In these trying times, we can all use some joy and goodness. Thankfully, Maureen Goo’s latest offering, I Believe in a Thing Called Love, is here to help. Charming, hilarious, and the absolute purest of cinnamon rolls, this is the YA romantic comedy (starring a Korean American girl!) that we need and deserve.
Desi Lee is an ace at everything she puts her mind to and always has been, with one glaring exception: boys. Not only has she never had a boyfriend, but her flirting disasters are legendary among her friends. So when ridiculously attractive new guy Luca shows up at school, Desi is determined to end her losing streak. How? The same way she tackles everything else in life: with a carefully crafted plan and intense commitment.
She turns to the Korean dramas her father loves so much for guidance. After a weekend spent marathoning and taking copious notes, she emerges with a list of “K Drama Steps To True Love.” Said list includes such foolproof items as: “Be caught in an obviously lopsided love triangle,” “Life-threatening event makes him/you realize how real your love is,” and “Prove that you are different from All Other Women—IN THE ENTIRE WORLD.” As you might imagine, many and varied hijinks ensue.
The premise itself is delightful and its execution is even better, not least because of Desi, the book’s winningly flawed heroine, written in the vein of the best romcom leads. She’s complex, earnest, and simultaneously confident and insecure. She tries her best and makes mistakes. She gets hurt and hurts others. She is hilarious and endearing and frustrating. In short, she’s human, and she’s an utter joy to get to know.
She’s also surrounded by a cast of equally wonderful characters, from her adorable dad to her best friends (a duo I would kill to spend even more time with) to Desi’s love interest himself. Every one of the relationships in this book are full and lively, especially the father-daughter one. I smiled every single time Desi’s dad—who is loving, kind, and a huge nerd—appeared.
Of course, we can’t forget to talk about the central romance, which is everything I could have possibly wanted and then some. The chemistry between Desi and Luca is the perfect fluttery mixture of sweet, tense, and swoony. Theirs was a romance I rooted for from the very beginning, and my devotion never wavered. I experienced all the excitement, nervousness, happiness, heartache, and joy of something new and scary right alongside Desi. Watching her navigate this wholly unfamiliar territory is beyond compelling; it’s exhilarating.
Goo has written, in my opinion, one of the greatest YA romantic comedies to date. It’s expertly crafted and the very definition of unputdownable. The premise, the characters, the relationships, the voice: everything about this book simply works in the most satisfying way possible. I Believe in a Thing Called Love is the perfect story to curl up with and revel in. It’s a gift to us all.