Title: I Believe in a Thing Called Love
Author: Maurene Goo
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: May 30th 2017
Maurene Goo’s I Believe in a Thing Called Love is entertaining from start to finish with a lovable protagonist that you can’t help but root for. Goo’s latest novel follows the overachieving Desi Lee as she embarks on a scheme inspired by Korean dramas to snag her first boyfriend. The story opens with Desi explaining how important resolve is in achieving one’s goals. She’s the kind of girl who always has a plan, who sees something she wants and does everything she can to get it. The very definition of an overachiever, there hasn’t been anything that Desi has wanted that she hasn’t achieved by determination and hard work alone. Boys on the other hand are another story. She’s a walking disaster when it comes to her crushes, never being able to go further than the crush stage. When Luca Drakos walks into her life, Desi decides that if she can only apply the same kind of can-do attitude to her love life that she’s used to accomplish her other goals she can finally get her first boyfriend. I Believe in a Thing Called Love finds just the right balance between humor and seriousness, as the heroine’s schemes take on a life of their own and she begins to realize that love is not something that you can make happen just because you will it.
Desi’s ambitions are only overshadowed by her ability to accomplish anything she sets her mind to. Most of her goals are school-related and were created with the ultimate goal in mind: to get into Stanford and follow in her mother’s footsteps. I was immediately taken in by Desi’s voice. She’s enthusiastic, funny, and self-depreciating. When it occurs to her that her father’s K dramas are more than just entertainment, they contain a blueprint for her to finally get one of her crushes to fall for her back, she throws everything she has into a plan and doesn’t look back. Her gung-ho attitude pulled me right into the story where I felt truly invested and despite that gnawing feeling in the back of my head that told me that somewhere along the line, Desi’s plans would have some sort of falling out, I very much wanted her to succeed. Despite the lightness of this contemporary novel, Goo takes time to explore Desi’s motivations. She has this idea in her head that she can make anything happen as long as she is determined enough and has a plan. Since her mother’s passing, Desi has tried her best to never worry her father and in many ways, she feels she is responsible for keeping his head above water. She is used to being in control, has a hard time letting go, and struggles to reconcile the idea that love has to happen in an organic way for it to be real.
Goo does a phenomenal job of flushing out Desi’s love interest Luca. In the beginning, we learn very little about him. He’s just moved to a new school, is artistically inclined, and Desi of course is very much attracted to him. Though Desi tries through a series of steps to put herself in his way to get him to notice her, it’s the unplanned tête-à-têtes that give readers a more insightful look into who Luca is. Unlike Desi, he doesn’t have a close relationship with his father, and his art is incredibly important and personal to him. Though he comes off as laid back at first, he’s hiding a passion that rivals Desi’s. It was hard not to smile with Desi coming up with foolish scheme after foolish scheme and Luca being none the wiser. That being said, I’m glad Goo acknowledged that what Desi was doing could be considered manipulation. This guilt kept eating away at Desi as she got to know Luca and even more so when she discovered he has a lot of trust issues.
I loved the minor characters in this novel as well. Desi’s two best friends, Wes and Fiona, were really important people in her life and I love that they all had distinct personalities. Fiona in particular was often the voice of reason, but still supported her friend. Of the minor characters, no one compares to Desi’s father. One of the sweetest literary fathers I’ve ever come across, Desi’s dad stole my heart in this one. Hardworking, loving, and understanding, Desi could not have had a better father to get her through the years without her mother.
If you’re looking for a cute summer read, I Believe in a Thing Called Love is the perfect book to unwind with. Full of swoony and laugh-out-loud moments, Maurene Goo has put together a novel that had my face aching from smiling too much and is one I’d recommend to all contemporary fans.