Title: I Believe In A Thing Called Love
Author: Maureen Goo
Category: YA Contemporary
Publisher/Date: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Byr)/30 May 2017
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.
This book has content warnings for relationship abuse (manipulation).
I really wanted to like this book more than I did. I loved the beginning of it. It was cute, charming, funny… And then Desi went off the rails, and I couldn’t stand it. This wasn’t a bad book, but there were parts that made me feel very uncomfortable and I believe those need to be discussed.
Let’s start with the positives. First off, I LOVED Desi’s dad. Rarely ever is a parent my favorite thing about a YA book, and yet here we are. He adored his daughter, had his own distinctive interests and personality (his reactions while he watched K Dramas were the best), and had his own character arc when it came to his grief over Desi’s mom’s death (not really a spoiler — you know about it within the first couple pages as it happened before the story started) and their relationship history. I don’t think I’ve ever been so genuinely happy when a parent walked back into a scene during a book; he was just so delightful.
I also really loved the idea of taking the typical structure of a K Drama and applying it to real life. As many characters pointed out in the book, the idea of doing that is ridiculous and yet it had so much hilarious potential. For the first few steps in the plan, it was adorable and charming that Desi’s plan to charm Luca was somehow actually working, and I was rooting for her. And then I wasn’t.
I was with Desi up until the point where she literally put her life AND Luca’s life in danger for the sake of the plan. *SPOILER* No matter what, you don’t intentionally crash someone’s car to get them to like you. No. Wrong. Bad. It’s not cute, it’s not charming, and it’s not funny. Someone could get seriously hurt or even killed. And the worst part was I didn’t feel like Desi had all that much remorse for causing the accident. She kind of implied it, but that wasn’t enough. *END SPOILER* This kind of behavior is abuse, and manipulation in relationships is extremely serious.
What made the manipulation worse for me is that Luca had clearly acknowledged that his previous girlfriend had been manipulative and that he didn’t want a girlfriend because he didn’t want to be with someone like that. Yet Desi is being just as manipulative, to the point where she’s messing with people’s lives multiple times, and she gets away with it. I am not okay with this. I am not okay with abusive partners getting away with their abuse.
I felt really frustrated because this was a really fun read, and yet I couldn’t enjoy it to its full potential because of the issues with abuse. I’m giving the book an okay rating because I genuinely enjoyed the bulk of it, but I have to take off two stars for the abuse.
Final rating: 3 of 5 stars