Member Reviews


I loved Be Dazzled, it was such a delight to read! Ryan La Sala transported me into the world of cosplay, one I wasn't really familiar with at all, and with cons of all kinds being canceled this past year it was fun to "attend" one in the fictional world.
Raffy was such a darling character. I love how invested and passionate he was about things, especially his fandoms.
I enjoyed the way this story unfolded, through the alternating past and present chapters. I thought it was a great way to get to know Raffy, and Luca, and to see how it all began, and ended, for them, and to see how they'd be able to work through their differences.

Be Dazzled was a sweet and fun second chance romance, coming of age story. There's so much to like about it, and it left me with the biggest smile on my face.

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I read his debut, Reverie, last year and really enjoyed it which as a result made me super excited to read this next book.

And let me tell you, this was such a wholesome read. Raffy was such a great character; he was an ambitious and passionate person and I admired that so much. I also loved watching Raffy grow as a person and artist as the book progressed.

As for the romance, I have very mixed feelings on it. On one hand, I loved Raffy and Luca’s banter and watching them develop and break up .But on the other hand, Luca wasn’t my favourite love interest and I thought Raffy deserved better (which luckily Luca acknowledges). So I can’t say I was rooting for them the entire time and I’m sad to say they weren’t my favourite couple.

The multi-timeline format was super interesting and I thought it worked well for this particular story. I loved reading about how their relationship progressed and how they broke up.

Overall, I'm not sure if I enjoyed this more or less than Reverie, but it was still a great contemporary I would highly recommend.

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Raffy loves all things crafty and cosplay; he even has his own streaming channel where he works on his projects and teaches his viewers different craft techniques. One of those viewers is Luca, a closeted bisexual guy who goes to school with Raffy. Luca's parents dislike all things cons, cosplay, --and LGBTQIA+. So Luca must do one-on-one craft tutoring --and kissing-- on the sly. But interspersed with this "Then" story is "Now": Raffy and his friend Mae in awesome AF cosplay competing against Luca and Amina in their own fantastic cosplay. How did Luca go from afraid to even be seen in Craft Club buying supplies to competing in a televised cosplay competition? And why are Raffy and Luca a team?

This nonlinear story is Project Runway goes to Comic Con with lots of queer love and affirmations. The inside look into how intricate and exquisite cosplay creations are is a wonderful affirmation to that world, which many teens are interested in today. In addition, how both Raffy and Luca have to hide important identity aspects of themselves to their family (Raffy his crafting and cosplay from his art snob of a mom and Luca his bisexuality from his straight-laced parents) seems like it would be a straight-forward "let's do this together" journey, but La Sala tips it on its head, making the story fresh and nuanced.

Raffy has anxiety, and while there is some good exposition about anxiety, it is sometimes forgotten or not expounded on enough to make this a "mental health" book.

Give this to teens who enjoyed Britta Lundin's Ship It but not how her character is outed. And for those readers who want more Project Runway-inspired stories, give them Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim next.

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The characters in this book are larger than life and both incredibly charming and flawed. While reading, I felt protective over both Raffy and Luca and only wanted them to succeed (preferably, together). The writing is fun and accessible; this will be perfect for young queer folks who have big dreams and love to create.

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Absolutely adorable! I was a big fan of Ryan's first book and I'm glad to see that he continues to get better with his sophomore novel. I love that, as different as it is, it's still got the heart Reverie did. That's the best part about the book: the heart and soul of it. The writing has weight behind it. I loved it so much. Great read. Would (and already have) 100% recommend to YA readers.

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Quirky and adorable! I loved Raffy's voice and the pop-culture vibe. Although Raffy came across as frustratingly insecure at times, it fit the character. Luca was a nice blend of more confident and outgoing than Raffy while still having his own things he struggled with. The side characters were a little flat but their importance to the story was clear. The problems Raffy and Luca faced were realistic (though Raffy's mom came across as a little over the top) and the solutions were satisfying. I had a really hard getting into the "then" portions of the book, but that's probably because I already suspected what must have happened to lead them to the point where the "now" happens. The whole thing was very well written. A great story if you're a fan of the genre.

