A couple of months ago, I was looking for interesting books in Barnes and Noble when Hyperbole and a Half practically shouted my name from a nearby display table. It’s yellow cover, youthful font style, and depiction of a roughly drawn girl that appeared to have taken a shitload of crystal meth easily piqued my interest.
I opened the book and glanced through the pages. I wasn’t exactly sure what kind of strange nonfiction/humor/picture book hybrid I found myself in, but I loved what I saw. I read one of the chapters and couldn’t help but grin like the lunatic on the cover. I would have bought it on the spot if it wasn’t a humor book (my experience with humor books has usually been bad to meh; so many are either written by funny people who can’t write well or by people who take one good joke and stretch it for too long). Granted, this one seemed different, but I didn’t want to take the gamble. $18 is a lot for a paperback. Still, it’s been something I’ve wanted to check out for a while, and I always seemed to find my way back to it on subsequent trips to the book store.
Well, while I was food shopping last week, I made a last-minute decision that I needed something funny to read. I’ve been struggling with a lot of personal crap lately, and I really, really needed to laugh. I finished buying my groceries, went to the Barnes and Noble, bought Hyperbole and a Half…
… and didn’t regret anything. 🙂
I honestly don’t know what I can say about this book without actually showing it to you in person, but it’s been on my mind for the past week and I can’t stop grinning whenever I think about it. I need to say something. It’s been the first book I’ve read in a while to stick with me after I’ve finished reading it. Twice.
Well to start off, the art definitely makes the book stand out. It’s incredibly simple, very silly, very rough, but… it’s so good. Again, it’s kind of hard to describe without actually showing you, but believe me when I say it compliments each story perfectly. Allie Brosh’s art of storytelling is a treat, to say the least. It’s the kind of narrative that works well when spoken aloud, but is just as effective when written out (something I find not many people can do successfully). Again, the accompanying art helps. I honestly don’t feel like the book would be nearly as powerful if it was just pictures or words on their own. They both combine into this amazing entity that kept me laughing the entire time.
Each of the stories she tells stands on their own, as well. The book is divided into 16 separate stories (2 of which are 2-parters), and while I definitely have a stronger affinity towards certain ones, I can confidently say each one is great in its own right. Whether she’s discussing her childhood (desperately trying to eat an entire cake, competing in a showdown to see if she can drink more hot sauce than her dad’s friend, or abusing that obnoxious toy parrot that records what you say and plays it back), raising her dogs, or everyday situations, each story feels relatable, to a certain degree.
What do I mean by “relatable?” Well… you know how in New Girl, all of the characters are adults, but they’re still having trouble with finding a good career, struggling with relationships, and taking care of themselves? Or how the parents in Modern Family have this youthful charm that can put them on the same level as the kids? Or how YouTubers like Mike Falzone or How To Adult tackle issues about life responsibilities while catering to nostalgia and other familiar mannerisms?
I don’t know how to explain it, but modern media is presenting us with a lot of content that focuses on how to be a proper adult while poking fun at the shortcomings we experience when trying. Hyperbole and a Half is no exception. Brosh brings a variety of relatable topics to the table, like eating nachos for dinner, trying to take on more responsibilities than you might be ready for, and resisting the urge to be a dick when the situation calls for it.
Hmm. I think I just made being a 20-something-year-old sound really, really immature, like all we want to do is refuse to grow up. Trust me, Brosh does a better job at explaining it.
But let’s say you aren’t a 20-something-year-old. Maybe you’re an “actual” adult, and you have your shit together. Would you be able to get anything out of this book? Well, I’ll still argue that it’s hilarious, but humor is subjective and I think I’m definitely part of the intended audience.
However, I know a lot of my readers like my posts about mental wellness. If you’re one of those people, read this book. This is not a self-help book. This book will not offer you cures for things like anxiety and depression. But trust me when I say there is content in this book you’ll most likely appreciate. And I will say this: Hyperbole and a Half has the single greatest way of describing unexplained depression that I’ve ever seen. I’ll leave it at that.
You know what’s one of the greatest things I found out about this book? It’s a collection of blog entries. As a writer, I was so happy Brosh was able to turn her blog into a book. It’s a huge accomplishment, and I’m proud to own a book that originated from something someone wrote online. It’s also given me some inspiration on how to approach my own blog. I’ve wanted to try posting some art lately, and this book definitely made me consider trying it out sometime soon. After all, this blog is called Some Type of Artist, right? Maybe it should have some… art.
At any rate, I would definitely recommend reading this book. If you have doubts, at the very least go read the first few chapters in a book store. Check out Brosh’s blog, too, if you can’t find it on the shelf (although holding the actual book in your hand is definitely my preferred reading experience).
Go. Go check it out. GO!
Info for my edition of Hyperbole and a Half:
- Published 2013 by Touchstone
- Paperback, 384 pages
- ISBN 978-1-4516-6617-5