Member Reviews

When I read the synopsis for Be Dazzled and saw gay and cosplay, I knew this would be the book for me. And I was right.
There is something about nerdy gays that just gets me. I felt that same way about Conventionally Yours. Raffy was a delight. Often in contemporary YA, I am turned off by the first-person narrative. But I never found Raffy to be whiny or immature like I usually do in other YA books. It probably helped that he was basically an adult as his mother seems to all but abandon him regularly. The story is told in alternating timelines - the present - in which Raffy has entered a cosplay contest at a con, and the past - which shows the progression of his relationship with Luca.
I enjoyed switching back and forth, and I was interested in both timelines. I wanted to know what happened with Raffy and Luca and the outcome of the cosplay contest. The only thing I didn’t love was Raffy’s mom. She seemed way over the top and almost unbelievable in the way she was portrayed. It was almost too much. But that was a small thing I can overlook, and I still absolutely adore this book.
If you are looking for a sweet nerdy read, look no further than Be Dazzled.

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What an enjoyable and quick read!
I'd heard nothing but great things about La Sala's first book so I was excited to dive into this.
And while I loved the premise and the quick pacing, I never really connected to the MC and the love interest. This was perhaps due to the three main plots and me being annoyed by two of them (no spoilers), especially considering how one of them was concluded.

Still, I enjoyed the writing style so I'm excited for La Sala's next book!

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I didn't enjoy the first book that the author came out with, Reverie. But, this story was cute! I know this isn't my normal reading genre, but at least I can see this in my library!

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BE DAZZLED by Ryan La Sala is the ode to cosplay that we all deserve. A wonderful story about one teen's dream to be respected for his mad cosplay skills and the obstacles that block his way, La Sala makes me want to start planning out my post-pandemic con outfits.

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Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala is a LGBTQ+ romance novel. Raffy has a passion for bedazzling. Not just bedazzling, but sewing, stitching, draping, pattern making--for creation. He's always chosen his art over everything--and everyone--else and is determined to make his mark at this year's biggest cosplay competition.

Raffy tried to work it out with his ex-boyfriend Luca, but things did not work out. This a geeky romance, between the two most cutest characters. It reminded me to Ari and Dante and my heart just melted then and there. I just loved to see how much Raffy and Luca both grow up from the start till the end of this book.

It's all about self-love, acceptance, a society where everyone and anyone is accepted just the way they are. Both these adorable yet equally talented characters are the perfect role models for today's teen population as well as this book a perfect feel good + feel empowered in your own way.
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Thank You to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for sending me an eARC in exchange for a honest opinion.

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A fantastic queer love story—both about the love of art and queerness itself. Full review for Lambda Literary linked below.

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I got an ARC of this book.

My biggest complaint about this book is that the book description gives away pretty much every twist and turn of the book. This should shock you that I read enough to ruin the whole book, yet here we are. I was never once at the edge of my seat or interested in what was happening because it had already been laid out for me.

There are three plots: MC’s mom sucks, MC is interested in/upset about a boy, and MC needs to win to get college money. None of them felt fleshed out enough or explored enough to really give me satisfaction.

MC’s mom sucks: so this is simple, his mom is a pretentious jerk. She looks down on him for what he does and constantly tells him. She goes out of her way to emotionally destroy him and abandon him. There is little to no mention of his dad or why his mother had kids in the first place. It just felt really off. I didn’t care about his mom or her antics. She would show up randomly to throw some insults and then disappear for days. She wasn’t consistent enough to really get her plot fleshed out. So the big twist at the end? Not a twist. She didn’t try and she won’t try. Someone more important than her kid spoke so she listened. None of this is shocking.

Boy drama: I never understood why the MC and Luca were together. Luca seemed to be into the MC for reasons beyond looks, but it is never explained why the MC is into Luca. It boils down to just looks, maybe there was some attraction for personality later, but looks are mentioned over and over and over again. It is joked about a few times that Luca is obsessed with how he looks, but I don’t think he is the one who is. Both boys felt shallow and disjointed. Past Luca and current Luca are drastically different and I think part of that is that the narration is from a hurt stand point, but it also doesn’t make sense why they would immediately get back together when nothing had changed. It doesn’t make sense that the break up hit the way it did. Nothing had enough emotions to me, since it was all about how Luca was hot and a distraction. I needed something more to ship them.