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As we bid farewell to 2020, we say hello to new books releasing in 2021. Kicking off the new year is Ryan La Sala’s sophomore novel (and contemporary debut), "Be Dazzled." It follows Raphael “Raffy” Odom, who carries a deep passion and talent for crafting, especially creating cosplays. His story is told in two alternating time periods: the present day as he prepares to compete in a major cosplay competition --where his ex-boyfriend Luca is Raffy’s main competition -- and several months before when he meets and begins a relationship with Luca.

The general pacing of the novel is well done. La Sala stretches the cosplay competition in a way that keeps it interesting; the alternating timelines ensure the intrigue of the story remains intact. Each chapter ends with small cliffhangers that keep you hooked with the respective storylines. La Sala builds to the climactic points of both timelines so that no momentum is lost, keeping the excitement of the competition and the emotion of Raffy and Luca’s relationship and personal struggles.

The alternating times also gives the characters a chance to grow. Any questions about how Luca and Raffy drifted apart are answered as the timeline tracks their relationship before the competition unfurls. La Sala shows the two extremes of their relationship: rivals and two people who spend nearly every moment together; it’s a natural and dynamic progression. Raffy and Luca’s friends, Inaya and May, also have time to shine. May remains a constant in Raffy’s life, written as someone who supports and understands Raffy as best she can. Meanwhile, while we don’t learn much about Inaya, her arc still flows well throughout the story. Another major player is Raffy’s mother, Evie. Though Evie herself doesn’t have a large amount of page time, the way Raffy talks about her paints a clear picture of the nature of their relationship, and every time she does appear, she only reaffirms what Raffy states about her. I enjoyed reading about Raffy and Evie’s interactions. La Sala includes anything pertinent to the story, but it would be interesting to learn more about how Raffy and Evie’s relationship reached the point it did. For me, their dynamic was one of the most intriguing aspects outside of the cosplay competition storyline.

Something particularly noteworthy about the book is how La Sala writes anxiety. He doesn’t fall into harmful stereotypes or mock anxiety in any way. Every experience Raffy has with anxiety, from tight con deadlines to encounters with other characters, comes across as entirely genuine. He acknowledges when he spirals without downplaying how it affects him. His experience, while the contributing factors may differ, is instantly recognizable. This is a book that serves as an excellent example of how to incorporate characters who struggle with anxiety in an incredibly real manner.

There’s plenty to admire in "Be Dazzled," but my favorite aspect about the book is the obvious care and love imbued into every single word. La Sala’s attention to detail crafts a vivid story easy to visualize as Raffy talks through his process. It’s easy to feel excited about Raffy’s passions, whether they’re ones you have in common with him or not. Every pop culture reference, every mention of cosplay, and every mention of Luca (pre-competition especially) is written in a way that seems as though Raffy could talk about each one for days without stopping. And whether you’re a cosplay enthusiast, someone who generally loves arts and crafts, or neither, it’s easy to revel in the art settled right at the core of the story. La Sala shares a story that celebrates creativity and reminds us to live our lives with passion and determination.

"Be Dazzled" is a delightfully queer, nerdy, and intensely comforting story that demands multiple re-reads. La Sala effortlessly blends crafting knowledge, humor, and emotion to bring the story to life. He perfectly encapsulates the feeling of being at a con and the excitement that swirls around seeing the creative endeavors of cosplayers right in front of your eyes. He creates a bittersweet feeling of longing for the return of cons while remembering part of what makes them so remarkable in the first place. La Sala creates a protagonist many will find themselves in. Raffy’s story is relatable, authentic, and nothing short of dazzling.

"Be Dazzled" will hit shelves on January 5, 2021. Make sure to pre-order your copy here!

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Very, very cute cosplay romance. Lighthearted and completely nerdy. I am liking the trend of including a bisexual love interest in YA and teen books. I plan to purchase this for my middle school library in print and audio format.

