Hyperbole and a Half

by Allie Brosh

Cover image

Publisher: Touchstone
Copyright: November 2013
ISBN: 1-4767-6459-X
Format: Graphic novel
Pages: 373

Buy at Powell's Books

It's fundamentally pointless to write this review.

Some number of you have already heard of Hyperbole and a Half. Most of that group already own this book and are only reading this review so that you can remember how much fun you had reading it. But, even better, you could just stop reading this review and go read the book again.

Some of you who have heard of Hyperbole and a Half didn't know that Allie Brosh had published a book. If that's you, you're probably not reading this review any more, since you're now at your favorite book seller buying a copy of the book, rendering the review somewhat pointless.

For those of you who have not heard of Hyperbole and a Half, there's no need to read a review, because it's a blog. So, rather than reading this review, you can just follow that link and read it for yourself. If you find yourself laughing uncontrollably (and occasionally crying) and going "where can I get more of this?", well, there's a book. Which you could have also found out from the blog itself. Like I said, not much point.

If you read the blog and don't particularly care for it, well, I greatly respect your position. The diversity of taste in the human race is what leads to our wonderful variety of culture, philosophy, and art, and I appreciate your substantial contribution to that diversity. However, you should now make a mental note to never trust my humor recommendations, and you shouldn't let this review change your mind.

But, since I'm here, I may as well write a review anyway.

Hyperbole and a Half is, as mentioned, a blog by Allie Brosh. Most of the posts are quite long and substantial and in the form of cartoons mixed with text, usually (but not always) telling some sort of story. The cartoon style is what is often called "MS Paint," meaning that it looks like something drawn in Microsoft Paint with its most basic tools. (Other examples of this style are the Oatmeal and Homestuck, although Brosh stays consistently with a rawer art style than either of those.) It looks extremely simple, like child drawings (and early childhood inspires much of Brosh's material), but once one gets used to it, one realizes that Brosh gets amazing expressiveness and character out of the art style.

As an aside, yes, I am wholeheartedly recommending a book that is full of material about young children. Brosh is that good.

The subtitle of this book is "unfortunate situations, flawed coping mechanisms, mayhem, and other things that happened," and it's mostly based on (exaggerated) incidents that occurred in Brosh's life. Most of them are hilarious. Some of them are both hilarious and stunning psychological insights. She has an amazing knack for storytelling and for exaggerating just the right moments of the story, or summing up emotions in a wonderful turn of phrase or a picture. She's also amazingly good at telling embarrassing stories about herself in a way that makes you empathize rather than just cringe, and then come away feeling like you understand both her and yourself better.

If you've wandered around the Internet much, you have probably run across the phrase "clean ALL the things!" and the corresponding picture. That's from Hyperbole and a Half (specifically, "This is Why I'll Never Be an Adult") and is included in this book (improved; see below). It's even better in context.

But, beyond storytelling, the other thing Brosh is amazingly good at is capturing internal mental states and emotions in a way that the reader understands and those who have experienced the emotion immediately go "yes, THAT." The apex of this is her two-part post on depression, which is hands-down the best description of depression that I've ever read. That judgment has been echoed by multiple friends of mine with depression. And yes, both of those posts are included in the book as well, although you can also read them on the web.

As you've probably noticed, this book is partly a collection of material that's freely available on the web. Unlike some web comics collections, it's not entirely a reprint collection; there are entirely new stories here (which for me was enough by itself to buy the book). Brosh's post on the book says that it's about 50% new material. But the ones that aren't original have been edited and improved, sometimes substantially. For example, I did a quick comparison of the book version with the web version of "This is Why I'll Never be an Adult" and found Brosh redrew all of the cartoons for the story. The book is also gorgeous, if you care about such things like I do: high quality paper, thick pages, vibrant colors, and a comfortable heft to the hardcover version. It's the sort of book that feels like it will survive for decades, which is good since I intend to re-read it for decades.

Brosh has a lot of material on-line, so obviously only a small fraction made it into the book and there's more to discover on the blog. I can particularly recommend "The Alot is Better Than You at Everything" and "Boyfriend Doesn't Have Ebola. Probably.". The latter, which is mostly about creating a better pain scale, is my favorite from the blog that didn't make it into the book. And there are two more examples of the sort of thing that you'll be getting here.

So ends the probably pointless review. I absolutely adore Hyperbole and a Half. It is my favorite web comic, even surpassing XKCD, which is saying something. Even if there were no new material, I would have bought this book in hardcover to support Brosh and to have a high-quality printing of the blog posts. The reworkings and improvements of the republished material and the brand new additions are just bonuses. But there's no need to take my word for it; the best possible advertisement for Brosh's work is on-line, from which you can easily determine if you'll enjoy this book as much as I did.

Even the back cover and the inside flaps are awesome.

Rating: 10 out of 10

Reviewed: 2014-04-20

Last modified and spun 2014-12-21