For my assignment to read a culturally diverse book, I didn’t just want to read a book with a protagonist who didn’t look like me. So I chose I Believe in a Thing Called Love, in which Desi explores high school relationships through the lens of a Korean drama, something I had no experience with. While it was a pretty cheesy contemporary novel, I really enjoyed the book and think it did a lot of things RIGHT that I don’t see in other books in the genre. That includes mentions of sex that aren’t extreme but also aren’t glossed over completely. For example, they refer to a party where kids hookup as a “sex party” but don’t necessarily feel pressured to have sex themselves while there. Similarly, Desi and her dad cuss in front of each other and it’s not the end of the world. It’s super refreshing as a kid who learned her best cuss words from her parents.
Okay, onto plot. Desi is a mega-type A senior in high school in California who is president of everything and destined to be a doctor after her time at Stanford. However, Desi’s never had any luck with guys. She’s a flirt failure-a flailure. So when she meets Luca, the cute new artsy boy at school, she decides to take a lesson in love from her single dad’s favorite Korean drama. She creates a step by step list to getting the boy—including staging a car crash, proving she’s different, and more. But when things go differently than planned will Desi be able to go off-script? And what will she do if her perfect plan for college goes off the rails too?
This book is really cute. It’s full of girls who make mistakes and funny moments and the absolute sweetest father-daughter relationship. I want an Appa of my own, seriously. How perfect, and I love that he was a mechanic, something very blue collar and relatable. I wasn’t totally sold on Luca as a love interest, tbh, but I liked Desi’s explanation of her feelings for him throughout. I think the big switch could have come a little earlier, but it was still fun to read. Yeah, Desi’s kind of ridiculous with the whole K-drama script and list, but isn’t that the whole point? She’s unapologetically Korean in her roots but still enjoys her American high school, and her relationships all feel really organic. I also liked the college resolution at the end and how realistic that felt compared to all the other books about girls obsessed with one particular college for one particular reason. Sure, maybe things are a little too tidy, but this book itself is kind of a K-drama about a K-drama, so why not?
Teens will like this book if they enjoying learning about new aspects of different cultures, girls who make mistakes and are in no way perfect even if they’re perfectionists, and a bit of an off-beat love story. Also, if they want to read about great parent relationships, they should look at Desi and Appa! There is no real sex, no violence, and lots of funny moments throughout.