I Believe in a Thing Called Love

Book review by
Nayanika Kapoor, Common Sense Media
I Believe in a Thing Called Love Book Poster Image
Girl uses Korean TV dramas as guide in charming romance.

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Kids say

age 12+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Good introduction to Korean culture: descriptions of Korean food and short Korean phrases sprinkled in. 

Positive Messages

You can't control everything in life and have to learn how to handle the unexpected. Go after your goals even if the outcome is uncertain. But, the book condones manipulative behavior and implies that if you lie throughout a relationship, you'll still end up getting the person that you want. Doesn't show any consequences to this sort of behavior. Briefly touches on how social media can make relationships superficial. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Desi is ambitious, hardworking, organized, and high-achieving while still being compassionate. She doesn't do drugs or drink, even when her friends and peers do. But her tendency to be success-oriented leads to some bad choices. She hurts a lot of people while going about her plan and even puts herself and Luca in (mild) danger. A character is arrested for doing graffiti art, and continues to do it after release. Desi's father is supportive, loving, and present, and they have a healthy relationship rarely found in YA novels. The cast of characters is racially diverse, including a Korean-American protagonist.


Mentions of "devirginizing" and "hooking up," and surrounding characters are sexually active. Characters kiss and flirt several times. Desi goes to a party described as a "sex party" because of the number of people engaging in sexual activity. Desi's friends don't see relationships as real commitments, but Desi takes dating much more seriously. 


Occasional use of "s--t," "damn," "bitch," "ass," "hell," "God," “devirginizing.” 


Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Google are all used by Desi. In-N-Out, iPad, Ray-Ban, several car brands mentioned in passing. Large, beautiful houses are described and admired.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

References to alcohol. Surrounding characters drink at a bonfire and at a party, but the main character doesn't. It's implied that Desi's best friends smoke marijuana and make jokes about "ganja," but it's never shown. Reference to "men drinking champagne from her high heels." Adult characters occasionally drink in social settings.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Maurene Goo's I Believe in a Thing Called Love is the story of a Korean-American girl, Desi, who uses Korean dramas as inspiration to capture the attention of the new boy at her school. When a cute boy arrives at her school, Desi makes an elaborate plan, including some over-the-top and slightly unsafe actions (such as staging car troubles) to get her happy K-Drama ending. Characters kiss and discuss others who are sexually active, but not in much detail. There's mild swearing throughout, including "s--t," "dumb-ass" and "damn." There are mentions of other characters drinking at parties and smoking weed, but the main character doesn't participate.

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Teen, 14 years old Written bycocobunny4 September 22, 2020

Such a fun book!

This book is so fun and cute! I really love Maurene Goo’s writing style, it’s very funny and sarcastic. I don’t really see why Common Sense gave it a 13 and ove... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byMayberry June 17, 2018

I Believe in a Think Called Love

I am a fan of dramas. I think that her way of using dramas to do this, is hilarious. A very funny book. Though, I hate the ending.

What's the story?

In I BELIEVE IN A THING CALLED LOVE, Desi, a type A valedictorian, varsity athlete, and star student, has never had great luck with romance. Her friends call her experiences "flailures," for flirting failures. Desi's lifelong dream is to go to Stanford and become a doctor, like her mother, who passed away when she was little. In comes Luca -- the brooding, gorgeous artist, and Desi finds her ambitious personality attracted to yet another challenge. And this time, she's determined not to mess it up. Seeking help from the over-the-top, wildly popular K-Dramas that her father loves, Desi makes an elaborate plan to woo Luca, including everything from "Step 13: Reveal your vulnerabilities in a heartbreaking manner" to "Step 19: You must make the ultimate sacrifice to prove your love." Plans have never failed Desi, and she's ready for success. But along the way, Desi realizes that no matter how hard you try, not everything in life can be controlled, and the most beautiful moments come from the uncertainty.

Is it any good?

This endearing story balances comedy with important messages about control, healthy relationships, and honesty. Fans of K-Dramas will appreciate the many references and relate to Desi's infatuation with the love stories. I Believe in a Thing Called Love gives readers a natural and authentic glimpse into Korean culture, sprinkled as it is with Korean phrases and mentions of delicious food.

Desi's actions can seem obsessive and unrealistic at times -- even unsafe -- and often with little to no consequences. While the dialogue is generally written well, some of the conversations can seem distant from teen reality. However, Goo does a good job making "perfect" Desi seem realistic and lovable with her embarrassing moments. Desi's good intentions shine through, and readers will root for her love story. She eventually understands the importance of letting go of her elaborate plan and soaking up the surprises of life, an important message for teens and adults alike. I Believe in a Thing Called Love shapes up to be a fun and heartwarming read.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how TV shows and movies portray romantic relationships. How has media affected your view of romantic relationships? Does the TV influence in I Believe in a Thing Called Love seem positive or negative in Desi's life?

  • How do you deal with things in your life that you can't control? Desi has to deal with college admissions, romance, and death: Do you think she handles all that successfully? What does she do well? What could she improve on? 

  • Do you think that Desi's good qualities and intentions make it OK for her to manipulate Luca? Is she a good role model?

Book details

  • Author: Maurene Goo
  • Genre: Romance
  • Topics: Friendship, High School
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Macmillan
  • Publication date: May 30, 2017
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
  • Number of pages: 336
  • Available on: Paperback, Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
  • Last updated: April 23, 2020

Our editors recommend

For kids who love romance

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