Money for school: this is the weakest plot by far. The motivations are constantly told to the reader, but they keep changing. Once it is because of the love of crafting, most of the time it is about money, some of the time about revenge. It is really inconsistent and there really isn’t a resolution to this idea that sounds like it would be the main plot of the book from the first 30%.

Overall, the book just underwhelmed me. I expected more from La Sala. I wanted more. I plan on continuing to read more of his work when he publishes more, I can see how amazing he could be and I have no doubts he will get there. This is just not the book that showcases that well. I have hope though?

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This is a mostly delightful YA rom-com centered around competitive cosplay. The main things keeping this from reaching full-tilt fluffy-dream potential were the main character's horrifyingly pretentious and toxic mother (though her toxicity is never homophobic, at least...) and the main character's love interest's parents, who do seem to be biphobic/homophobic (though there are no fully homophobic moments on-page). The book DOES have a happily-ever-after ending, though many characters who behave fairly abysmally don't really face any consequences or even acknowledge their behavior. This part was frustrating, but all-in-all, this was a very fun read.

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Grab your glue gun, sparkles and fabric because it is time for CRAFTING with Raffy! Raffy is a normal teenager that may have an obsession with cosplay and creating clothing and accessories with his own two hands. All he wants to do is win the biggest cosplay competition and maybe get over his ex. Although that may be easier said than done. Be Dazzled is Project Runway, Next In Fashion, and Making it sewed together to make one AMAZING BOOK. La Sala is a master at witty conversation that hit deep in the feels and will have readers laughing so much they cry. I can not express enough how incredible this book is. The authentic emotion poured into every character and the world La Sala has built. The plot is a dual timeline, rotating from past experiences to present, each memory giving more depth to the present actions. The characters! readers will fall in love with the fun, adorable, vulnerable Raffy, cheering him on as he tries to prove his artistic value. Luca starts out as the stereotypic jock but over the course of the book morphs into a fully formed character with depth, emotion and growth. Readers will not be able to resist Raffy or Luca's charm and will find themselves illustrated in this book. While this leans heavily on the romantice of two individuals, the book does not make it center stage. Instead allowing for the relationships to fully blosum and in their strength the beautiful story of Raffy is told.

Sidenote: I had the privilege of eating tacos with Ryan La Sala at YALSA 2019 and he is just as charming and witty as his charcters!

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I really enjoyed the format of this book, as it helped me really see how the characters and their relationships brought them to this place in time. Seeing how Raffy and Luca met and how their relationship developed a year ago made Raffy’s irritation towards him in the alternating chapters so understandable.

There was a strong focus on friendships, which sometimes get overlooked in YA romance books. While I would have liked to see May and Inyara more developed (because I always want more developed side characters) I like how they were integrated into the plot both in the past and the current day.

I knew next to nothing about crafting, cosplays, or conventions going into this book and I still was able to follow the plot and understand what was going on. None of the language was too technical for those who, like me, have no experience, but there were details that I could tell would mean more/have more impact to someone more familiar with that world. It did make me want to learn more about cosplay because I didn’t realize all the details that went into creating a costume!

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While I liked several things about this book, the conclusion of one plot thread left me extremely disappointed.

I did enjoy a lot of the story. The crafting of Raffy’s cosplay looks was interesting, and I liked the cosplaying competition itself. The romance between Raffy and Luca was often very sweet, with Luca helping Raffy to relax and have fun, something Raffy desperately needs given how anxiety ridden as he is. Raffy’s anxieties put a damper on their relationship at times, but it’s Luca’s fear of coming out to his entire family that undermines their connection at the worst possible moment. I appreciated how Luca owned up to his mistakes and finally was open about his feelings for Raffy, which allows for a moment of healing between Luca and his mother, too.

