Confetti Realms by Nadia Shammas, Karnessa, Hackto Oshiro & Micah Meyers

This somehow slipped through the cracks for me at Halloween, but it’s a really tremendous read for the end of the year — or any time of year if you’re struggling with your emotions, and especially if you’re LGBTQ+, teenager or otherwise.

Confetti Realms starts in a diner on Halloween, with three high-school-age friends making plans for the evening. Marissa, Ty and Garrett have the somewhat half-baked idea of going to the cemetery later and trying to summon spirits. When Radwa, a former friend of Marissa’s, walks into the diner, things get a little awkward.

Garrett, being the quintessential teddy bear, invites Radwa to join them. It’s never made clear whether he doesn’t know about the drama between her and Marissa, or whether he’s just kinda oblivious and impulsively kind. Marissa isn’t Mean Girl enough to exclude her clearly lonely ex-friend, so they all wind up sneaking into the cemetery with booze. When uninvited guests show up, the foursome scatter, only to find themselves embarking — despite Marissa’s very valid, very cogent protests otherwise — on an extraordinary, fantastical, grotesque journey that will have them all questioning their own assumptions and desires.

Nadia Shammas writes with both wit and wisdom, making her main characters feel like very real, imperfect and wholly understandable teenagers while injecting a healthy dose of fairy tale whimsy into the proceedings. I greatly appreciated how our main foursome learned and grew throughout their adventure: I’ve recently been subjected to too many stories where grown-ass adults had clearly not learned the lessons you’re supposed to in your adolescence, so this was a welcome relief. And, ofc, the amount of representation was so, so good. The book felt a bit like free therapy for me in places, which is always the hallmark of excellent writing for me nowadays. I can’t even imagine how validating and therapeutic it’ll be for kids actually through going some of the emotional situations depicted in the book.

Karnessa’s art really shines not only in the big horror set pieces, but also just in the small bits of physical action, such as where Radwa keeps leaning into the server’s way in the diner. Her anthropomorphic animals are also a delight. I really enjoyed Hackto Oshiro’s colors, too, with their very clear scene palettes and excellent use of contrast for emphasis.

I am very sorry that I didn’t get to read this when it originally came out earlier this year, but I’m really glad it came to me at a time that I needed its wisdom and grace. It’s not a perfect book — some of the scene transitions are unnecessarily choppy and confusing — but it does so much so well. Recommended.

Confetti Realms by Nadia Shammas, Karnessa, Hackto Oshiro & Micah Meyers was published October 17 2023 by Mad Cave Studios and is available from all good booksellers, including

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