Member Reviews

What a fabulous, fun read.

I don't know a lot about cosplay; it's never been my area of geekdom. Nerdism? Weeboness? This book draws distinctions between all three, but I'm still not sure which one I am. Not that it matters, as that's not the point of the story. This is a love poem to cosplay and all the work and imagination that goes into it.

I did have a minor problem; I followed along with the reasons they broke up, but I don't understand why Luca didn't try to explain things afterwards. Raffy had him blocked on socials, but they go to the same school, they're in the same class, and Luca knows where Raffy lives. He can't have tried too hard.

Still, that's a minor thing in this fabulous, fun book. And I even learned about flat backed sequins!

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Finally! Cosplay in YA! This artsy craftsy laugh out loud funny glitter tornado of a story will appeal to teenage fans of cosplay culture, crafts, and queer YA.

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This is a knockout sophomore novel by La Sala. Arriving into a world where convention going is currently impossible, this book brings a little shining dollop of joy to the world. Simply reveling in the gathering of geeks, the plethora of nerds, people just enjoying what they love, together, is such an unintended bittersweet aspect of this book that will absolutely endear it to many when it publishes in January. But beyond that, it's an expression of the pure delight of doing what you love, with people you love. It's about living in your skin and letting yourself be happy, even when that doesn't seem particularly easy.

The framing of this book is absolute art. Told in alternating chapters of present-day and the past, we see the relationship between Raffy and his ex-boyfriend Luca from every angle. We read chapters in the past and see the very beginning, see them hesitantly and carefully come together, all while reading chapters in the present knowing they're not together anymore. And the timelines progress in such a perfect mirrored version of each other. We move toward the climax of each timeline symmetrically, both cresting at the same time in an opposite fashion, Past Raffy and Past Luca falling apart as Present Raffy and Present Luca are forced to work together for the first time in months. Be prepared for some emotional whiplash in the most successful, beautiful way.

If you loved La Sala's first book Reverie, you'll love this. If you love Ryan's social media, you'll find yourself cracking up just as much while reading this book. If competitive cosplay is something you enjoy or want to learn about, definitely read this book. Crafters and those with aspirations to be crafty, convention goers and lovers, and those who want to focus on loving themselves will want to grab this book when it comes out on January 5, 2021.

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Overview: Raffy is one of the most talented cosplayers in Boston. He knows how to sew, bedazzle, conceptualize, and execute intricate costumes that allow him to embody his favorite characters at conventions. Despite having an artistic mother, she looks down on his pursuits as childish and a waste of time. Raffy is driven and determined despite the lack of support, and his focus doesn't wane until Luca stumbles into his life. Buff and a soccer player, Luca looks like the last person Raffy wants to befriend, but Luca is drawn into Raffy's cosplaying world despite having to hide the hobby (and Raffy himself) from his parents. Unfolding on duel timelines, we follow Raffy and Luca's journey falling in and out of love and maybe back in over the course of one of Boston's biggest comic cons. Overall: 4

Characters: 5 I identified with Raffy deeply. He's anxious and determined and lonely but also scared of letting others in. Raffy is secure in himself, but he doesn't leave much room for other people. He has a best friend, May, and other friends from the cosplay world, but he's not keen on letting people interfere with his work time. He's meticulous, and he's good at what he does because of it. Still, his anxiety when everything isn't going totally to plan is a bit overbearing. His relationship with his eccentric mother is basically nonexistent, and they tiptoe around each other as Raffy hides his "arts and crafts" from her. This rigidity and perfectionism is what makes Luca's attitude such a stark shift in his life.

Luca is a soccer player and absolutely gorgeous. He also loves anime and is curious about cosplay, two things forbidden in his house. He's already figured out he's bi, and his mom sort of knows, but it's a contentious topic in his house. Luca is as carefree and laid back as Raffy is anxious and precise. He's both Raffy's worst nightmare in the workshop and exactly what he needs to stop taking everything quite so life and death seriously. Though Luca mostly succeeds at getting Raffy to have more fun as they start to fall for one another, when things go south, Raffy's prior beliefs about shutting everyone out being a virtue are confirmed. I really love how their relationship progressed and taught each boy different lessons that morphed and changed along with their status. I also loved that Luca got to come into his own so much as the book progressed.

There's also an important friendship story that unfolds over the course of the book between Raffy and May. In the present timeline, May steps in as Raffy's cosplay partner after he splits with Luca. May is a talented artist, and she's already developed her own comic. She understands and manages Raffy's anxiety quite well, but she also knows how to draw the line between making him feel secure and protecting her own wants and desires. Over the stressful weekend at Controverse, Raffy also learns a lot about friendship.

Plot: 5 The book is quite intricately plotted. The present day timeline takes place over the weekend of Controversy so it's almost like a single day condescend narrative. It's aided by the alternating past chapters that allow us to watch Raffy in a neutral state pre-Luca and understand the rises and falls that happen in the year following their meeting. Each past chapter only amplifies the tension in the present, and there wasn't a timeline I was skimming to keep reading like I sometimes do. The chapters lock in nicely, and it's a tightly plotted story. I finished the book mostly in three sittings. The stakes and tension were high enough that there wasn't ever tempted to put the book down. The emotional stakes and character development met the action perfectly, which is definitely a feat few books accomplish.

Writing: 4 Ryan has a super distinct voice in his writing, which, if you follow him on Twitter, won't be a surprise. His word choice is so bright and glittery and specific. There are moments when it boarders on over the top, but it always manages to stay in the right lane. It's definitely something that you sink into more and more as you read the book, though it's a touch jarring at the beginning. I love so many aspects of this book. Conventions are my all time favorite book settings ever. I get so excited when I get to pick those up. I also love that this dug into the world of cosplay, something I've always been fascinated by but never got into. If you follow Ryan, you know he practically bleeds glitter with all the crafting he does, so all the technical explanations that Raffy gives feels authentic and well researched. He balances cluing the reader into the world enough and giving enough detail to create a clear vision without overwhelming the casual reader. Also, the book has another element that I love: small time social media fame. While it's not central to the book, Raffy has around ten thousand followers on streaming platform Ion where he crafts and chats with people watching. It's a nice touch and makes sense with Raffy's personality. As a last point, I love that Luca is bi. While I've read a couple 2021 books with bi girls (which is awesome), I hadn't encountered a bi guy character in YA, so I was thrilled this one has been added to the mix. Overall, the book felt relatable, down to earth, and like a fun peak into a different world. It manages to be an escapist contemporary novel.

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I really think this book has great potential, but for me it's just the wrong time to read this one. Will try and pick it up in the future though.

3 stars, because I did like what I've read so far.

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This was a SUPER cute and fun romance. Ryan La Sala did not disappoint with Reverie and moving into the contemporary genre for him went super well! Highly recommend.

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DRC provided by Sourcebooks Fire via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Representation: gay protagonist, bi deuteragonist.

Content Warning: anxiety, biphobia.

Be Dazzled is Ryan La Sala’s dazzlingly cute sophomore novel, a contemporary queer love story between two boys set in the world of cosplay.

Raphael is a talented creator and crafter, and a cosplayer, an art expression his mother despises and belittles because of her ignorance and closed-mindedness. He sets his aim on Controverse’s annual cosplay competition, and the sponsorship opportunities offered by “Craft Club” to the crowd favourites, to go to an art school his mother will never pay for. He enters the competition with his friend May, but a problem arises, a problem in the athletic form of his ex-boyfriend Luca. The boy who broke his heart.

I really liked Be Dazzled, even more than Ryan’s first book, Reverie. I was transported by Raphael’s roller-coaster of feelings, the way the story switched between hatred and the gooey sensation only love can create, and Raphael’s inner journey.

The fact that Ryan missed the opportunity to say Evielution is something I will never forget or forgive, though!

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This is a nice gay contemporary YA story about cosplay, ambition, romance, and unsupportive parents. I loved the concept, but to me it constantly had very strange undertones in every aspect.

Content warnings include: unsupportive and abusive parents, homophobia, breakup, anxiety, public embarassment, sex between teens off-page but sexual innuendos on-page.

The strangeness was there from the very start. Raffy, the protagonist and narrator, enters a cosplay competition that he desperately wants to win. It's also introduced that his mother, though an artist, is not supportive of his cosplaying at all so he hides it from her, and that his ex-boyfriend, Luca, is also in the competition.
Of course the reader is supposed to root for Raffy in the competition, in convincing his mother that cosplay isn't just embarassing "arts and crafts", and in making up with Luca, but to be honest, I only really wanted one of these things to happen.

Let's start with his mother: I disliked her intensely from the very start. She's abusive both in that she is neglectful of Raffy, imposing her needs over his, and in belittling him constantly, even destroying his work. While the story arc featuring her was a background one and had a positive conclusion, there was no meaningful character development in it in any way, and it felt very unsatisfactory. She barely had direct face-to-face interactions with Raffy.

Then there's the romance. I did end up being all "awww" about Raffy and Luca, and I did think they fit together in the sense that their individual strengths work in mellowing out each other's flaws. However, I found Luca's introduction to the story sort of creepy in the flashback chapters that show how the two met up to how they broke up months before the "now" timeline. On top of that, I just disliked his character. He ended up growing on me a bit, but especially in the beginning he a) just seemed off and really suspicious to me, which made me feel like he had bad intentions and just overall gave very bad vibes into the romance to the point where I didn't want them to be together, and b) I found it hard to reconcile the Luca we see in the flashbacks to the Luca we see in the "now". It felt almost like two different characters, and throughout the very end it it felt like Luca flip-flopped between two different characterizations.

That said, Luca and Raffy were believeable teenage characters. Luca is bisexual and from an Italian family, and more of a jock character, while Raffy is gay, not thin, and could probably described as flamboyant.

Raffy is also extremely ambitious to the point of neglecting consideration for anything else. I liked that he was a flawed character, but I found it very weird how his ambition tied into the cosplay competition plot and his need to prove himself to his mother.
On the one hand it's implied that cosplay is his ambition and he wants to show his mother that this is a worthwhile thing to do and not embarassing or childish. He puts a lot of himself into the cosplays, and the crafting plays a big role in his and Luca's relationship and their romantic storyarc.
However, on the other hand Raffy himself says that he wants to win the competition in order to get a sponsorship and possibly a full ride to art school. This, to me, established that his primary motivation for the competition isn't a passion for cosplay, but the fiancial and marketing prospects rewards. Which undermined the impact of the other storyarcs, as well as my investment into seeing him win. I do think the shift in his motivation was supposed to be a character development over the course of the story, but it got completely lost to me.

Even without Raffy's motivation, the cosplay content too felt super strange to me. Again, there was a slightly sinister undertone that kept me on edge the entire time, and unfortunately I mean "on edge" in a bad way here. It was clear the organisers were planning something, taking competitors aside, making special treatment deals, and keeping competitors in the dark about the scale of the competition, its timeframe, and what it would entail. This was really alarming, and to me it felt so off that it broke my suspension of disbelief.

The second half of the book was stronger than the first one for me, but there too I had issues with the pacing. The last flashback chapter felt out of place to me, and in my opinion the events therein should have been put/revealed in the "now" chapters. Once more I felt like the events undermined the tension built up previously and cast a really weird shadow to what had been established before, since sure, to the reader this was new information, but it wasn't to Raffy, and in my opinion it changed things significantly.

Still, I did have a good time reading this book, and I read it in pretty much a single sitting. Especially towards the end I became really invested. However, there were also chapters I did skim over. I do not like public embarassment scenes, but I do like it when the tension is relieved by acknowledging that mistakes happen and that's okay!
Raffy had a distinct voice, and I liked that the book gives not only a cool setting and hobby a spotlight, but also that it's a queer YA story with realistically flawed teens.

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Raphael Odom, the protagonist of the story, and his mother's relationship is fraught with neglect, undervaluation and disappointment, which occasionally edges towards an abusive one. His carefully constructed world of plans and routines dismantles like his creations after every you-know-what (or you don't), when he runs into Luca Vitale in a craft shop, a dark eyed, dark haired soccer player from his class with his own dysfunctional parents and social stigma.

Within the first few pages I was introduced to a dazzling new world, about which I knew very little. A world where the nerdiest, geekiest or the weebiest individuals are treated like the pop culture icons, a world of - nope, go read the book.

The story holds two timelines within it - both progress simultaneously and convene seamlessly. You won't believe the sheer number of cliffhangers in it! Weaving such suspense and excitement around a book which strictly falls in a romance genre is no easy feat. But Ryan la Sala, being who he is, successfully accomplished that.

'Be Dazzled' explored pertinent issues like homophobia, parental neglect, anxiety, social labeling and toxic ambitions - some more intensively than the others - in a witty, humorous and remarkable way. The highs and lows of romantic relationships, devoted friendships and most importantly, pulling oneself up from the debris of one's dreams are the highlights of the story. 'Be Dazzled' is going to hit the shelves on January 1st, 2021. And what better way to start the new year than curling up with this gorgeous YA rom-com?

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Delightful. Ryan La Sala's sparkling personality truly comes through in the most wonderful way in this book. One to watch.

