Buzzing (A Graphic Novel) (Paperback)
Recently diagnosed with OCD, Isaac has a lot going on. His intrusive thoughts, cleverly depicted as a swarm of buzzing bees, are only calmed when he is drawing. An avid gaming and fantasy fan, Isaac is drawing a dragon and that catches the eye of his classmate, Micah, who invites him to join their RPG. This new group of friends is welcoming and supportive, reminding Isaac that “if you really think about it, weird is actually normal”. When Isaac nearly fails a test, his mother, who was wary about gaming the first place, bans Isaac from the game and his friends. Knowing this is an important outlet for him, Isaac’s sister helps get him to another local RPG. This is a place to find new friends, and once his two groups of friends merge (and Mom wants to learn to play!), color and joy spread across the pages. Rye Hickman’s illustrations are brilliant. The depiction of the bees, with the swarm getting bigger as his thoughts spiral, is so clever. As is the use of color; when Isaac is at home or school, the colors are drab and muted, and the only bright color comes from the bees. When he is with friends, however, the scenes are bright and full of color. Balancing nuanced relationships, mental health, and identity, this book is an absolute treasure.
- Lauren D’Alessio, Wellesley Books (Wellesley, MA)— From NECBA Windows & Mirrors 2023 Short List
Isaac Itkin can’t get away from his thoughts.
As a lonely twelve-year-old kid with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), everything from studying to looking in the mirror becomes a battle between him and a swarm of unhelpful thoughts.
The strict therapy his mother insists on doesn’t seem to be working, but when a group of friends invites him to join their after-school role-playing game, the thoughts feel a little less loud, and the world feels a little brighter.
But Isaac’s therapist says that exposure to games can have negative effects on kids with OCD, and when his grades slip, his helicopter mother won’t let him play anymore. Now Isaac needs to find a way to prove to himself, to his mother, and to the world that the way to quiet the noise in his head may have been inside him all along.
Rye Hickman is a visual storyteller and a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design's Sequential Art program. Past work includes Lonely Receiver, TEST, Moth & Whisper, and more. They get really excited about dystopian fiction, good coffee, and drawing hands. You can find out more about Hickman at ryehickman.com, their Instagram @ryehickmandraws, and twitter @ryehickman.
“A heartwarming, authentic middle-grade graphic novel…Buzzing blooms with insight, inspiration, and compassion.”—Shelf Awareness, starred review
"A positive, sympathetic introduction to living with OCD."—Kirkus Reviews
"…a cleverly rendered interpretation of OCD embedded in a wholesome graphic novel drama."—Publishers Weekly
“There are lots of graphic novels about kids experiencing anxiety or intrusive thoughts, but not many featuring boys, which makes this stand out. Hand to kids who related to Lee Durfey-Lavoie and Veronica Agarwal's ‘Just Roll with It’ (2021) or Kathryn Ormsbee and Molly Brook's ‘Growing Pangs’ (2022).”—Booklist
“The power of a role-playing group can’t fix everything, but it goes a long way. Isaac is a teen with OCD [and] suffers from near-constant intrusive thoughts, cleverly visualized here as bees with mean voices. Over the story, he builds confidence and community by leaning into his love of fantasy and drawing; as a former fellow misfit teen artist, it was wonderful to watch him grow. This is a nuanced and diverse coming-of-age story. I’m so excited for all of the readers who will discover it and see themselves in it.”—Maia Kobabe, author of Gender Queer: A Memoir
“With Buzzing, Sattin and Hickman show that epic adventures hide in the most unlikely places. The story reads like an immersive role-playing game where colorful characters, lavish landscapes, and harrowing challenges await you at every turn. The brilliance of Buzzing is that it masterfully illustrates how stories and games have the power to transform our lives.”—David Gallaher, author of The Only Living Boy and The Only Living Girl
“Brilliant and timely, Buzzing uses tabletop role-playing games as a method to make your own choices with conviction and, in so doing, handles the idiosyncrasies of having OCD with both care and sincerity.”—Steenz, illustrator of Archival Quality and Heart of the City