Book review: Allie Brosh, 1) Hyperbole and a Half, 2) Solutions and Other Problems

Allie Brosh has written two books (so far), which I’m reviewing together. I love them. They’re somewhat hyperbolic versions of stories originating from her real life, told in the form of comics. Most of them are funny, some of them are not, and a few give a deep insight into the mechanisms of a mind grappling with nightmares.

Allie Brosh – Hyperbole and a Half

Allie Brosh writes very funny and often deeply moving blog posts. Many are stories about being one of those Weird Kids, and all of the stories are told using what appear to be a young child’s drawings. They’re not. They’re beautifully crafted pieces of art that capture a situation and emotions perfectly. Other stories are about being the adult who (mostly) grew up after being one of those Weird Kids, and the weird things that they still do and that still happen to them, such as ending up with pets like the Simple Dog (who is) and the Helper Dog (who isn’t). Eventually some of these posts were collected into a book along with some new material, and the transformation has worked well. It’s hilariously funny, even in the darker moments; and that includes the two pieces on depression. Brosh wrote about her experience with depression in a way that gets over to people who haven’t been through it what it feels like, and gives those of us who have something we can point at. That. That’s what’s inside our heads, and knowing that it’s only inside our heads and not outside doesn’t make it go away. But it can help in hanging on, and so can having someone who’s been there hoping you’ll find your own piece of corn. And every single story in the book, including that one, has places that made me laugh out loud.

Some of them made me laugh hard enough to hurt with every single drawing. The God of Cake: don’t get between a small child and a birthday cake. Not even if the cake is meant for someone else. Dinosaur: being attacked in your own home by a goose demonstrating that geese are descended from dinosaurs. It’s also very easy to identify with much of this book. Yes, I could see my sister and me at a young age trolling our parents should someone have been malicious enough to present us with a toy that recorded sounds and played them back. The blog and book are called Hyperbole and a Half for good reason, with hyperbole being a component of many of the stories, but they’re not pure fiction and there’s truth at the bottom. It’s very funny, so much so that it’s probably a good thing that I first read this book sitting on a very enveloping sofa and not on a chair that I could easily fall off. So yes, buy this book.

Links for buying it at lots of different retailer. Note that some of those are affiliate links and I get a tiny amount of money if you buy through them.

Allie Brosh – Solutions and other problems

Back in 2013 Allie Brosh published a book compiling some of the posts on her very funny blog, capturing what it was like to be one of those Weird Kids and what the Weird Kid did as an alleged adult. There was supposed to be a sequel within a couple of years. Instead the blog went mostly dark, and the sequel didn’t appear until 2020. There was a reason for this, and that reason makes the middle section of the book much sadder and darker than the first one. Brosh was very ill with endometriosis and nearly died, the publicity tour for the first book was while she was recovering from surgery, and it took her so long to recover from all the strain that she didn’t make it home for Christmas. Then her sister died on New Year’s Eve. Although it isn’t spelt out in the book, it’s clear from the phrasing of one single-sentence paragraph that it was suicide. Most of the book is once again laugh out loud, but there were two pages in this section which made me weep out loud.

And yes, it is laugh out loud in most parts, from the silly stories like the strange case of the horse poop to the ruthless self-examination laying bare the weirdness that is daydreaming, and the things you would be very ashamed of should other people be able to see inside your head. There’s a literal shaggy dog story, because the Simple Dog and the Helper Dog were followed in Brosh’s life by the Pile Dog, who was a brown pile when lying down and bore a remarkable resemblance to an ambulatory shag pile rug when she stood up. Once again hyperbole is used to bring out the point of the underlying reality. It’s mixed in with sadness, because that’s what life’s like; a mix of both. And it ends with a poignant story that demonstrates this. Brosh’s life fell apart at some point after the first book came out, with her own divorce and the divorce of her parents, and for a period she lived alone with no companionship other than herself. As an act of self-preservation she learned how to be friends with herself, and this last section crystallises a theme that has run through both books – have compassion for yourself. The final page is full of hope and love for herself and for all the other people out there who feel like pointless little weirdos all alone.

Links for buying it at lots of different retailer. Note that some of those are affiliate links and I get a tiny amount of money if you buy through them.

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