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This was a super cute book that had a lot of amazing moments. I am a sucker for really soft moments, so I absolutely loved one of the scenes where Luca asks Raff if he can kiss him, instead of just doing it.

I really enjoyed the arts and crafts aspect of the book. It was pretty cool to see the book talking about how one art form should not be seen as better and more important than others.

Another thing I enjoyed was the dual timelines, and how we both got to see the competition and what happened when Luca and Raff first got together.

I also really liked how we in the end got to see both of their parents start to become more supportive of their children. The fact that Evie did not do a complete 180, and instead started to slowly come to terms with Raff’s art seemed very realistic.

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**eARC received by the publisher and NetGalley**
(I was so excited when my request to read it was approved, I can't even!)

I love love loved this book! A true love letter to creativity, crafts, and self-love.

The story follows Rafael (or Crafty Raffy, as he's known online), a passionate cosplayer, as he attends Controverse and competes alongside his friend, May. Impressing at Controverse could lead Raffy to the glittery future he's always dreamed of and all seems to be going well.
Then his ex-boyfriend, Luca, shows up in a fabulous cosplay—how can he compete alongside Luca and their many memories? On top of that, Raffy's mother doesn't know about Controverse and it has to stay that way.

I absolutely loved La Sala's voice in this book. His way of telling the story was so fun and captivating. The story is told in dual-timelines, which worked very well, and moved the story along at a fast pace. Through the 'then' chapters we see how the boys' relationship started out and how they ended up at the complicated place they're at in the present. Also, the way the story and the competition developed...*chef's kiss*!

The characters were also great! Raffy is very focused on crafting and building cosplays, often to the point of distancing himself from the rest of the world. Then there's Luca, the kind jock who's very interested in Raffy and cosplays. His chaotic energy in Raffy's structured creative process was so stressful, but fun to read about.

It was wonderful to hear so much about crafts and building a cosplay. I love to sew and be crafty, though nowhere near Raffy's level, so every time I understood the sewing terms he used I was like, aHA. And the details! La Sala described everything so well. There are too few YA-books with crafting at the center of the plot.

Cosplay, cons, and crafts...what's not to love!

Overall, BE DAZZELED was a celebration of creativity perfect for all of us geeks and fan-people out there. Its exploration of friendship and queer relationships warmed my heart. The mix of hilarious adventures and seriousness weaved through the story was perfect. And, truly, it was a story about standing up for who you are.
5/5 stars! I highly recommend it!

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Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire and NetGalley for the e-ARC to read and review!

Oh my stars!: "Be Dazzled" has to be the most passionate book I've ever read!

Raffy is a talented cosplay artist who just wants his craft to be acknowledged to help fuel his artistic dreams. He always works relentlessly to create the perfect look because anything less is not enough - he is not enough.

Raffy and Luca were an absolute joy. It’s almost painful how relatable they are.

Both characters experience feelings of inadequacy and earning your parents’ respect/support by living up to expectations that differ from their dreams. Raffy’s mother is a highly respected artist and gallery director, so she has a very fixed idea of what art is. There’s so much tension between Raffy and his mother who he often refers to by her first name, Evie. Luca’s parents’ want him to stick with masculine and heterosexual norms whilst refusing to acknowledge anything to the contrary.

There’s also the all-consuming need of perfectionism, which causes Raffy to focus more on the end results (winning the cosplay competition at Controverse) than on the journey (having fun making things). By contrast, Luca tends to go with the flow but respects the process. I loved how Luca’s chaotic presence challenges Raffy’s control.

But most of all, it’s having to hide your true, authentic self, which is why Raffy and Luca had to be extremely careful as their relationship progressed into something more. For Raffy, it’s his mother’s harsh vehemce for anything she doesn’t consider as “real” art (i.e., crafting). This tends to set Raffy’s anxiety aflame and drives him to work nonstop. For Luca, it’s his parent’s toxic masculinity. Luca fears coming out, which often causes strife in his relationship with Raffy. Sometimes even lashing out at Raffy. It hurt to see them struggle with who they’re expected to be and who they want to be. They simply want to create a future on their own terms.

