan when I was a teenager (I seriously binged like 20 of them) and I loved the way this book incorporated them. You do have to suspend quite a bit of belief to enjoy it (especially with the ending) but overall it's such a fun time! There were times I considered only rating this 3.5 stars, but I loved Desi's Appa so much and he deserves 100000 stars. Also, Desi was a delightful and entertaining main character.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,479 reviews7,773 followers
December 21, 2017
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

Let me start by saying I really should have enjoyed this more than I did and I’m kind of bummed that I didn’t. The story here is of Desi Lee – an overachiever to the nth degree. A senior in high school, Desi has made a habit of setting a goal for herself and achieving it. Straight As, varsity soccer stud, on her way to early admittance to Stanford - Desi makes her own destiny. There’s only one thing she fails at – the opposite sex. When a new boy shows up at school, Desi decides she’s going to stop being a flop with boys and decides to get a little inspiration in the form of K-Dramas in order to script her way to romance.

Sounds like something right up my alley, doesn’t it? What can I say????

Have no fear, I’m not going to channel my inner Gretchen Weiners here when it comes to me not loving this as much as I should . . . .

Nope. I have no problem with rom-coms that use a little deception in order to get the ball rolling. Give me a “friends dared me to date you but then we fell in love” or “let’s pretend to date so you can get the guy you like, but really we’ll fall in love” and 9 times out of 10 my middle-aged butt will eat it up and be smiling from ear to ear the entire time. So that being said, obviously I didn’t really care a whole lot about the use of soap opera plotlines to be the inspiration on how to get the guy. Sadly, it was the guy himself. Well, not really. The guy was fine, it was how he ended up being the guy Desi wanted to go for that was the problem.

You see, the story started with Desi having an actual crush on someone. Said someone being a Freshman, it created a lot of fodder for her friends to poke fun at her about. Then Luca walks into school and Desi decides to go for him. Based on what? That he was good looking? Just to say she was able to get a boyfriend? So shallow. I think if she would have gone with her actual feelings and tried to date the Freshman this would have worked a lot more for me. And for anyone who wants to say “ewwww, a four year age difference?!?!?!?!” – that could have been handled just as easily as Desi falling for a complete stranger like was the case here. He could have had a weird birthday that made him older than everyone in class, she could have either had the opposite sort of birthday making her younger or have skipped a grade or something. Also, Desi wasn’t a character who was looking for some serious thing when she started her little experiment so it didn’t need to end up with some “love of her life” situation – they could have went to the prom and had a little smooch and moved on with their lives. Why did the author even have to mention the first boy?!?!?!?!?!

I know I ruined my own good time by overthinking this one, but I couldn’t make my brain shut up. I also still can’t get this freaking song out of my head . . . .

Go read AJ’s review instead. Her brain isn’t her nemesis so she can enjoy things.
Profile Image for monica kim.
202 reviews6,041 followers
July 26, 2017
I LOVED this book! If you want an over-the-too kind of ridiculous but also hopelessly wonderful contemporary, YOU NEED TO READ THIS (even more so if you love Korean dramas).
Profile Image for Jasmine.
443 reviews712 followers
January 31, 2018
***Actual rating: 5/5 Kdrama-1-Reality-0 Stars***

I pulled out the K drama list, sopping wet at this point. Pulpy and dripping ink.
I wanted to shred the thing to bits, to shove it in my mouth and eat it if possible. But the more I stared at the list with all its ridiculous rules and steps, the more I began to register why I loved those dramas. Not because they were helpful, or because they were a useful tool for my own purposes.
It was because they were unapologetic love stories.

I Believe In A Thing Called Love was a fairly delightful read for me because not only the characters and their features were unforgettable, but the entire story design was really well-thought-out. I’ve been captivated from the beginning until the end and what I found even more incredible was that feeling of the book ending at the exact moment I last expected it to be. I just couldn’t get enough of the cute couple here! Anyway, first things first, let me give you a briefing on what this book is about and all the reasons why you don’t want to miss it.

