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ARCs Book Reviews

ARC Review: Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala

Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire and NetGalley for the e-ARC to read and review! Be Dazzled goes on sale January 5, 2021.

Image via Goodreads

Genre: LGBTQIA+, Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: 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.

 

My 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. 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 vehemence 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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