That brings me to the one thing about the story that really didn’t work for me at all, and that’s the resolution of Raffy’s relationship with his mother. While there’s no physical abuse, she’s monstrously self-centered, neglecting Raffy other than to criticize him about things like his cosplaying, which she justifies as having high standards for him. It seemed to me that a lot of Raffy’s anxieties could be laid at her door, really, so her parenting was at least emotionally abusive. After an entire book where she is either not present or is making Raffy feel like nothing, the novel ends with her rather offhandedly changing her mind about his cosplaying in a telephone call. Now, maybe it’s realistic that she’s not going become mother of the year, but for Raffy to not even get a chance to confront her about how she’s made him feel left me cold.

If Raffy had gotten to have it out with his mom, I would have liked this book more, but that ending just undercut everything else for me.

A copy of this book was provided through NetGalley for review; all opinions expressed are my own.

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Nerds and crafters rejoice! This queer YA contemporary is the fabulous, geeky novel that you- and I for that matter- did not realize you needed. I enjoyed the narrator of the audiobook. He really did a fantastic job bringing the story and characters to life.

Our protagonist is ambitious, albeit anxious, Raffy is simultaneously very gay and very talented at what he does– cosplay. Raffy is the artistic spiritual animal that I never knew existed and who I aspire to become when I grow up. Though if I’m honest, I doubt I could never be that artistic.

On a more serious note, at the center of the story is the m/m romance between Raffy and Luca, both how they started almost a year before the start of the novel, and how they find their way back to each other in the present. The romance was sweet, wholesome, and everything the doctor ordered to begin to heal from the trauma that was 2020.

While I have never attended a comic con I was fascinated by the dynamics and imagination that went into all the cosplays included in the novel. Also, I have released that I adore behind the scenes glimpses of competitions, be they art, food, or fights to the death.

The aspect of the story that entirely blew me away was Raffy’s struggle with high functioning anxiety. I felt so seen when Raffy struggled to turn off the mental lists and crushing fear of not meeting deadlines. Like Luca did for Raffy, my own husband has done wonders to help me slow down, breath and cope with my anxiety in much healthier and productive ways.

I also empathized with Raffy’s struggle to meet his mother’s expectations while pursuing what he loved and being authentic to himself and following his dreams

Overall, I gave Be Dazzled 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

In short, if you spent your days daydreaming about owning your own dragon, magic wands, or galaxies far far away Be Dazzled should be high on your TBR. More specifically, if you loved books such Geekarella by Ashley Poston and Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner, you needed to read this book yesterday.

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I don't know how I'm supposed to have words for this absolute sweetness of a read.

Ryan La Sala, already broke out of the box in his first book Reverie, but this, THIS takes the heart and doesn't let go.

Spilt between two wonderful interwoven timelines of past and present, I was constantly pulled into wanting to know what happens next and how the characters got to where they were when the story opens. Understanding along the way through each inevitable plot twist the reason behind their actions and choices with increasing clarity.

Additionally, the writing of Raffy and Luca's characters often tackled heavy and ominous real life topics such as anxiety, familial expectations, and coming out in ways that didn't divert from the overall light heartedness of this story. Their flaws making them more relatable and genuine to the reader as the fear of those topics never became center stage but rather just a back drop to their ultimate acceptance and love story. Which to me, means so much more.

And the love. The love. Oh, I swoon for it. Richly intimate without being "graphic". You get just enough detail to their affinity without need of seeing it, and it was gorgeous. The first kiss? The lead up? The lean in? And paired with the crafty terms swirling around Raffy's brain? To live for. And that's not even where the beauty ends. So very often was I knocked back by Ryan's wording and intricate details that I reread and reread the moment just to live in it a second longer. Proof that intimacy is more of a feeling vs what you see on the page.

On top of that, the non-apologetic use of craft, sewing, cosplay, and anime terms that takes one to know one? I never geeked so hard. It was niche world building at its best, using Luca as our metaphorical deer in headlights to help the reader along when Raffy's unfiltered speeches got too dense for the unknowing.

So really... if you're up for the fun and stressor of cosplay with a heart warming love story to complete it, then 100% pick this up.

I can't wait to see what Ryan pulls out next if this one completely went beyond my expectations.