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*thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a free copy in exchange for an honest review*
Be Dazzled is a book about friendship, creativity, and forgiveness. I was not expecting to love it as much as I did. However, Raffy is a captivating character. He’s motivated and is confident in his skills. He struggles with anxiety—which I found to be incredibly relatable—and being himself despite the expectations of his mother. The way that he struggles with how Luca is not in the same headspace that he is is also realistic and just increases the dimensions of this story.
Besides the characters, I also loved the themes and the way that the storytelling was done. There were a lot of fandom references that I did not understand because I’m not really into cosplay or video games, but it was still easy enough to navigate because the characters they were dressing up as were well described. I also loved the dual narrative where it’s told through the past and the present, slowly revealing just what happened.

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Project Runway comes to Comic-Con, with a healthy dose of romantic angst, in this fabulously fun second novel from Ryan La Sala. It's a fast-moving and funny read, with a clever, quirky narrative voice, but never skimps on the emotional investment in favor of the jokes. Raffy and all his complicated emotions carry the story well, but I do wish the resolutions to the three major conflicts (Raffy and Luca's relationship, and the relationship of each to their respective families) hadn't resolved so abruptly and easily. These are big, earned, real problems, and deserved harder-won resolutions. Still, it's a highly enjoyable story, and one I have no doubt will dazzle plenty of readers!

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the advance review copy!

CW: Drug use (not POV character), homophobia, parental neglect/near emotional abuse.

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This book is funny and all but it's not really what I'm looking for right now. Maybe I'll get back to it once it's published because I can see myself enjoying it more, but right now I'm just not invested in it.

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So I don't read YA very much because I often get frustrated with the characters responses to things (which often are because they are... young adults... so I know that I am not exactly the target audience). However, I really liked the description of this book so I wanted to give it a try. I've also never read this author before.

I am so glad I picked this one up. I LOVED this book. It was such a sweet story. I don't know much about cosplay- okay anything- but I love the shows where contestants have to create things (Project Runway = ComicCon is really a great description whoever thought of that). And this book, while it includes an M/M romance (something I actually wish was more of a focus), it really focused on the cosplay competitions and how that intertwined with both the heroes romance and their own identities. Which was both amazing (you really get a feel for everything that goes into one of these competitions) it was also a bit much at times. I would have liked more with Raffy and his friends or Raffy and Luca.

I loved Raffy & Luca. They had such a cute start. And their relationship felt mostly organic and relatable. I was definitely invested in them and wanted to see them happy. This book goes back and forth between what happened before and present time. Raffy is our main hero and we get most things from his point of view. I wish we got a little more from Luca. It felt like we had to assume certain things in order to understand Luca and his actions, and it wasn't always clear in my opinion. Also, my biggest pet peeve with second chance romance is that characters don't immediately forgive when others have done them wrong. There has to be some GENUINE regret and apologies. I loved that Raffy actually confronted Luca. I wish it had been discussed more between the characters later. I also wish there was more (any) of a confrontations/discussion between Raffy and Inaya. Also, Raffy's relationship with his mom (contrasted with Luca's relationship with his family) probably deserved more attention.

But even with all that, I really enjoyed this story. It was sweet and just fun. I thank NetGalley for the arc and I would recommend this book to others.

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i'm sure this book is phenomenal if you enjoy the way it's written. I didn't like it, and especially the moment of my life I'm in right now I just couldn't finish this book. DNF

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Rep: gay main character, bi love interest, m/m relationship, sapphic side character, trans woman minor character

CW: drug use (not by pov character), off-page homophobia, accidental outing, unsupportive parents

This was a fun, lighthearted, and fast paced read! I was able to breeze through it in a couple of days, and the last hundred or so pages really drew me in and made it difficult for me to stop reading.

The chapters alternate between the present day, set at a big cosplay competition where protagonist Raffy has come face to face with his recent ex, and the past, where we get to see the relationship between Raffy and Luca start, develop, and eventually break apart. This is a difficult thing to get right, and I think that La Sala did an excellent job with it! The moods of the two timelines at any given point were well balanced which helped the book to keep a relatively lighthearted tone throughout, without ever getting to be too saccharine.

