Ananth Pangariya and Tessa Stone’s graphic novel, Buzz, takes a look at the seedy underworld of underground spelling bees – yes, you read that right. Spelling Bees. But here, spelling bees are more like Fight Club with words. Words carry literal power here, bringing thunder and damage with them. Forget lining up in the school auditorium in your assembly clothes, these kids are from all walks of life, hiding out in abandoned spaces, and spelling themselves into a frenzy.
Webster is about to start his first day of high school when he gets drawn into the world of the illegal spelling bees by Khan, a strange guy he bumps into while reading an SAT spelling book. From there, Buzz is a wild ride of revenge, redemption, and family secrets.
Tessa Stone’s art has a manga influence, with a Scott Pilgrim-type feel. The art is black, white and yellow, which gives the overall starkness of the novel a nice jolt, especially when words are flying in lightning bolts and hammers!
I love the representation of the spelling bees. Rather than give the word away to the reader, they’re presented in phonetic spelling, leaving the reader to guess at the word just as the competitors must. It’s a great way to get middle schoolers reading, thinking, and expanding their vocabulary, while giving them a good story and eye-catching art. Heck, if prints from this book are ever available, I’d hang a few up in my library, just to get the kids asking. (Wow, that’s a really good idea, actually… I have to think on this.)
Writer: Anantha Panagariya
Artist: Tess Stone
Publisher: Oni Press
Diamond ID: JUL131212