I Believe In A Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo
Korean Dramas (K dramas) are a mega addiction and source of pure entertainment. Although K-dramas are a huge entertainment source full of diverse genres such as historical romance to murder mysteries to supernatural romance, each series will always have the same thread of tropes and rules that are expected to be followed by audience members. After logging a few hours (or days, or weeks) watching K-dramas, these tropes and rules are super easy to pick up.
A sample of certain tropes/rules seen in K-dramas:
* The back hug: In a pivotal/romantic moment, the hero will throw his arms around the heroine in a back hug as the music swells
* Wrist grab: similar use as the back hug but with the hero grabbing the heroine's wrist. Bonus points if she is pulled against him.
* Chaebols (the corporate/modern equivalent of a prince) will fall for the quirky poor girl
These definitely make for some corny but oh so delicious viewing pleasures. They are also considered key romantic goal points. A feature that the heroine in I Believe In A Thing Called Love Maurene Choo uses to her advantage to successfully land the new hot guy in class.
Our heroine is Korean-American, Desi Lee who is Type A person with her penchant for perfection, punctuality and introverted self. She works hard at being a student, works hard at getting into college, and works hard to be a good daughter to her father. After losing her mother, Desi is determined to be the strong and dependable rock for her father.
Then she finds out during her pre-admission interviews for Stanford that she essentially hasn't lived. A small detail that Stanford is frowning about because it shows her lack of passion.
Although this does sound bogus, I do remember hearing this warning during my high school days. AP (Advanced Placement) Students were warned about stocking up on extra curricular activities to "look good" on the application. Colleges were looking passion-driven, focused students.
Just as she is about to despair, Luca walks into her classroom. Desi is equal parts in love and despair. For when she gets nervous, she tends to do very embarrassing things. Like having her pants fall down right in front of her crush (hmmm, hints of the "quirky" Kdrama heroine I see). Determined not to have a repeat of such episodes, she is inspired by the Kdramas that her father devoutly watches to create her own grand scheme of romance and catching Luca.
Young Adult fiction can be pretty fun but most of the time, I found them too fleeting and lacking in any depth. Especially the nerd girl trying to nab the hot guy trope. A trope that I am huge sucker for but rarely found a book that successfully delivers a fun story. I Believe In A Thing Called Love is one of the few books that not only delivers a fun story but also one that is genuine.
I Believe In A Thing Called Love throws lots of references to famous Kdramas (all of which can be watched on Dramafever or Viki streaming website) but it is also a Kdrama in itself. I could easily see this story unfold along a 20 episode season complete with indie Kpop music as the soundtrack. Heize comes immediately to mind:
I Believe In A Thing Called Love is completely unrealistic and unconventional but it works. It completely and absolutely works. Even as our hapless heroine, Desi Lee, analyzes and systematically maps out the road to romance via key Kdrama plots, she is absolutely clueless that she herself is already living that Kdrama life. Even if the Kdrama references goes over your head, it is still just so much fun and heart wrenching to see Desi and Luca's love story plays out.
It should come to no surprise that Desi soon learns that romance is an adventure in itself . There really is no need to go to such great lengths to abide a scripted performance or guidelines. That first, that very crucial first step is already a step down a door of drama, wonder, and memories. Although, her antics will make for some good memories to be shared between her and Luca.
The book is out now through Amazon/Barnes and Nobles and all other book outlets. If this review hasn't piqued your interest, then the Goodreads review comments should convince how much love this book has receieved. The sheer amount of Kdrama gifs and bookworm fangirling will be sure to get you grinning.
If you need a Kdrama recommendation before (or after reading) the book, may I humbly make the following suggestion:
1. A classic rich boy/poor girl story: BOYS OVER FLOWERS
2. A love story between a 300 yr old alien and an actress: MY LOVE FROM ANOTHER STAR
3. A cute, supernaturally strong girl and her rich boy: STRONG WOMAN DO BONG SOON
4. The BEST kdrama of 2016 featuring a goblin, a grim reaper, and a girl who should never have been born: GOBLIN, THE LONELY AND GREAT GOD
Maureen Goo's website: https://maurenegoo.com
For a chance to meet Maurene Goo, check out the upcoming YA festival in Pasadena: