The cover photo here is from my desk at work. That would be Allie in the middle, flanked by Simple Dog on the left and Helper Dog on the right. So yes, I’m a fan.
This book collects all of the entries from the Hyperbole & A Half website as well as several new ones. I’m not sure how many of the entries are new, but I’ve been a fan of the site for years and there were several I either read and forgot about or have never seen before. Regardless of how new these stories are its great to have all of them in one place. The book itself is very nice. So much of Allie’s work is visual and this book is on very glossy think paper. It’s more like a small coffee table book than a paperback.
Just like her website, Hyperbole & a Half uses cartoons and commentary to explore stories in Allie Brosh’s life and her continuing battles with depression and other neuroses. Where Jenny Lawson can gets really deep in to living with depression and mental illness, Allie takes a more lighthearted – but still devastating at times – approach. This doesn’t seem to be for the reader, so much as it’s a way for Allie to make sense of her own life and way of thinking. The stories run the gamut from fan favorites like the first time she encountered cake as a young girl, to a funny but raw clinical examination in to Allie’s world view. This section takes the form of a fictitious outside observer following Allie around and commenting on the bizarre actions and thoughts she engages in on a daily basis.
It’s very funny but there is a raw honesty to the work that makes it incisive and relatable. Specifically Allie concludes that she is not a good person, she only pretends to be and maintains an illusion that she is a good person through an elaborate system of lies and self delusion. It’s funny but recognizable, or at least it was for me. You can’t help but start shining a light into that dark hole yourself and asking “Am I a good person, or am I a bad person but believe I am a good person?” It’s a pretty deep question, and as Allie rightfully points out, the answer is probably something you need to come to gradually and not all at once or suffer a total meltdown when you sense of self is shattered. Pretty incisive stuff for a cartoon book.
All of the stories share the same distinctive art style. She’s not a good artist by classical standards, but she has her own style that is all her own. Her depiction of herself as some sort of rectangular person with a yellow cone on her head (see picture up top) to signify hair is both weird yet endearing. Same with the drawings of Simple Dog and Helper Dog, both of which are featured in several stories.
Whether you are new to Hyperbole & a Half or an old fan the book is worth picking up. It’s a very funny but also painfully honest personal examination into why Allie is the way she is.