The story was about this walking dictionary, Desi Lee, a super-nerdy, Korean-American girl who aced all her academic performances, got a full list of extracurricular activities and knew literally everything that scientifically made sense but had an epic history of “flailure” (a.k.a. flirt+failure), which she could never figure out from reading or studying. Desi followed her principles strictly on a daily basis so basically, she couldn’t tolerate any surprise nor could she stand the idea of not being able to control her life.
But I never lost the belief that you could will something just by sticking to it, by being unwavering. By keeping your eyes on the prize. And by doing that, there was nothing you couldn’t control about your own life.

However, we all knew, true love wasn’t something you could tick off on your to-do list simply by obeying everything or being a good girl. Hence, when she fell hard for this new artist-rebel guy, Luca, she decided to create a how-to-make-Luca-your-boyfriend list by mimicking all the steps in those Korean rom-com dramas her dad always watched.

Even though Desi’s blueprint of pursuing Luca was sort of absurd, I actually liked how it was presented in the book. The story wasted no time getting down to business so readers could follow each chapter step with Desi and find out whether her plans worked. Despite the fact that Desi’s steps were pretty hilarious and could definitely give you a good laugh, I didn’t appreciate all of them. Especially the fake accidents because she ended up (looking like) manipulating Luca and playing with his feeling instead of showing him what she truly felt. In my opinion, those incidents were childish and totally not helpful in pursuit of a boyfriend.

Thankfully, Desi’s best friends, Wes and Fiona, played the perfect roles of those knocking some sense into her because apparently, Desi had been so wrapped up in her stupid K drama list this entire time that she completely missed the point of having a relationship with Luca.
”And speaking of…if there’s one thing I’ve learned with all my girlfriends, it’s that you eventually have to stop playing games.”

Undoubtedly, Desi would achieve her goal and had Luca fall in love with her because c’mon, ’Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Wasn’t it what everyone said? Therefore, it pained me to watch Luca fall right into her trap—in a good way, though—but at least they shared some swoon-worthy memories in the beginning of their love blossoms.
The train whizzed past, my long braid coming undone in wisps that whipped across both our faces. The earth vibrated beneath our feet, and this time I stood up on my tippy-toes and brushed my lips against his. Soft and a bit hesitant. And he kissed me back just as softly, with a little pressure at the very end.

Aww, they were such an adorable couple, weren’t they? Unsurprisingly, Desi’s plan did work at first but her façade was eventually exposed and that moment was utterly heartbreaking since she wasn’t the one hurting; Luca’s heart had broken twice due to his previous break-up. Although I wasn’t supposed to say this, I was very glad Desi finally learned her lesson since she was so successful in other aspects in her life compared to her fellow classmates. Every incident, sweet memory and even misfortune between Luca and Desi was staged and well-planned; however, the heartbreak was extremely real. I was relieved that Desi realized love wasn’t something she could get just by following the rules; she should follow her heart and be true to herself instead.
In all my crushing, in my obsessing, in all my scheming…I hadn’t known this person had existed in front of me all along. Not just cool artist-rebel Luca. But kind, deeply empathetic Luca. The Luca who viewed a story about a little girl peeing her pants in second grade as tragedy rather than comedy.

All in all, I absolutely adored I Believe In A Thing Called Love and I’d surely read Maurene Goo’s books in the future. Maurene’s wicked sense of humor and witty writing style were extraordinary to me. I could easily immerse myself in the story under her spell and in spite of minor flaws in her characters, I still had a fantastic time reading this book. I Believe In A Thing Called Love was thoroughly enjoyable for me so I HIGHLY RECOMMENDED it to everyone who wanted a quick, light-hearted, laugh-out-loud read during this winter season.

***Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.***
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,404 reviews11.7k followers
April 8, 2021
As my favorite COVID-time hobby is crying into my wine while watching kdramas, I thought I would revisit this YA novel I moderately liked a couple of years ago. The basic plot is that Desi Lee, an overachiever good at everything but dating, makes a plan to snare a boy she likes using famous kdrama tricks. It works, or does it?