"Be Dazzled" is a celebration of art, queerness and geekiness. There’s cosplay, anime and other nerdy references that warm my heart. I wish I had an art studio like the one at Raffy’s house that his mother made for visiting artists. I’ve never been to the type of convention or seen a competition like the ones in the story, but the author brings it to life so well. Rules are clearly explained in a way that it doesn’t feel like an info-dump. I loved the shared excitement about the endless possibilities in creating something new - you always put a part of yourself in anything you make. And I loved the chaotic wonder of true love between Raffy and Luca.

"Be Dazzled" was a lot of fun even if I was anxious for a good portion of the book. I highly recommend it to everyone.

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Be Dazzled is an homage to all the nerds, geeks, outliers, and fans out there. It’s for the people who weren’t made to fit in, who were born to stand out. As much as it’s framed around a love story between two teenage boys discovering their sexuality, it’s really a love story about someone falling in love with themselves. I hope you enjoy this story! It was quickly and easy to read, and made me miss BookCon. ♥️

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There are many things in this world that I will admit to knowing absolutely nothing about and queer teenage relationships, cosplay and the world of comic-cons are definitely three of them. Despite this I ended up loving this novel, which I would affectionately describe as a YA LGBTQI+ dramadey/ rom com/ nerdy extravaganza.

Raffy or 'Crafty Raffy' as he is known to his followers, is a 17 year old anxious high school student by day and a cosplay loving, master crafter by night.

While other teenagers are out partying or playing sports Raffy is 'embroidering for attention from strangers on the internet' creating stunning costumes for multiple conventions every year, all while streaming the progress online.

Raffy is about to compete in his biggest competition yet. He has an amazing team mate, show stopping outfits and a plan structured down to the minute, but he also has one big problem; his main rival is his ex boyfriend that he hasn't been able to get over after their devastating split.

Raffy is after the perfect revenge, winning the competition, and hopefully earning a little respect from his mum, some extra cash and maybe his ex back along the way.

It may be a niche subject but this was such a well written novel you don't have to be an expert in cosplay or all things nerdy to enjoy and appreciate the art these teenagers are creating and their amazing passions.
The writing was witty and fast paced and the characters were so divine, complex, well fleshed out and very very real. Raffy and Luca had real dreams and aspirations, real fears and insecurities and this book was not afraid to dive right in.

The main thing I took away from this book was the love the author put into this novel. It radiates from every page leaving you with the warm and gooeys and made Raffy and Luca's characters so easy to get attached to. I was so invested in their relationship and the dual storyline had me on edge waiting to find out what had lead to the dramatic breakup that left them as bitter rivals.

This book is as fun and funny as it is serious. An exploration of first love, queerness, finding your people about never giving up on your dreams, despite those who don't understand them. Kudos to the author, I will definitely be recommending this to anyone who reads YA.

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This second novel by Ryan La Sala is different from his first, Reverie, in many ways, but of course, in so many others, it’s familiar. The queerness is alive and well, and it’s great to see a range of orientations represented so positively. Luca’s bisexuality is a major part of the narrative, and it’s welcome in YA.

But as our narrator, Raffy controls what we see, and when we see it. Flashing back has become a real trope, and I have grown weary of it. However, in this story, it serves as a release valve. The events in Raffy’s present timeline start badly and continue to disastrous, so to return to the past where he and Luca lean into their attraction is a glimpse into a happier time. Not that La Sala explains every event and misadventure. No, he leaves spaces for us to ponder: what exactly does Luca see in Raffy? Sometimes it seems as if he’s mostly spending time because of Raffy’s hobbies and flair. Also, the situation that develops with Inaya lacks detail. There is a lot of room for readers to come to their own conclusions, which is the type of book I love to advocate. Too many of them spell everything out and leave teens with little chance to explore ideas and motivations for themselves.

