In the fairness of full disclosure, I had some idea of what I was getting into when I picked up Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem and Other Things That Happened. Like the vast majority of the internet, I’m familiar with Allie Brosh’s blog which she started in 2009 in an attempt to avoid studying for a physics final. It has since rocketed to popularity with an impressive 5-10 million page views thanks in part to exposure on Reddit and the widespread use of ‘X’ all the ‘Y’ meme from her post This Is Why I’ll Never Adult.
The book came out in October and has spent 5 weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers list. It’s not surprising considering her loyal fan base and their excitement over the mash up of comics paired with lovably weird stories. Hyperbole and a Half also includes material previously published on her blog which has garnered disapproval from critics who feel that including old material was a cop-out. As a fan, I’m glad to see some of my favorites in one awesome collection that I can refer to time and again. Similar to an anthology, it includes some of the previously published greats such as, The Party and The God of Cake alongside the newly illustrated autobiographical content that other loyal fans will love.
I was engrossed immediately. That’s not something I say lightly – her honest reflection, whether it’s about her dogs, Simple Dog and Helper Dog, or writing letters to her childhood self about eating paste or one too many encounters with an electric fence, are what make the book such a great, universal read. The lack of consistency in the narrative has received mixed responses. The lighter stories sometimes give you an ‘it was funny if you had been there vibe’. I still found them enjoyable and worth the read, but it’s her tales about depression and forging clumsily through adulthood that had the most impact. I would have loved to have been able to read more of her stories relating to mental illness, and I hope we get to see more in the future.
When I first discovered Allie’s blog, it was because I would see images flying around on social media. I sometimes emailed my mom pictures similar to the rumpled, lost looking figure that so perfectly personifies depression. I used to send these images to my mom as a way to acknowledge, ‘hey, I feel like this, too! But it’s kind of funny looking in its weirdness so we can laugh about it. Okay? Okay.’ Depression isn’t a universal experience, but the author manages to paint an informative sometimes heartbreaking picture. Then she moves on to discuss having a lighthearted conversation with her dogs about their unruly behavior and how they can go about correcting it.
It’s that exact self-conscious and often absurd nature of Allie’s stories that somehow make the reader feel at home. The chapters fly by in colorful bursts. By the time I paused to take a break, I was well past the 100 page mark. I returned home, where I stayed up until 4 a.m. to finish the remaining chapters. I marked pages with scraps of paper, finding bits of wisdom that I will return to later. On a few occasions since finishing the book, I’ve brought it out only to cram it into my sister’s face so she’ll read something that had us laughing to the point where we were doubled over.
Now it sits in a place of honor at my bedside. I finished it a few days ago, but I’m still going back the same way millions go back to her blog each time there is an update – to fall into the compelling, weird world of Allie Brosh.
Visit the blog and pick up the book here.