Throughout June, GeekMom celebrates Pride Month with lots of LGBTQ content. Follow the Pride Month tag to find all the content in one space (including LGBTQ content from previous years) and keep checking back for more throughout the month. Today’s book review is Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala.
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Trigger Warnings: emotional abuse (parent to child), panic disorder, biphobia, homophobia.
Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala is a YA, dual-timeline novel about a teenage cosplayer set in the world of conventions and competitive cosplay.
Raffy is an up-and-coming cosplayer with a semi-popular streaming channel where he live-streams his builds in advance of the conventions where he shows them off to the world. In the present day, he’s working hard to finish off the costumes for a major competition where the prize will include a big cheque and sponsorship opportunities with Craft Club (a national chain of craft stores) – a prize he hopes will secure his big break and allow him to escape from under the watchful eye of Evie, his millionaire artist mother who looks with disdain at anything to do with arts and crafts. Raffy is also dealing with the aftermath of a bad breakup with his boyfriend Luca, made worse by the fact that Luca has now teamed up to work with Raffy’s cosplay rival and former friend Inaya.
However, when the Craft Club execs conspire to add drama to this year’s cosplay competition, Raffy finds himself having to team up with Luca in order to stand a chance at winning. Can the two boys put the past behind them in order to create something stunning to wow the judges, or with the lingering tensions rip their team apart at the seams?
This was an incredibly fun story that will appeal to anyone who has stayed up late in the weeks before a convention to try and finish a costume in time. Raffy’s obsessive nature over getting all the details just right, even to the detriment of his relationships with others, will no doubt strike a chord with many readers, while those less familiar with the world of cosplay will discover a behind the scenes look at what goes into making the amazing outfits they may have seen on a convention floor.
I particularly enjoyed the dual timeline nature of Be Dazzled. The two parts are only set around six months apart – not long at all when compared with many other dual timeline novels which can be separated by years if not decades – but this style of storytelling helped increase my curiosity. In the present-day timeline, Raffy and Luca are broken up after an as-yet-unknown incident whereas, in the scenes set in the past, we see them meeting and beginning to fall in love. It’s also in these scenes where we really get to know Luca the most and witness his struggle to accept his sexuality along with his fears about his family’s reaction. This means that in the past scenes the tension builds because we know we are on the road to a disaster, whereas in the present scenes, the tension comes as we hope for a positive resolution. It’s two very different stories expertly blended into one.
As in many romance books, many of the supporting cast are rather two-dimensional, including Raffy’s best friend Meg who I’d love to read a spin-off story about. I did, however, very much enjoy the character of Evie, Raffy’s antagonistic mother whom he refers to by first name and has more of a colleague-style relationship with than that of parent and child. Evie is a former professional artist turned gallery owner and is only interested in the most high brow of art, meaning she is positively disgusted by Raffy’s cosplay. This leads to some of the most heart-in-mouth scenes in the book as Raffy attempts to keep his builds a secret, and also an especially hilarious moment when he has to attempt to hide an entire party full of cosplayers during an unexpected visit.
While Be Dazzled is far from the most groundbreaking of LGBTQ stories, it is still a thoroughly enjoyable one with an interesting twist thanks to its setting in the world of competitive cosplay. I would recommend it for both those who enjoy watching or participating in cosplay and also anyone looking for a simple, enjoyable LGBTQ romance to dive into over the summer.
GeekMom received a copy of this book for review purposes.