Book Review: Business Casual

Words can conjure up so much for those with eager eyes, making each reading experience particular to the individual. But when illustrations become just as essential to a book as syllables and consonants, the author ushers readers into a realm of understanding that is too often restricted to kindergarteners.Yes, Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened, released in late 2013, may be a picture book. But don’t turn up your collegiate nose quite yet. Brosh starts the traditional blurb on the back of her graphic novel rather untraditionally: “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.” Obviously, Brosh has no trouble revealing her dork side. Turns out she has been doing just that for years; her popular BlogSpot page, which claims the same title as her book, tells of ridiculous life stories, complete with hilariously simple illustrations. One blog entry selected for the book describes a time when young Brosh would stop at nothing to get her hands on her grandfather’s birthday cake. She ended up eating all of it. The drawings are meme-like in nature; often just the look of them is enough to incite lighthearted uproar. When viewed with the short blog entries, though, you’ll be apologizing for your constant giggling. Not all of Brosh’s stories prompt laughter, however. Hyperbole and a Half is also Brosh coming to terms with depression and a resource for readers who may be dealing with the illness. In our tirelessly Internet-reliant age, we use social media to relate to others and decompress. Similarly, Brosh seizes her blogging opportunity as an outlet for emotional expression. Now we have the pleasure of reading her work in paperback. While she suffered from depression for 19 months before glimpsing recovery, Brosh isn’t afraid to share her story. She breaks down the inexplicable illness for her readers. And yes, you guessed it; she does so with the help of her drawings. In the process, Brosh conveys the seriousness of her subject matter while somehow maintaining her shameless frivolity. Her openness facilitates connection with readers through pure human feeling. As fellow blogger Jenny Lawson wrote, “This book made me laugh, cry, and leak. It was honest, poignant, and ridiculously silly in all the best ways and I’m better for having reading it.” Life may be absurd at times, but with Brosh’s help, we are reminded to acknowledge the hilarity – and embrace the emotion – of all its facets.