Something that this book touches on is how queer relationships can be impacted by homophobia and by any parties involved being closeted, and that sometimes the question of whether someone is ‘out’ or not can be complicated to answer. Raffy is completely out. But Luca is not, and this has a major impact on their relationship because it does make certain things harder and mean that there are things that they can’t do together that a m/f couple could. However, at no point in this book does Raffy or anyone else shame Luca for the situation that he’s in, or imply that he has a responsibility to be entirely out if he wants to be in a relationship with Raffy. The nuance was there and I appreciated that.

Raffy’s narrative voice is very distinct, and I really enjoyed that aspect! It felt like Raffy himself was telling me about what happened. This might not be for everyone, I can foresee some people possibly finding this narrative style to be irritating, but it drew me further in and made it easier for me to connect with the character and what was going on around him.

The way that the cosplay competition goes down requires some heavy suspension of disbelief. Personally, that aspect wasn’t for me, and I would’ve preferred it all to be a little more realistic. I also think that Raffy and Luca’s reconciliation was a lot easier than I would have liked it to be, although it did make sense that their reconciliation was so easy given the reason for their initial break up. The combined result of these things was that I wasn’t particularly invested in the emotional stakes of either plotline, which did limit my overall enjoyment somewhat.

But! The point of this book isn’t to be a serious examination of either of these topics! This book was designed to be a celebration of cosplay and con culture, and to be a fluffy romance, and in those areas it absolutely delivers! If you’re looking for either of those things, or for something that is loudly and unapologetically gay, then I would recommend this book.

Plus, the title is a pun! Puns are awesome!

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Be Dazzled is an amazingly gay romance novel that revolves around Raffy, a boy obsessed with cosplaying, and Luca, a soccer player who falls for Raffy. The story follows the start (and end) of two boy’s relationship and a cosplay competition at Comic-con, where the two are competing against one another.

This book is nerdy. Being a lover of Comic-con and cosplay myself, and a person who deals with anxiety, I loved seeing characters who were like me in a book. The puns are amazing, the characters are relatable and funny, and there’s an authenticity in the story that I loved.

I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

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This wasn't bad? It was written in earnest, and I did like that he called out fan culture on many occasions. The writing could be better, it feels simple and childish at times. The main romance was cute, but the main character was grating at times. I've read a previous book by Ryan La Sala, and it sometimes feels like he writes the same sensitive gay boy over and over again for better or worse. This isn't bad, but nothing to write home about either.

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Rupaul’s drag race cross Comic-Con with some sequins and a love/hate relationships!

The book flips between present day and the beginning of Raffy and Luca’s friendship turned instant love affair. Raffy know how he is and he owns the runway. He is known for his passion of bedazzling cosplay outfits on his social media. Luca walks into his world, the bi soccer player who wants Raffy yet isn’t ready to be with him in front of the world.

We find out quite quickly that the two needed on awful terms and are now running against each other at the biggest cosplay completion. As the competition going on get a parallel timeline on how they relationship started and ended. Building the story and characters along the way. Luca isn’t the only one fighting for his family to approve of his hobby, Raffy’s mother doesn’t take his arts and crafts seriously yet all he wants is her approval.

When the competition goes in another direction the two are left partnerless in the final round with their only option working together to win. Can they work together and put their feeling and heartbreak aside to win?

Omg I loved this books!!! It covers young adult themes of finding yourself, being authentic and having the courage to be yourself! It’s a big Be Dazzled yes from me!!

Highly recommend reading this adorably, geeky, queer, coming of age power novel.

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thank you to netgalley and sourcebooks fire for a free e-arc of be dazzled in exchange for an honest review.

y’all i really loved this one. it was so much fun, and still had so much heart. this book made me think i had to be stressed over a cosplay when really i’m not going to any cons anytime soon (woOo pandemic!!!!)

i loved reading raffy’s voice, i love any book where teenagers sound like teenagers. it’s told in alternating chapters of “then” and “now,” and even knowing that the “then” would end in heartache because of where we are in the “now,” i was still afraid and holding my breath when it all went down. it’s a bit of a second chance romance, which i’m beginning to realize i really enjoy. and raffy. my sweet, anxious, needs-to-be-working-at-all-times boy. i adored him. i don’t have much else to say.

this book explores different kinds of unaccepting parents: parents who belittle your passions, and parents who are afraid of anything that might appear “queer.” our characters have to be a different version of themselves (and no, not the cosplayed version) in order to feel accepted at home, when really they just want to be loud and bold.

this book celebrates nerdiness and conventions and cosplay, being a fan and sharing that with others. i love the cons for the celebration of shared passions, loved living vicariously through the book, and can’t wait to experience that again when the world is a safer place.

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