I liked this book again, and I definitely enjoyed making fun of all the tropes, but I was a dash uncomfortable with some plot developments that clearly were dangerous in an unfun way. I wish Maurene Goo explored some less deranged and more modern tropes. This book was published in 2017, but kdramas have evolved a ton, even over such a short time.

P.S. Where the hell were piggyback rides? I feel robbed.

Profile Image for Sonja ✧・゚。★・゚☾.
534 reviews466 followers
August 13, 2021
4.5 out of 5 stars

❝Just sit back and believe, it's so much more fun that way!❞

I Believe in a Thing Called Love is the perfect summer read!! I fell deeply in love with this book, so much so that I finished reading it in one sitting!

I have seriously never giggled and laughed as much, while reading a book, as I did while I was reading this!! I truly had a grand old time.

❝Real love: It was all about risk and having faith. There were no guarantees.❞

I Believe in a Thing Called Love made my heart melt and swoon, and made me laugh out loud too many times to count. When I finished reading it, I couldn't help but bring the physical paperback copy close to my heart and sigh. It was that good.

If you are looking for any of these things:
• a Korean-American protagonist (OwnVoices rep)
• a great YA contemporary that will warm your heart
• a romance that will make you swoon
• a loving father-daughter relationship
definitely check out I Believe in a Thing Called Love!!
Profile Image for Brithanie Faith.
271 reviews163 followers
March 20, 2018
3.5/5 stars


Favorite Quotes:

"If you thought of life as a series of nostalgic images arranged in a slo-mo montage, you'd miss a lot of the tedious bits. In between the fuzzy images of blowing out birthday candles and first kisses would be a whole lot of sitting on your sofa watching TV. Or doing homework. Or learning how to create the perfect beach wave for your hair with a flatiron."

"I watched Bob Ross videos until my eyes bled, but I still couldn't paint a sycamore tree that didn't look like a piece of broccoli."


-This book actually made me laugh out loud on several occasions.

-The relationship between Desi and her dad was super sweet. ♡

-The k-drama reference's. I've seen a fair few k-drama's over the years, and it's always nice to be able to relate to and understand the reference's that are being made.

-The love interest. I won't go into detail about Luca, but I liked the guy. ♡


-The list. Some of the things Desi ended up doing were pretty outrageous. Holy eff-. Even by k-drama standards. Like-no. Just no.


I had a good time reading this book, but I'm still not a huge contemporary reader so I struggled with rating this! Would definitely still recommend if you're a contemporary reader and you like k-drama's (not that you wouldn't enjoy it otherwise, but it would probably make a difference!)
Profile Image for ♛ may.
806 reviews3,832 followers
August 2, 2018
book #3 done for the booktubeathon ✔️

so i was most definitely expecting this book to be a little weird from all the reviews i was seeing but lowkey desi lee has some issues that she needs to fix

. . . like very soon.

- its a fun, light hearted contem ft. a korean mc who's literally the smartest girl in the world
- shes a walking tragedy omg relatable
- her relationship with her dad was so sweet i cri, he needs an actual dad award
- luca is cute in the soft-artist-boy kinda way
- short and super addictive with all the drama
- it had some really funny moments of desi and her flailures and i just, relate so hard

- Desi kinda needs to deal with her obsession for everything to be ACCORDING TO HER PLAN
- yeesh, this girl pretty much constructed an ACCIDENT IN ORDER TO GET CLOSER TO HER CRUSH WHY
- like, i was correctly guessing what would happen from the chapter titles alone
- i know its supposed to follow your typical K-drama story line but
- it was just so unnecessary i literally screamed
- also the miscommunication literally had me eyerolling plz juST TALK TO EACH OTHER

yeah anyways it was cute and fun and addictive and also worrying but hey i was able to read it in one day and thats what matters.

onto the next book

3 stars!!
Profile Image for CW ✨.
669 reviews1,713 followers
January 26, 2018
This was one of my most anticipated books of 2017, and though I didn't get what I was expecting, I Believe In A Thing Called Love was nonetheless full of pleasant and quirky surprises.

