Friday, January 10, 2014

I Have a Subconscious List of Rules For How Reality Should Work

Hyperbole and a Half

This is a book I wrote. Because I wrote it, I had to figure out what to put on the back cover to explain what it is. I tried to write a long, third-person summary that would imply how great the book is and also sound vaguely authoritative—like maybe someone who isn't me wrote it—but I soon discovered that I'm not sneaky enough to pull it off convincingly. So I decided to just make a list of things that are in the book:
  • Pictures
  • Words
  • Stories about things that happened to me
  • Stories about things that happened to other people because of me
  • Eight billion dollars*
  • Stories about dogs
  • The secret to eternal happiness*
*These are lies. Perhaps I have underestimated my sneakiness!

Truthfully, I've barely read any of the Hyperbole and a Half Blog. Maybe 4 articles in total. Sure, I've seen a few of the pictures posted here and there (CLEAN ALL THE THINGS!), and I've no doubt adopted some of the more well known quotes and memes into my own vernacular (see last parentheses). But relative to the millions of fans and followers, I knew practically nothing about this blog.

I got my first real introduction when a friend or two linked to the Depression posts (which are included in the book). I read through them, laughed, cried, connected with them. Then, when a few of my friends started salivating at the mouth over this book coming out, I'll admit I kinda fed off of their hype. I visited the blog and saw the latest post, and then I laughed some more. So when the library finally sent me notice that they had a copy in, I was already pretty excited for this book.

I thought I knew what to expect. I had no idea.

Hyperbole and a Half is essentially a grouping of posts you might find on the blog. Each 'post' contains its own self-contained story in text accompanied by drawn pictures (see cover for reference). Not being super familiar with the original blog, I can't say for certain how well this book represents the overall work, if these 'posts' are the best of the best, or even which are from the blog and which are new material (as promised on the book's back cover). What I can tell you is how the book functioned by itself.

Included within are humorous anecdotes, anecdotes that are funny because they didn't happen to you, stories involving two kinda lovable but kinda messed up dogs, and a few gut-wrenching, soul-searching, insightful tales of the author's own tough journeys. Don't let the cutesy cover fool you. It may be humorous part of the time, and the pictures seemingly simplistic, bright, and colorful at first, but there are some very emotional sections within.

It has a good balance, weaving in the hard-hitting, thoughtful, feelsy stories with others that made me laugh out loud. I thought it had good flow. This book sucks you in right off the bat with an amusing introduction, a hilarious story about writing letters to your future (and past) self, and an equally hilarious tale concerning a not-too-bright dog. It then jumps to a more serious and thought-provoking story, then feeds a couple more humorous anecdotes, then hits you with a big feelsy section again. This is the basic formula that repeats a few more times through the book, before concluding with a partially introspective, partially funny, altogether hopeful duo of stories.

Along with the full-color pictures aiding each story's narrative, each of the stories/posts/sections/chapters is also color-coded. Though I can't say what all the colors represent, I will say that the white pages are reserved for the serious stuff. So I guess, if you're only in the mood for more humorous fare, you could easily skip these white-paged sections for another time. Alternatively, if you're feeling like you want some guided soul-searching, or at least to read about someone else's, then you can make a beeline for these parts. I still think the book has great flow as a whole, but I can understand how some stories might be better for certain times/moods.

I think everyone will find something to love about this book. It's bright, it's colorful, it's funny, it's honest, it's entertaining, it's insightful, it's relatable... I swear, I haven't laughed so hard at a book in a long, long time as I did with this one. But I also connected with Allie in her more serious stories. It truly feels like she bears her soul when she's writing, whether it be about the good times or the bad times. And maybe it's just me, but it feels really nice to read about a normal person who's a little weird and wacky, and then look at yourself and see that your own weirdness is pretty okay too.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Hyperbole and a Half. I'd probably recommend it for everyone, but especially those who are looking for something humorous that also isn't afraid to make you feel. No sex and only comically rendered (mostly fantasy) violence here, but there is quite a bit of swearing which would normally have me put this completely out of school-aged kids. However, the stories are too funny, the content too brutally honest for me to stamp an age limit on it, so if you're okay with a little bit of profanity (nothing they probably haven't heard already), I'd say middle school and up will get a kick out of it. After giving me more laughter and connection than I've experienced from any other book in a long time, I've put Hyperbole and a Half firmly at the top of my list, and I strongly suggest you do the same (if you haven't already).

Approximate Reading Time: 2 hours