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Oh man. This was the best light, fluffy distraction I needed. This book follows Raffy, a high school student who has to keep his love of cosplay hidden from his highbrow artist mother. He’s entering the biggest Con competition ever and he wants to win. To prove to his mother he’s good at what he does, to prove to his ex that he’s fine, and also to prove to himself that he is the best. Raf is so lovable. I enjoyed the structure of alternating timelines building up to reveal the main conflict. The plot moves quickly, you’re immersed in the convention/cosplay world, and what we all need now, a happy ending.

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*Spoiler Alert*
This book had some ups and downs for me, but ultimately I ended up liking it a lot. I had a hard time picturing Evie and Raffy’s relationship because it really was intense, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t believable—I just had a hard time connecting with it. I also generally liked the way the chapters alternated between the past and the present, but I felt that the present was more or less resolved before you got to the crux of the problem in the past, so it was hard for me to get as involved in Raffy and Luca’s story together—and same with Raffy and Inaya’s falling out. And then, ultimately, the stakes weren’t really that high for any of it.

Despite all of this, I thoroughly enjoyed the story. The Next In Fashion-meets-Comic Con setting was original and added a level of geek to the story that I really appreciated. And even though I wasn’t familiar with all of the characters they were crafting, it was really easy to look up and not feel like you were missing anything.

I’d recommend this novel to anyone who likes to read YA romance (there’s a HEA, after all), queer romance, complicated parent-child relationships, or if you’re part of nerd culture and really enjoy the cosplay part of comic con. There’s a little something for everyone.

3.5 STARS

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Let's be honest, the second Ryan announced Be Dazzled, I immediately needed it because, hello, it's Ryan La Sala. I got approved awhile back on Netgalley for an earc but I've gone through some weird slumps over the past few months and could never focus very long to actually sit down and read it. Well, then, Dreamscape Media approved me for a copy of the audiobook (audiobooks are great for reading slumps fyi) to review and all I have to say is wow. Pete Cross does an amazing job. Be Dazzled, even more than Reverie, feels like Ryan. Ryan has a big vibrant personality and it comes across in his writing. It makes his writing an adventure. Pete was an absolutely amazing Ryan.

On to the story itself, I didn't know anything about cosplay before picking up this book and I still don't. But, Bedazzled, at it's heart, is a story about friendship and young love. It's the perfect book to escape from reality for a few hours.

***Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire, Dreamscape Media, and Netgalley for providing me with a review copy of Be Dazzled.***

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I received a complimentary copy of Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala from Sourcebooks Fire through Netgalley. All opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. Be Dazzled came out today, January 5th!

Raffy is determined to win the year's biggest cosplay competition. He's dedicated himself to building the best pieces he can, putting his social life and everything else aside. Winning this competition could lead to sponsorships and just might show his mom that cosplaying is worth doing. Although months ago Raffy and his ex-boyfriend Luca were creating cosplays together, their relationship fell apart and now they're competing against each other. Raffy must keep himself together even as unresolved feelings for Luca emerge and the competition gets more and more complex.

As someone who has always admired cosplayers, I was so excited to read this! I loved the descriptions of the cosplays, the process of making them, and the convention itself. Raffy would be a difficult friend to have, but his passion for cosplay and anxiety were also easy to understand and relate to. I liked Luca less, but I think if his character had been a little more developed or the ending had been more robust that might have given me the time to know him better and like him more. Overall, I found this to be a fun read. It skips back and forth between the present and the past and I'm not entirely sure if that worked well, but I love to nerd out and this book gets bonus points from me simply for featuring Sailor Moon in a significant way. I'd recommend this one if you're looking for a nerdy LGBTQ+ read!

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This was so wonderful and I loved it to no end! I really liked the setup of the story switching between the past and present. I loved watching how Raff and Luca fell in love the first time, and then seeing them working together in the cosplay competition and watching how they had never really ever fallen out of love. I really liked the portrayal of how Luca was struggling with his sexuality and how he was figuring himself out through cosplay. I loved how sweet Raff and Luca were together in the past chapters, and I loved watching their dynamic in the present chapters. I liked how well they always worked together, how adorable and great they were together. I really enjoyed the focus on cosplay and Raff's passion and how Luca fell in love with that passion. I also liked how Luca helped Raff come out of that passion when it dug too deep, reminding him to live his life along the way. This was just such a great story and I loved every moment.

