Review: Hyperbole and a Half

Hyperbole and a HalfAny time Allie Brosh would post something new to her blog, Hyperbole and a Half, it felt like an event. All productivity would stop as people would post the link to Twitter or Facebook, or even email it (some of us still do that, by the way). Offices would be full of repressed laughter as we read stories about little girls pretending to be wolves, Simple Dog having a wild adventure, or her theories on Internet grammar.

Then, after posting Adventures in Depression two years ago, Brosh disappeared until May of this year. Depression Part Two effectively explains why.

Although I’d say that her book Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened (Touchstone/Simon and Schuster, 2013), helps to tell the rest of the story.

While the book does include several of her pieces available on her website (the Depression comics are here), the bulk of the book is new material and is a witty look into a strange and complicated life.

Part essay and part comic, Brosh has a clear, smart voice and a deep appreciation of the absurd and the ridiculous. Her text and drawings are perfect compliments for each other and she transitions easily between the two, always knowing when something will be better told through words or through images. She’s able to pace her stories the way that is the most effective.

Her Paintbrush drawings are deceptively crude. Always draws herself as a pink tube with bulging eyes and a triangular ponytail (and tellingly, Brosh draws herself the same whether she’s an adult or a child), her presentation of herself is disarming and approachable. Other characters (such as her parents, friends and boyfriend) look more recognizably human, and drawings of animals, sense of movement and setting show she does have a good understanding of art. These aren’t just some silly drawings she’s done without any thought.

But don’t get me wrong — there is plenty of silliness. Many of these stories fall into the “you couldn’t make this stuff up” category, like when her mother takes her and her sister for a walk in the woods and gets them lost, or how Brosh, due to a variety of circumstances, became known for liking hot sauce even though she didn’t. The stories about her two odd, neurotic dogs are among the best (and it’s good those dogs have Brosh to love them).

It’s not all silliness, though. There’s unexpected poignancy underneath the hilarity. Beyond her two pieces about depression, she also chronicles her struggles with what it means to function as an adult (making yourself go to the bank when there’s the Internet to look at!) as well as trying to reconcile the vision she has of herself as a good person with the reality of worrying she’s not. Somehow, even when dealing with these darker issues and insight, Hyperbole and a Half never stops making you laugh.

And I think that’s why we all share Hyperbole and a Half’s pieces with each other. We recognize ourselves the stories of this woman who draws herself as a pink tube, even if she’s quite a bit weirder than we may be. Her stories painfully funny in both the literal and metaphorical sense, much like life itself. Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened is our story, or close enough to it.

Review copy provided by Big Planet Comics.

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