Be Dazzled / Ryan La Sala / Book Review


Rafael Odom, also known as Crafty Raffy, and his gallery-director mother have very different visions for his future. Evie Odom believes that life is the best teacher. Raffy, on the other hand, has his eyes set on art school. Evie Odom only respects "real" art.

Meanwhile, Raffy's secret passion is the less-than-lofty world of cosplay. Without his mother's help, Raffy knows he will need a scholarship to be able to afford art school, and he has a plan to win that money. The biggest convention of the year, Controverse, is right around the corner, and winning the cosplay competition comes with a significant cash prize and sponsorship as well. It's just a bonus that Raffy can use this competition to show up his ex-boyfriend Luca as well.

But this year's competition is more cutthroat than usual, and when an unexpected twist means that Raffy and Luca will have to team up on the most ambitious cosplay build Raffy has ever done, Raffy will have to juggle unresolved feelings for the boy who broke his heart and his need to pursue an artistic future.



Cosplay This book is just one of many recently that has tackled a niche interest with great passion, and I love it. Books that explore unique hobbies and interests are always welcome, especially when that interest is something like cosplay. So many people enjoy cosplay--or just enjoy the bright and colorful world of conventions--and there just aren't enough books that delve into this niche.

Pop Culture References This book, right from the beginning pages, is full of unapologetic and fun pop culture references. These references are all over the board. They cover anime and fandom, of course, but they also touch on the world of TikTok and other current phenomena. The characters are also constantly calling Ubers to get them where they need to go. This book probably won't age well, but it's a lot of fun in the moment.

Unique Timeline Ryan la Sala chooses a unique structure to this break-up story, and it is this structure that ultimately keeps the book interesting. The book skips between the current day, during the convention competition, and the past, from back when Luca and Raffy first meet up until the immediate aftermath of their breakup. Intermingling the current competition with the details of a relationship readers already know has gone sour keeps things fresh and allows Luca to be more than just an ex. Round characters are the best characters, after all.


For a YA narrator, Raffy is different in his gender alone. Male YA narrators are a rare breed. That being said, Raffy's voice is otherwise very familiar. He is a sarcastic, snarky, and overdramatic YA narrator. This is fine, of course. It works, but anyone in search of a unique voice won't find it here. Familiar Voice

Raffy and Luca's relationship is full of abundant euphemisms from the start. This isn't necessarily a problem, but the amount of euphemism is definitely on the edge of what is acceptable for the genre. This book is heavier on euphemism than some YA readers would expect or want, and so it might not be the safe space for romance that YA could otherwise be. So all of that is to say, Some Readers Beware! Risqué Flirting

Though the fractured timeline keeps the plot interesting, it also comes with a significant drawback. Explanations tend to be repeated. Ryan la Sala doesn't leave his uninitiated readers confused about the world of cosplay. He makes sure to explain how everything works, but these explanations come in pairs. The reader often needs to understand the rules first, while reading about the contemporary day, but past Luca also needs to be initiated by Raffy. These dual repetitions can make the otherwise-acceptable explanations drag a little bit. Repetitive Explanations



Anyone who enjoys the energy of David Rose from Schitt's Creek should check out his younger contemporary, Raffy Odom. Those who loved the very niche, very contemporary romance of Ben Philippe's Charming as a Verb might want to take a look at this kind-of love story, too.


Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Date: January 5, 2021
Series: N/A
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Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


  1. Don't enjoy cosplay, but the book still sounds fine.


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