Raphael “Raffy” Odom lives for cosplay and the elaborate anime-inspired costumes he creates. With best friend May, he’s entering the biggest competition of them all: Boston’s Controverse Champion- ship of Cosplay. They’re determined to win, but Raffy can’t stop thinking about his would-be partner, Luca Vitale, once his boyfriend, now his ex and rival. Alter-nating “Now” and “Then” between the competition and the history of Raffy and Luca—a soccer player who’s not out as either bi or a cosplayer—La Sala (Reverie) sets his story of romance, teamwork, and beat-the-clock competition in a world where crafting centers sponsor elaborate competitions with serious prize money. Raffy’s funny and self-aware—he’s both grateful and offended that his mother believes he and May are going camping, like “some plucky settlers of CATAN!” If Raffy’s art-world powerhouse mother and her hatred for cartoons, crafting, and pop culture feels over the top, it’s a small misstep in a sequin-filled romance that’s also a love letter to the craft and creativity of cosplay. Ages 14–up. Agent: Veronica Park, Fuse Literary. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
"A charming, geeky love story filled with all the con drama readers could wish for" - Kirkus Reviews
"A crafty queer romance about self-acceptance, and a delightful addition to YA collections." - School Library Journal
"Heartfelt and hilarious, Be Dazzled is an artfully crafted ode to teen ambition and first love. From the book's charming cast to Raffy's quick-witted voice, La Sala's contemporary debut simply dazzles.
" - -Phil Stamper, bestselling author of The Gravity of Us
"La Sala (Reverie, 2019) crafts a fabulously gay story of hope, friendship, and love worth fighting for. Queer nerds, rejoice!" - Booklist
"A sequin-filled romance that's also a love letter to the craft and creativity of cosplay." - Publishers Weekly, STARRED Review
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Boston teen Raphael Odom is a master crafter and cosplayer. His livestream views are picking up, and he's willing to do whatever it takes to win first place, and an art school scholarship, at Trip-C (the Controverse Championship of Cosplay). However, Raphael is also the son of Evie Odom: Renowned artist, gallery owner, and vehement anti-crafter. He hides his passion from her, secretly buying supplies and sneaking out to cons with best friend May. His anxiety and perfectionism are only manageable through the meditative process of crafting—alone. When playful, closeted jock Luca Vitale takes an interest in him, he's a beautiful distraction who disrupts Raffy's routine and forces him to embrace spontaneity. The novel explores Raffy's shifting relationship with cosplay, and with Luca, in intersecting chronologies; one story line follows present-day Raffy dealing with their break-up and Trip-C, while the couple's courtship is told in flashback. La Sala deftly builds the mounting tension of the competition alongside the budding relationship and its inevitable end—though a happy ending shines through. The heavier elements of the novel are buoyed by abundant humor, heartwarming romance, and the overall message of embracing your deepest, geekiest self. Raffy's introversion, and the way he processes his anxiety through creating, will resonate with anyone who finds strength and security in their hobbies. Luca is Italian American and Rafael's ethnicity isn't named. VERDICT Teen readers active in the con and cosplay scene will love seeing themselves depicted with the gentle humor of an in-group character. A crafty queer romance about self-acceptance, and a delightful addition to YA collections.—Ashleigh Williams, School Library Journal
Raphael Odom is a nerd: a cosplaying, con-going, card-carrying nerd—and he is in love.
Raffy is so entrenched in pop culture that he even has his own cosplay streaming channel with almost 10,000 followers. Last year Striker9, one of his followers, became his secret admirer. When Striker9 turned out to be a soccer player at his school whom Raffy always thought was straight, he was taken by surprise—Luca was bisexual, and, even better, he was interested in Raffy. He even showed a willingness to try cosplay. When the boys broke up several months later, Raffy, heartbroken, thought he could avoid Luca at school forever. He certainly didn’t think he’d run into him in full cosplay at the biggest convention of the year. Told in alternating chapters labeled “Then” and “Now,” the story will absorb readers in Raffy and Luca’s epic love story. While he is not the warmest protagonist to root for, Raffy with his Type A personality will grow on readers as he navigates the ups and downs of relationships with his close friends, famous art gallery director mother, and even himself. The adorkable romance between Raffy and Luca keeps the occasionally dense narrative moving forward quickly, making this book an enjoyable read. Raffy and Luca are presumed White; there is diversity in the supporting cast.
A charming, geeky love story filled with all the con drama readers could wish for. (Romance. 13-17)