My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Thank you, Macmillan, for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Unexpected things happen, but it’s how we react to them, how we learn and evolve from these things that shapes us into who we are. —Desi
The moment I saw the blurb of this book, I was overwhelmed by the desire to get my hands on it. With the exception of Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, I hardly own YA novels that feature Korean/Asian protagonists, let alone characters who love K dramas. Being a fellow Asian and K drama fan, you can only imagine the happiness I felt when I was given the opportunity to read this book early.
I Believe in a Thing Called Love has an engrossing premise. Desi, an admirable nerd, is used to setting goals and getting what she wants. She excels at everything academic, but she strangely sucks at love. Inspired by her favorite K dramas (and their formulaic happy endings), she devices a supposedly perfect plan to make Luca, her crush, fall for her.
This book had me hooked from the start. It was so funny, relatable, and downright entertaining. Desi’s romantic bloopers, aka “flailures,” were especially giggle-worthy. I felt sorry for her, but I had a hunch that her choleric (and adorably nerdy) personality would eventually pay off. I had fun analyzing her nearly “sociopathic” behavior; she was somehow similar to Amazing Amy of Gone Girl.
Desi’s remarkable intelligence was my favorite aspect of her personality. Basically, she was a well-rounded character; she was excellent in both academics and sports. As someone who took my education seriously back in my high school and college days, I was able to relate to Desi’s tendency to be adorably nerdy. Luca was erudite, too, in his own way, so I also became invested in his character development.
Desi’s relationship with her father was another thing that I enjoyed. They were practically best friends, but it was still apparent that she acknowledged his authority over her. It was also adorable that Desi’s father was the original K drama fan in their family. Without his influence, Desi wouldn’t have come up with a flawless plan to get herself a man.
The diversity in this book also deserved my applause. Both Desi and Luca were people of color, and Fiona, Desi’s bff, was lesbian. Wes, Desi’s second bff, exhibited behavior that made me suspect that he was gay, too. I apologize in advance if I was simply influenced by stereotypes while I analyzed his characterization. Nonetheless, this novel got an A+ from me in terms of racial and sexual diversity.
In retrospect, Desi’s “talent” for manipulation was the main reason why I didn’t give this book a higher rating. Desi was irrevocably an empowered female in light of her agency, but I found it hard to support her every time she intentionally toyed with Luca’s feelings. In totality, Desi was goal-oriented to a fault. Until now, I cannot decide if her story deserves a happy ending because I do not appreciate the objectification of any sex.
This book’s affirmation of the Bad Father stereotype also hampered my enjoyment. I generally liked Luca because of his sweet and artistic personality, but I was disappointed that he predictably had daddy issues. I can hardly wait for YA lit to overcome this trope! :3
Overall, I Believe in a Thing Called Love is a literary tribute to K dramas. Just like K dramas, it will monopolize your attention and give you tons of happy feels. I did not enjoy it to the fullest, but I would recommend it to readers who are looking for a cute and refreshingly diverse book.