The long-awaited follow-up to Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half dropped last month, and I think everyone’s first reaction was not so much ‘Oh, new book!’ but a mixture of deep concern and relief. Solutions and Other Problems had been originally slated for what I believe was a 2016 release, but there was nothing but radio silence as the year came and went. And the next few years as well. Allie’s blog hadn’t had a new entry since 2013 or so, and posting had been sporadic prior to that. Her drop off the radar had made much of her readership worried.
But I have to say that I am very, very, glad that everything has come together to the point where Solutions and Other Problems could be released because it’s a sign that things may have turned around a bit for the author. And also because it is a bloody marvellous little book.
Full of her distinct illustrated essays, Solutions and Other Problems initially starts out in a similar vein to Hyperbole and a Half, but with more depth and detail. By this, I don’t just mean her stories and anecdotes are more involved, but her art as well. On one hand, Brosh’s style still involves the ‘crappy MS Paint doodle’ aesthetic, but on the other hand, it has grown into something more detailed and subtle. Some panels are quite beautiful, and she’s always had an exquisite way of conveying body language: whether it’s her cute, muppet-like avatar, her more ‘human’ looking individuals or animals. My favourite here, personally, was the cat; she’s somehow managed to distil the essence of a cat into a few quick Paint-strokes and I am amused and awed every time I look at it.
After a couple of more frenetic chapters involving daydreams and anxiety driven-over analysis (that I could relate to all too well), the tone changes and its ‘Welcome to the Serious Part.’ Here, we learn about all the ways Brosh’s life changed after the publication of her first book, and why this book suffered so many delays. While other parts of the book delve into black humour, the ‘serious part’ is mostly quite tragic, albeit littered here and there with little gems of poignancy and clarity. In some ways, this book is an almost perfect release for the midst of a pandemic; some of the thoughts that Brosh has put to paper here are have probably risen to the forefront of people minds more readily in this time more than any others.
But we also need a laugh. And there are still parts of this book that provide that in spades. It also has a tendency to get weird—oh so weird—but still relatable
I’m so very glad to see the return of Allie Brosh. And I’ll be returning to this book whenever my mood needs a pick me up.