First book of the year finished a day or so ago, so I’m already behind on my reviews – maybe it’s a good thing that I was reading three books over the turn of the year, or where would I be? I am trying to keep my NetGalley books up to date with the new ones, and this YA novel set in the world of competitive cosplay was published yesterday so is brand new and lovely!

Ryan la Sala – “Be Dazzled”

(24 October 2020)

We meet 17 year old Raffy, cosplay creator, with a memorable opening at the Boston Convention Centre; he’s here for the Con of his life, taking part with his friend May in a competition that could secure his financial freedom through sponsorships, but if his mother knew …

Evie is a conceptual artist who runs a studio and gallery (some of the funniest scenes feature her and her artist friends although they’re not all as flaky as they seem) and absolutely despises crafts. So while Evie really doesn’t care that Raffy’s gay, she would be right onto the fact that he’s crafting all day and night and seeing a football player who is incredibly conventional. Said Luca has the opposite kind of parents, so he’s hiding his sexuality AND his increasing interest in crafting. Oh, and they broke up a few months ago in this dual time-narrative book where the two timelines converge in the last few chapters.

I was fascinated to learn about the details of the cosplay costume-making hobby – there were lots of descriptions of the process, including all the designing and making and presenting on social media streams. A world I knew nothing about, and I always like to learn from my reading! The crafting supplies shops that feature heavily have all the standard traditional crafting stuff but also things like thermoplastics and the constituents of wigs for the increase in cosplayers using the shops.

The plot is a bit artificial but it is a novel, and it is a YA novel, where things are often that bit simpler and there are more important things than a totally believable plot. It didn’t take away from it, anyway. Yes, of course Raffy is forced to engage with his ex, and we know that from the blurb, but it is well done. I liked that the powerful adult figures in the story, apart from two of the judges, were women, and I also liked that there is a lot about friendship and what that means, whether it’s setting boundaries or hiding an entire party for someone (that, to be fair, you instigated) when their mum gets home. May, who steps in when Raffy needs a partner for two-person cosplays, has her own agency and job as a comic book creator and I loved the shout-out to her just when Raffy could have forgotten her. She doesn’t get dumped for Luca, and in fact inserts herself happily into the narrative at the end.

There are interesting descriptions of Raffy and Luca’s relationship – Luca is controlling and needy but Raffy becomes aware of this and also that there is more than just crafting. It looks towards the end that Luca has grown and learned, so we can feel hopeful about at least their friendship moving forward. I’m glad that the bits of not-quite-gaslighting he did were not rewarded. The messages are subtle but important.

A book that cheers, that celebrates being your own person, and that also celebrates hard work and ingenuity as well as attractiveness and creativity.

Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire for making this book available to read via NetGalley in return for an honest review.