by Allie Brosh, 2013
If you’re not already familiar with the webcomic Hyperbole and a Half, you’re probably at least familiar with some of the memes that have become pervasive throughout our internets. Allie Brosh’s Microsoft-Paint-style illustrations combined with her self-deprecating sense of humor have perfectly lent themselves to those of us who wish we were better than we actually are, but have no idea how to go about fixing our awkward imperfections.
The book is a collection of some of Brosh’s previously published online work with some new pieces mixed in. We are regaled with stories from Brosh’s childhood, telling us about the time she was so determined to get to the cake her mother baked that she broke into the locked room where it was being kept and ate it all. Likewise, she was once so set on going to a friend’s party that, despite being under the influence of drugs from dental work, she so publicly shamed her mother that she had no choice but to give in. Brosh freely admits that she was an awful child and is quick to acquiesce that some of that awfulness followed her into adulthood, but she also lets some of her benevolence leak through. She mercilessly makes fun of her rescued dog’s bizarre behavior, but it’s also clear that she loves him to no end. Her inability to consistently act like an adult may appear childish to some, but to many of us, she’s validating the thoughts and feelings we keep hidden from the world. And for as much grief as she gives her mother as a child, she is openly sympathetic to the fear she must have felt when she managed to get herself, Allie, and her younger daughter lost in a forest. Brosh may be harsh in her judgments of herself and others at times, but it’s these moments of caring and understanding that confirm that there is indeed a human behind all the, shall we say, hyperbole.
I hadn’t read any of the comics online, so I came to the book fairly fresh. It was a quick read and I enjoyed it well enough, although I didn’t find it quite as uproariously funny as I had been led to believe it would be. Still, I could certainly identify with Brosh’s struggles to be a functioning adult human being and I laughed silently to myself many a time. There’s something comforting about someone offering up the worst parts of themselves while fully acknowledging how hard they try to overcome them. If there’s one thing we need these days, it’s more of that kind of self-awareness and effort.