Hyperbole and a Half’s cover succinctly declares this book a collection of ‘hilarious stories about life’s mishaps’, which, while true, is still a meagre description of the stories on offer in Allie Brosh’s marvellous book. The peculiar autobiographical tales are self-deprecating, brutally honest and uproariously funny.
This compilation began online with Brosh’s popular blog and web comic of the same name, which placed her own life in the Internet spotlight by focusing on her struggles with depression, her dog’s odd – or, mentally challenged – behaviour and a childhood littered with instances of mania and juvenile mistakes, from getting lost in the woods with sibling and mother in tow, to going on a rampage while wearing a bright green dinosaur costume.
While all are worthy of your attention, the stories that delve into the issue of depression are the most engaging, as they humorously explore the illness from the sufferer’s perspective (Brosh) and by showing the ridiculous coping advice suggested by others.
Despite writing about anxiety, apathy and a ‘crushing sense of self-consciousness’, the heavy issues are deftly lightened by the comical writing and portrayals of the events. Read the ‘eskimo vagrant’ section set in the DVD store as proof. Not all of the stories deal with depression and similar serious concerns however, as the hilarious ‘Goose Story’ demonstrates (this one, where Brosh gets chased around her home by a mad, potentially homicidal goose, may seem entirely bonkers and in no way an actual event that could have happened, but the video evidence is online for all to see).
There is a strong relatability to the stories Brosh narrates for her readers, full of candour and mocking self-realizations despite the apparent absurdity of it all. Although the extracts aren’t what you would typically call story-material, they take the unusual sub-plots of everyday life and find the funny and the pathos in them. The comic format of Brosh’s stories lends a unique angle to her written voice, as the illustrations are unashamedly yet endearingly rudimentary. Wide-eyed and gormless, Brosh’s web-drawn version of her younger self looks like something either a toddler or someone with a drug addled brain would create. Yet the basic MS Paint/Paintbrush skills are key to Brosh’s distinctive success.
A popular writer in contemporary blogging, responsible for memes (the highly quotable and much-adapted ‘Clean ALL the things!’), silly humour, as well as raw, poignant tales of depression and anxiety, Brosh’s book is far more than a novelty item, it’s a thoughtful anthology to be reread and shared with others. Hyperbole and a Half is a wonderful, strange, yet uplifting read and a colourful addition to your life (seriously, she uses all the primary colours and at least a few more besides).