The first thing you should know going into I Believe In A Thing Called Love is that it is outrageously silly. Indeed, largely influenced and inspired by romantic Korean dramas, or K-dramas, this book has all the hilarious and heart-melting tropes common to K-drama: tragic family stories, near-miss life and death situations, love triangles(!), and melodramatic moments. If you love K-dramas, I Believe In A Thing Called Love will make you laugh and it will make you feel like rewatching all of your favourite K-drama scenes.

So let's talk a little bit about Desi; she's Korean-American, a high-achiever, loves her father, but is an absolute failure when it comes to the affairs of love. She's so bad that her friends invented a new word to describe her terrible luck with love: fail + flirt = flailure. Though I believe Desi has a good heart, as evidenced by the love she has for her Appa (father), there were times where I thought she was absolutely ridiculous and over the top. Desi may be hard-working, motivated, driven, and outcome-focused, but the story shows that, sometimes and with certain pursuits, these things are not always a good thing. However, the narrative possesses a self-awareness of Desi's wild adventures and decisions - Desi has an inkling that what she's doing is wrong, that she is being manipulative and deceptive, but her want for achieving her goal wins out. In essence, Desi was a well-written unlikeable character - a character that possesses obnoxious qualities, was sometimes sweet and endearing, but very flawed to a fault.
Like everything else, Luca could be won over with some good old-fashioned planning ... I might be a flailure in love, but I was the motherf-ing boss of studying.

While reading I Believe In A Thing Called Love, I was significantly more interested in Desi's escapades and her character development than Luca, the love interest. Luca may have the traits of a broody dreamboat and gets some interesting character development, I also thought that he was boring and nothing special compared to the love interests typically found in young adult rom-com's. Although Luca himself was a little lacking, the outrageousness of Desi's elaborate plans and adventures in the name of love were undeniably engaging and thus compensated for the former. Moreover, the ending of I Believe In A Thing Called Out was at first dramatic and hilarious and then suddenly resolved. I'm struggling to decide whether the ending is genius on Goo's part - a climatic ending befitting of a K-drama - or something that was a little underdeveloped. (And, perhaps I considered the latter because the, what I imagined to be, intended fireworks of the ending felt a little dim.)

Although the romance is a focal element of I Believe In A Thing Called Love, there were other things that I adored and appreciated about the story. First, Desi had fantastic character development outside of her love life; she has a strong need to control the things around her and be on top of everything, which is something I relate to. Desi has to learn that she can loosen her grasp on everything and allow some things to simple be, and that not everything goes according to plan. I also loved the relationship between Desi and Mr. Lee; it was pure, affectionate, and a much-needed positive father-daughter relationship in YA and between two PoC! Moreover, I adored Desi's friends - charming, suave Wes and fiery, confident Fiona; reading about Desi's friends, the things they do together and how they have each others backs made me wish I had more friends like them.

I Believe In A Thing Called Love comes with quirks seldom seen in YA, but that's what made it such a memorable read. Parts of the book may feel over the top for some readers (in fact, some parts are over the top), but it's the narrative's silliness that gives it its rare charm. If you haven't read a K-drama before, never fear - it's still a fun romantic contemporary, though you may miss out on the nuances of the storytelling. At its heart, I Believe In A Thing Called Love is a fun and silly book that doesn't take itself all too seriously. A good read for those looking for a unique contemporary that gives all is fair in love another name.

Rating: 3.5 /5


Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: A teen devises a plan to win over her crush's heart by studying Korean dramas, and the shenanigans that ensure.

Perfect for: Readers who love and enjoy K-dramas, and who want a unique contemporary.

Genre: Young adult, contemporary, romance

Recommended? Yes, if you love K-dramas; if you don't know anything about K-drama romance formulas, pick it up if you are willing to try something new.
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