There are many twists and turns in this world of cosplay and costume design. We are treated to absent AND overprotective parenting. Friendships seem constantly on the cusp of breaking down, and Raffy’s own mental state is a thing of concern. But the immersion into this increasingly more mainstream space is fully realized. I have little awareness of manga worlds, devotion to fictional characters through crafting, and the influence of Youtubers and Instagrammers, yet I experienced Raffy’s stress and triumph completely and satisfactorily. This is the power of the author’s writing and his own knowledge and acceptance of the people who inhabit and commit to these fantastical communities. They own their weird and quirky ways, and we are better for such celebrations and joy.

I received this uncorrected proof thanks to Netgalley and Sourcebooks Fire. Highly recommended to teens who enjoy being part of a tolerant and inclusive community. To those who appreciate that breaking up can sometimes be a good thing, and who cheer on the underestimated and underappreciated. Be Dazzled has a wonderfully appropriate cover and comes out (in the US) on New Year’s Day, 2021.

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I LOVED this book! As a 70-old-retired school library, I love books that show me different points of view. Raffy’s voice was so strong. He was so articulate in sharing his passion about designing for cosplay, and his sexuality. Not only was he a refreshing voice in sharing his emotions about his boyfriend, but I was surprised at how emotionally involved I became in the ComicCon convention competition. Sadly, the cover design showed none of this. I was expecting more of a cute gay romance, rather than the issues covered in the book.

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I really enjoyed this book! The characters were really well written and the plot kept me interested. I thought the writing was also really well done. I would love to read more from this author!

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Be Dazzled
Ryan La Sala
Pub Date Jan 5, 2021

Brief Synopsis:
Be Dazzled is Ryan La Sala’s second novel, following Rafael, a burgeoning cosplayer with an unsupportive home life and big dreams to win the upcoming cosplay contest and catapult his possible career as a professional cosplayer and streamer. But when he shows up to the convention and sees his ex will be competing against him, it throws him for a loop.

What I liked:
Most of the characters are really likable and the chemistry within friendships and relationships is well done. The description of the cosplay is in depth and detailed, but still feels fun. I especially enjoyed the characters who were struggling with unsupportive families of different varieties. It felt authentic and really made you feel for their situations.

One thing I didn’t love:
Rafael’s mother drove me absolutely insane. I’m all for a crazy unsupportive parent as a villain but she was just so all over the place as a character and had some weird character choices that felt like they had no reason other than to be weird? I could have done without the weird drug use and completely absent parenting.

Final Thoughts:
I had the honor of reading an ARC of La Sala’s debut novel, Reverie. I enjoyed that one, but possibly one of my favorite things about reading this book was seeing how much Ryan La Sala has grown as a writer. The language has blossomed and it was like reading a totally different author and the growth was awesome! I also loved the little inclusion of the word “reverie” in this book. Overall, 4 stars.

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First of all, thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for approving my request and sending me an eARC in exchange for a honest review.
You have to know English isn’t my first language, so feel free to correct me if I make some mistakes while writing this review.

Raffy has always been a creative guy and has always loved creating, sewing, making costumes for his cosplay. He must do it secretly, however, in the absence of his mother: Evie is a self-made artist and now owner of an art gallery with a very narrow concept of art and if she discovered that her son pursues his "hobby", she would certainly set fire to everything. According to her, what Raffy does is not art at all - it's not creating something new, but just cowardice in replicating something that others have already created.
But that doesn't stop Raffy from taking risks - like going to his favorite shop, the Craft Club, to get what he needs and trying to go unnoticed or broadcasting his work and his creation process in live streaming on ION, the platform most used by those who make cosplays.
And it's thanks to the combination of these two things that he meets Luca - or rather, he recognizes him as one of his schoolmates and discovers that Luca has been following him for a long time and that he is secretly a nerd who would like to participate and be part of Raffy's world.