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4.5 Stars

CWs: Instances of parental neglect, explorations of mourning a break-up, mentions of being closeted and coming out (from a secondary character), descriptions of anxiety and anxiety attacks

"I used to think I always knew what came next. I used to think that my plans were as good as destiny, but that’s never been true. I’ve just always been determined, and lucky, and determined to be lucky. But you can’t design a future and expect it to just happen. Like art, you can only start with intent. Your hands build the rest."

Ryan La Sala has done it again. He has proven himself as someone who can traverse genre and voice and pretty much do whatever he wants, because he can pull it off. Whether he's writing about interdimensional collapse or fashion reality show drama, you are guaranteed a phenomenal and effervescent story.

"Be Dazzled" is pitched as Project Runways meets Comic-Con and that's exactly what it is. It's about Raffy, who’s poised to take the crown at the season’s biggest cosplay competition—until he realizes that he’ll be competing against Luca, his ex-boyfriend and former cosplay partner. Throw in the fact that his elitist mother doesn't see cosplay as "real art" and the fact that winning this competition could open a ton of doors to sponsorship and art school and you have a high-stakes story about Raffy desperately trying to prove himself in the world of crafting.

This book is exuberant, exciting, joyful, and (pun intended) wonderfully crafted. The pages practically turn themselves as you get deeper into this cosplay competition and as the zany design challenges get harder and harder. Not only that, but the emotional stakes get more and more complex the more you learn about Raffy and his relationship with his ex, Luca.

I thought Raffy's perfectionist personality and anxiety was really well-explored and portrayed. When his thoughts are spiraling and he begins to feel like he's losing control, you really feel that alongside him. The narration does such a good job of mimicking how the world funnels itself into a microscopic lens that prevents you from seeing anything but your own short-comings and failings up close. At the same time, while you feel for Raffy, the people around him are definitely challenging him on his self-centeredness and his tendency to assume the worst of himself and others when his anxiety kicks in. Part of it is that he needs to learn how to manage it better, but also that he can't use that as an excuse to hurt people. I really appreciated that self-awareness he slowly grows into by the end.

And that's also a big part of what led to the end of his relationship with Luca—how he was so singularly-focused on his creativity while not affording enough grace to their difference in skill level. To further emphasize that divide, the story is told in alternating dual timelines. One half of the story is hurtling through this intense series of cosplay challenges and the other half is a series of flashbacks showing Raffy and Luca slowly but surely edging closer to their breaking point. So as you see their relationship falling apart, you also get to see it evolving and being rebuilt in the present. There’s such a beautiful symmetry to the story that not only heightens the emotional stakes, but also really drives home Raffy’s character growth in a visceral way.

"Be Dazzled" is a story that's flamboyant, fun, glitzy, and dramatic, but it's also heartfelt. I think it's a story that has a lot to say about how the value of what we create is not defined by *how* we create, and how our dreams and the relationships in our lives are also things that we build for ourselves. This is a story that celebrates creativity, authenticity, and fearlessness, especially when those things are hard-won in a world that often demands our conformity or compliance. It's a story that says the things that matter to us will always have value, and I love it so much for that.

In case it wasn't clear, I highly recommend "Be Dazzled" for fans of queer contemporary stories with second chance romances. (I also highly recommend "Reverie," for the record.) There is so much to love in this book, and I can't wait to see what other stories Ryan has in store for us!

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This was such a quick and enjoyable read! I loved reading about Raffy and Luca's relationship and seeing them grow together. Further, I really liked the creativity that was present in the novel, namely, making cosplay costumes. However, I did not end up enjoying this as much as I thought I would. Personally, I'm not into cosplay and therefore I couldn't connect to a big part of the story. Even though I couldn't connect to all parts, I still think this was a fun read and I would definitely recommend it, especially if you are into cosplay!

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for providing me with an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

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