Audiobook ARC Review: Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala

Be DazzledBe Dazzled by Ryan La Sala
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Who’s ready to sparkle??

Project Runway goes to Comic Con in an epic queer love story about creativity, passion, and finding the courage to be your most authentic self.

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. If he can wow there, it could lead to sponsorship, then art school, and finally earning real respect for his work. There’s only one small problem… Raffy’s ex-boyfriend, Luca, is his main competition.

Raffy tried to make it work with Luca. They almost made the perfect team last year after serendipitously meeting in the rhinestone aisle at the local craft store–or at least Raffy thought they did. But Luca’s insecurities and Raffy’s insistence on crafting perfection caused their relationship to crash and burn. Now, Raffy is after the perfect comeback, one that Luca can’t ruin.

But when Raffy is forced to partner with Luca on his most ambitious build yet, he’ll have to juggle unresolved feelings for the boy who broke his heart, and his own intense self-doubt, to get everything he’s ever wanted: choosing his art, his way. (less)

Warnings: homophobia

Be Dazzled is, at its heart, about the joy of creating stuff, about making art irrespective of medium. Raffy, who is the son of an artist-turned-gallery director, has to hide his main passion, cosplay, from his mother because she doesn’t consider it art; she treats crafts like it is a hobby, and she tries to direct his creative passions towards something more ‘respectable’ like fashion design. Raffy, however, is adamant on going to art school (another thing his mother looks down upon), and he wants to win this year’s Controverse competition to cement his entry into college. Controverse is a big convention and one of its main events is its cosplay competition, and Raffy, who has been doing this for years, and has his own streaming channel and everything, is aiming for a win, and one of his rivals is his ex-boyfriend, Luca. Raffy’s personal arc is about him being ambitious and driven, but he sometimes also forgets to have fun with the process.

Now, this book has two timelines – one taking in the present on the days of the Controverse convention, and the other starting from about 13 months ago, when he first meets his classmate Luca at Craft Club (I guess it is the non-homophobic version of, you know) while searching for rhinestones. At that time, Luca started off as his fan, who regularly watched his streams, and soon fall into a relationship, with Raffy teaching Luca the basics of sewing, and crafting builds for cosplay. In the present, Raffy is participating along with Mei, his other best friend, who is also a webcomic artist come to connect with other artists and sell merch at the convention. The main ‘mystery’ at the start is how they broke up, and as we go forward we see how their budding relationship was strained a bit by Luca’s family not approving of his relationship, and even denying his bisexuality. At the start, the girl Luca is participating with also seems like a rival (in the competition) to Raffy, and her impression is worsened by the fact that she and Luca are doing one of Raffy’s idea. By the end, though, we do realize that there is no antagonist, per se, but just circumstances that worked against the characters (though I am still on them using Raffy’s idea).

While the book is amazing and full of heart, and love for creating, I especially loved how much detail the author has put into describing Raffy’s process itself. And while I know practically nothing about how cosplay is made, I was not overwhelmed by the details, either, nor did I feel they took away from the pacing of the plot. About the timelines, I must say, though, is that the way they align doesn’t always work. For instance, we get Luca’s and Raffy’s reconciliation before we get the full version of the event that finally broke them. It felt like the build-up (I was assuming big betrayal or something) gets to nowhere. Same with his issue with his mom – her snobbishness disappears promptly at the end (though I admit moms do be like that; mine is pretty much the same in taking others’ opinion before my own). But, throughout, the book is quite enjoyable and I loved Raffy’s journey. Coupled with the brilliant narration by Pete Cross, the experience will leave you delighted.

Is it diverse? gay main character with anxiety, bisexual love interest; lesbian secondary character

Received an advance audio galley in exchange for a fair review from Dreamscape Media, via Netgalley, and an ebook review copy from Sourcebooks Fire from Sourcebooks Fire, via Edelweiss.

View all my reviews

Buy links

The Book Depository | Wordery

Released on January 5, 2021

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