Thirteen months later, however, we see them compete against each other at the Controverse, Boston's largest convention. Raffy had to enlist the help of his friend May to participate in the competition that this year wants a couple cosplay and Luca is there with Inaya, who was once their friend.
It will be three days of crazy and frenzy, those made even more uncontrollable by the fact that the rules change every year at the Controverse and there are always twists to make the competition even more interesting - and one of these twists will eventually see Raffy and Luca in pairs having to collaborate. if they want to win for the best cosplay.

Normally I don't like second chance romances, but there was something about it that prompted me to request it on NetGalley.

History alternates between past and present - in the present we start from Friday, the first day of the convention, to arrive on Sunday evening for the announcement of the winners; in the past we start from thirteen months before, from the first interactions between Raffy and Luca up to the development and then to the end of their story.

Forgive me the absolutely unwanted pun, but this book was a jewel.

Raffy is stressed and anxious. And I even write it big: STRESSED and ANXIOUS.
So much that even the reader finds himself out of breath following his creative process, his attention to detail, his races against time until the actual collapse due to exhaustion. Raffy is a bit of a drama queen when it comes to Evie - like when he says that if his mother ever found out he is at conventions, she would likely send killers to take him out - and I liked him for that, it made me laugh.
Raffy goes to great lengths to carry on his art despite Evie, but the more we go on with the reading the more we realize how much his mother's words - and her disrespect - actually affect his life and vision of his work. That's why, after a first moment in which working with Luca and mixing their ideas he feels free, then he feels suffocated, he feels himself slowing down and being held behind - he feels distracted and like he's not giving his best to be at least enough in the eyes of his mother. Because, whether Raffy wants to admit it or not, it's Evie's respect that he's still trying to get.

Luca is bisexual, but when he told his mother it didn't go well. He must maintain the appearance of the classic athlete who only likes girls, but in reality he has always silently followed Raffy's direct steaming until he has decided to take a few small steps in his direction to come out. And meeting with Raffy - secretly - Luca finds himself increasingly in love with cosplay, conventions and creating something with his own hands. But he's also terribly insecure because he fears that Raffy only wants him as a model because he is handsome, attractive and charismatic and, being new to the thing, he still doesn't know how to do everything that Raffy is able to create with his hands. Moreover, his parents don't approve - they don't approve of wearing costumes to make cosplay, they don't approve Luca spending his time with Raffy when they learn about it through a photo posted online. The real problem begins to arise when these things are acceptable to do with Inaya because she is a girl.

Raffy and Luca are very sweet together - Luca is able to make Raffy slow down from his frenetic pace and the impossible standards he demands of himself and Raffy, after a lifetime of creating and making everything on his own, realizes that it's not so bad having someone to exchange ideas with; Raffy fascinates Luca in such a way that he can never take his eyes off him and when he is with him, Luca feels like he can be his truly self and who he wants to be every day,he wants to be part of Raffy's world and life.
In their relationship they both have insecurities that they cannot express to the other: Raffy loves Luca's enthusiasm for cosplay, but fears what will happen when Luca realizes that, once they're done with the creation, he's going to be seen by everyone at conventions - because once in public it's impossible for Luca's parents not to find out. Luca, on the other hand, fears that Raffy will always choose the work over him, that he will keep him only for his beauty, not considering him an equal or not even noticing his absence when Raffy is so concentrated in creating.

Normally I don't like second chance romances, but this was an exception: it's true that I would have loved a little more angst in the past and especially in the present, but the end of their relationship served them both to grow and mature - it helped Luca to gain more courage to be himself and to openly love who and what he wants and it helped Raffy to understand that he doesn't have to always exercise control and do everything himself, but that he must also trust others to achieve something wonderful.

Both of them are only seventeen, but I appreciated the maturity of Raffy's reflections on how difficult it's to build a relationship - how this sometimes involves sacrifices and compromises and how, even from broken things, something even more beautiful can be born.

