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Book Review: Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala

Publisher’s description

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.

Amanda’s thoughts

This book was a lot of fun. Yes, there was depth and drama and romance, but ultimately, it was the good fun that won me over. I was able to totally get wrapped up in Raffy’s world of crafting and cosplay and feel like I was right there at the con, witnessing everything unfold. What more can you ask for than for a book to take you away from reality and show you a different time and place?

There’s a lot going on in this story. Raffy’s super snobby artist/gallery director mom is horrible for most of the story. Never mind that he seems to mostly be raising and caring for himself while she disappears repeatedly to go do Important Things; she’s really awful because she actively does not support his interests and belittles his talent and ambitions. But Raffy doesn’t let her awfulness deter him—he continues to work in secret on all his builds and his social media. He’s hoping to get a sponsorship deal at some point to help pay for art school. His mother, of course, doesn’t think people should go to school at all, much less ART school—her being a snob extends to her looking down on formal arts education. Sure.

The now/then format of the story shows us how he got together with Luca, a bisexual soccer bro who’s a secret nerd, and how it all dramatically fell apart. In the “now” time, we’re at the con with them, watching them compete against each other until—TWIST!—they team up to work together.

They’re an easy couple to root for. Raffy’s total Type A personality and obsession with working on his crafting gets in the way of having a really good relationship. Luca has to keep lots of things about his time with Raffy secret, mainly from his family. But they really are into each other and are so cute together. And once they end up working together at the con, it’s easy to see how they will be able to overcome their past problems.

Full of messages about hiding yourself, authenticity, identity, being in costume to really be seen, trust, creation, and accomplishment, this fun read has wide appeal. Make sure the cosplay fans in your life get their hands on this!

Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781492682691
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 01/05/2021
Age Range: 14 – 18 Years

Book Review: The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell and friends

Publisher’s description

cardboard kingdomPerfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier, Awkward, and All’s Faire in Middle School, this graphic novel follows a neighborhood of kids who transform ordinary cardboard into fantastical homemade costumes as they explore conflicts with friends, family, and their own identity.

Welcome to a neighborhood of kids who transform ordinary boxes into colorful costumes, and their ordinary block into cardboard kingdom. This is the summer when sixteen kids encounter knights and rogues, robots and monsters—and their own inner demons—on one last quest before school starts again.

In the Cardboard Kingdom, you can be anything you want to be—imagine that!

The Cardboard Kingdom was created, organized, and drawn by Chad Sell with writing from ten other authors: Jay Fuller, David DeMeo, Katie Schenkel, Kris Moore, Molly Muldoon, Vid Alliger, Manuel Betancourt, Michael Cole, Cloud Jacobs, and Barbara Perez Marquez. The Cardboard Kingdom affirms the power of imagination and play during the most important years of adolescent identity-searching and emotional growth.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

I’m keeping track of what books I read for younger readers this summer and making a post-it note blog post about them, just like I post during the school year. But I loved this book so much that I wanted to single it out and make sure it gets seen so it can be added to all collections. There is a lot to like about this graphic novel. The vibrant, cheerful art is incredibly appealing, the large cast of characters all get their own little storylines and stand out as unique and memorable—not an easy task when looking at this many characters. I love the emphasis on creativity, imagination, and working together as well as the creative play that allows you to imagine yourself however you’d like to be—or to show the world how you really are. As the parent of a kid who still, at 12, loves nothing more than turning a cardboard box into the scene for some imagined battle, a kid who is generally outside in some kind of costume, I especially love it. The diversity of kids and home lives shown here is effortless, inclusive, and affirming. There’s a boy who lives with this grandmother while his mother is off somewhere else, and needs to learn to care for herself before he can go live with her again. There’s a young child, Jack, who loves the role of the sorceress because she is how he sees himself, how he’d like to be. His mother assures him that she’s okay with that, with him, and that he’s amazing. There’s Miguel who longs to be the romantic lead opposite a dashing prince. Seth’s parents are splitting up and he fears his father’s visits to their house. Some of the kids are the charismatic organizers while others hang back more and have to work a little harder to feel at ease with the group. This is a really excellent book with one of the most diverse groups of kids I’ve seen in a children’s book in a long time. A surefire hit with the graphic novel crowd. 

 

ISBN-13: 9781524719388
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Publication date: 06/05/2018