Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

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Allie Brosh is something of a personal hero(ine) of mine. I don’t remember how I came across her blog, but I do remember that the first time I visited it, I spent the next few hours reading her entire archive of posts, actually laughing out loud. Her blog (and the resulting book) is sort of a memoir–she’s a bit like David Sedaris, in that her stories are based in reality but clearly exaggerated and adjusted to maximize humor–and sort of an assortment of ramblings on random topics. Mostly, it’s made up of illustrated stories about her two dogs, her childhood escapades, and, especially recently (and most poignantly), her struggles with anxiety and depression.

First of all, I dare you to read one of the pieces in the book and not laugh, or at least crack a smile. It’s fundamentally impossible. Brosh is just flat-out hilarious, and this book was so much fun to read. There’s just something about the amateurish MS-Paint drawings combined with her self-deprecating and slightly sarcastic humor that just kills me, and I don’t remember the last time I had so much fun reading a book. As a fan of the blog, I was happy to see some of her classic pieces included (the birthday cake story is one of my favorites), and loved seeing some new ones, too (the pinecone hunting incident is hilarious). She manages to keep the humor consistent throughout, which I appreciated, although I don’t necessarily recommend reading straight-through like I did. Her humor is more effective in smaller doses, I think, and I’m going to have to revisit some of the pieces towards the end to fully appreciate them.

The two true stand-outs of the collection, though, are two pieces (well, technically three–one’s a two-parter) that deal with Brosh’s experiences with mental illness. You wouldn’t expect (or I didn’t, at least) for some of the most accurate, uncomfortably true-to-life depictions of living with depression to come from a cartoon. And yet that’s what Brosh has created–it’s still funny, in that awkward way when you’re recognizing yourself in what you’re reading, but it’s powerful in its honesty. Depression is generally, in my experience anyway, glossed over or dramatized to a degree that most people can’t relate to. But what Brosh portrays is the depression that feels a whole lot more real, the kind you’re almost slightly embarrassed by, because surely it could be worse. Hers (and mine, and I suspect a lot of peoples’) is not really something that feels newsworthy, or worthy of being covered in a book or a movie. It feels like something that needs to be sucked up and dealt with, or ignored, or something to be played down. And that’s one of the things I love most about Hyperbole–it’s bringing attention to the fact that depression is depression and just because one person’s might be a lot more visible, or a lot closer to what people imagine when they think of the word, doesn’t discount another person’s experience with the same illness. But despite the serious and important subject matter, Brosh is never preachy, and never gets into after school special territory, and, most importantly, never stops being funny. And that’s how I know Brosh is the real deal, and shouldn’t be discounted just because her medium is a little bit different from what’s considered the norm.

If you’re a tried-and-true Hyperbole fan, this is well worth the money to own. I would have perhaps liked more new content, but I’m also happy to have my favorite pieces from the blog in book form. If you’ve never read anything by Brosh before, this is a great place to start–and once you’re done, go check out her archives.