I scrunched up my nose a little at the representation of the "typical Italian Catholic mother" - due to Luca being of Italian descent - because that seemed to adhere a little too much to the classic clichés attributed to Italians and, Italian as I am, I wasn't exactly thrilled to read this, but still it's a very sweet and fun reading absolutely suitable for cosplay and convention nerds: this is a real love letter to them.

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One of my favorite things is when you read a book and you can tell the author loves what they’re writing about. I have been following Ryan La Sala on various social medias since before his debut novel (REVERIE) came out last year. And if you follow him, you know about his love for crafting (pro tip: check out his hilarious DIRy crafting videos on his YouTube channel) and his love of Sailor Moon (and other anime that I know nothing about 👀). To see those interests come together with La Sala’s endlessly entertaining writing style to create a nerdy, romantic, hilarious, over-the-top cosplay competition is truly a joy.

I read most of this book in a day because it was that fun and fast and furious. The chapters alternate between present-day, where Raffy (our hero, Rafael Odom) has been dumped by the seemingly perfect Luca and is now battling him in a cosplay competition, to the past year, which introduces the reader to Raffy and Luca’s relationship as it developed and how it led to them being rivals.

Raffy and Luca’s dynamic is one of my favorite parts of the book. Raffy is super serious about his cosplay creations, sometimes to the point of obsession. He is determined to prove to his art-snob gallery-owning mother that cosplay is real art. Luca is a goofy, beefy soccer player (100% himbo material) who has a crush on Raffy, and initially shows his interest by anonymously buying Raffy bags of crafting gems. Luca is interested in cosplay, but is a total newbie, mostly because he has to hide this specific interest (and his budding bisexuality) from his super strict Italian Catholic parents. They have a very fun dynamic throughout the book, with Raffy patiently teaching Luca many of the skills necessary for cosplay creation, and Luca helping Raffy chill out a little when he becomes too wrapped up in a project.

This book is a very fun, quick read, and I really enjoyed it. And I also learned a ton about crafting! A nice bonus 😊 I definitely recommend it, so please check out BE DAZZLED when it releases on January 5th!

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I received an advanced copy of Be Dazzled (one of my most anticipated contemporary releases for 2021) through NetGalley so I could share my review with you!

Raffy is a creator, just not the kind his mother would like him to be. His mother is an art curator with impossible standards for what should and should not be considered “art,” which pointedly exclude Raffy’s cosplay creations. Though Raffy is gifted in his work, nothing he could create will ever be enough to please his mother. Raffy has come to terms with this and has crafted a plan to find his own way into the world. First, he needs to create some jaw-dropping costumes to enter the biggest cosplay contest of the year, where he just might have the chance to wrangle a sponsorship to keep creating the work he loves. The only problem is that one of his biggest competitors happens to be Raffy’s ex-boyfriend, Luca, who he is definitely over. The two are forced together by the competition, making Raffy face the reasons their relationship failed in the first place. But even as the tensions rise in the competition, Raffy can’t help but wonder, could there be something worth saving between Luca and him?

You can get your copy of Be Dazzled on January 5th from Sourcebooks Fire!

Be Dazzled is an ode to all the queer cosplayers, crafters, and creators who have ever had to reckon with their own identities. Ryan La Sala combined the struggles of first love and parental acceptance with the joy that can come from self-expression in a way that was truly beautiful. As a glitter loving costume designer, I adored every element of this story! La Sala’s descriptions of Raffy’s costumes were so vivid, I could imagine the designs down to each rhinestone. I thought the premise of the contest was exciting, and I could really connect with Raffy as he fought to convince the world and himself of his own worth.

My Recommendation-
If you love contemporary stories with the enemies-to-lovers trope, you won’t want to miss Be Dazzled! Be Dazzled is the sort of queer ya romance story that I am always searching for, as it explored the complex interactions between identity and desire in such a nuanced way. This book would be the perfect read for fans of Project Runway, Comic-Con, and high-stakes contests with equally high-stakes emotions!

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