Thursday, January 28, 2021

Book Review: "Be Dazzled" by Ryan La Sala

Ryan La Sala's newest book, Be Dazzled, is an utterly adorable rom-com that looks at doing what you love and being with whom you love, no matter what anyone says. Plus sequins. Lots of sequins.

Raffy is a tremendously talented artist. But unlike his artist-turned-gallery-owner mother, he doesn’t view art as valuable only if it’s elitist. His talent lies in design—costume design, more specifically—and he’s found his sweet spot in designing costumes for cosplay conventions. This isn't something his mother approves of, so he must hide everything from her and work only when she isn't home.

He literally runs into Luca, a handsome boy from his school, in the sequins aisle of a craft store. Luca has actually followed Raffy’s popular videos on a YouTube-like channel, so he’s mesmerized by Raffy’s talent. Clearly smitten with one another, they decide to create a costume for the two of them to compete at the next cosplay convention.

But the pressures of creating the perfect costumes and having to hide this side of him from his mother take their toll on Raffy and his relationship with Luca. It doesn’t help that Luca has his own anxieties about fully coming out to his own family and embracing the side of him that loves cosplay, and these anxieties ultimately doom their relationship.

Devastated and angry, Raffy is still determined to create the winning costumes for the biggest cosplay convention, in hopes he might get offers of sponsorship or even jobs. But when Luca shows up with a former friend of theirs to compete as well, it opens wounds that aren't even close to healing and ignites Raffy’s competitive spirit. Can he get everything he wants, or will he have to sacrifice something to be happy?

Although I have zero artistic ability I am fascinated by art supplies and the creative process, so I couldn’t get enough of this book. Raffy and Luca are an adorable if dysfunctional couple, and even though I wanted to shake them sometimes, I rooted for their love to win in the end.

Be Dazzled was a fun story with real emotional components as well, because it hurts when you can’t share the things or the people you love with those closest to you. La Sala shows he’s just as talented at rom-coms as he is creating fantastical situations, like he did in his last book, Reverie.

This book charmed me completely!

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