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Book Review: ‘Hyperbole and a Half’ by Allie Brosh

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Allie Brosh is so human that she sometimes seems superhuman. In 2009, Brosh began her blog Hyperbole and a Half, dramatic retellings of crazy stories from her life and reflections on the deeper things that plague us all. It was filled with exaggeration, hand-drawn images, and genuine emotion, all in a light, readable voice.

It was a formula that won the Internet.

haahBookCover Hyperbole and a Half has now marched out in book form from Touchstone with new stories as well as old favorites. It is much like reading the blog, but with the warm, tactile sensation of holding a book in one’s hands. The formula continues to be a winner with illustrated stories showing some of Brosh’s zany adventures as well as her struggle with depression to the point of self-loathing.

On the outset, some people may wonder whether Brosh makes up stories such as the madness of her dogs, Helper Dog (who is only happy sleeping in the bathtub) and Simple Dog (who may have developmental challenges), but these are simply reflections on the craziness that all of our lives see.

Brosh may have more than her fair share, as she refers to the time she ate an entire birthday cake with, “I was a horrible, mischievous child who lived in the backwoods of North Idaho and had very little to occupy myself outside of causing trouble. Also, I’m impulsive. I just seem to draw chaos toward myself.” Everyone sees the hilarious weirdness of the world, but Brosh makes it stand out and sing.

allthethingsOne of the most endearing facets of Brosh’s writing is her method of including her simple images. She explains, “I do work very hard on making my drawings exactly the way they are. Sometimes I revise one drawing over ten different times.  It’s a very precise crudeness.”

The method is very palatable, especially for the Internet where Rage Comics and bad GIFs reign. Brosh is the creator of “ALL the things,” referring to her story “This is Why I’ll Never Be an Adult” as she shows the cycle of responsibility, accomplishment, gradual weariness, and ultimate “system failure.” The phrase became a brilliant star forever shining in the Internet’s cosmos.

In addition to lighthearted affairs like recording “poop” into a robot parrot and analyzing dogs as they make decisions, Brosh also tackles issues of depression and identity that show her weaknesses. Many of us have struggled through bouts of self-doubt, and there are countless responses to her posts that show how much talking about it and seeing a shared battle helps such a very lonely affliction. While the issue of identity becomes a heavy way to end the book, the chapters on depression are uplifting as the reader follows her to dark depths and back.

Hyperbole and a Half is an excellent exploration of humanity. Brosh is hilarious, witty, and all around enjoyable. Her cartooniness livens up the words even further with their “precise crudeness,” except for dogs. While the pictures of people include stick-arms, her dogs contain intricate detail. She likes dogs, perhaps more than she would want to admit to her ten-year-old self.

Four out of Five Stars

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About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.