Allie Brosh is a national treasure. Oh, sure, she hasn’t gotten one of those MacArthur “genius” grants or anything, but if you’ve ever read her Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Methods, Mayhem and Other Things that Happened, you’ll agree that her weird drawings and slightly warped stories are wonderful, laugh out loud funny and poignant as well. Her description of her experience of serious depression in Hyperbole and a Half brings it home and makes it real in a way I’ve never seen before in more “serious” books about depression. You’re just rooting for her to survive it, and so relieved when she does.
So when her newest book, Solutions and Other Problems, came out, of course I had to put it on hold immediately and put everything else aside to read it (this is, by the way, another reason why you shouldn’t have a rule that you can only be reading one book at a time, because you might be in the middle of one book and something else comes along that you absolutely have to read that very minute). While I am a little disappointed that her online comic about her childhood experience with a dinosaur costume isn’t included here, the book is so good I’m willing to overlook that little slight.
While Solutions and Other Problems is, in many places, laugh out loud funny (her stories about her bizarre young neighbor who wants her to see the kid’s room, about how she stalked her neighbor when she was a child, and especially about how she and her boyfriend fight — this latter one is so true to life, anyone who’s been in a long term relationship can entirely see themselves in it), there’s also a lot of sadness. Some heartbreaking things happen to Allie and her family in the course of the book, and it becomes clear why there was such a long hiatus between the last book and this one. Her talking about death and about the end of relationships, and how she tried to cope (spoiler: not terribly well) is as brave and wrenching as her depiction of her battle with serious depression in her last book. Allie comes across as someone who’s kind of different from most people in her likes, dislikes, and behavior. The way she depicts herself, you can understand why she might have trouble making friends or acting the way normal people do, but you can still see what a fascinating person she is, and you care about her despite (or perhaps because of) her many quirks. Throughout the later part of the book (the sadder part), I really was rooting for her to come through it all intact.
It’s a graphic “novel”, so it’s a very quick read, but it’s the sort of quick read that stays with you for a long time. I wish Allie Brosh wrote a book every year, or every two years, instead of making us wait for seven years between them, but what she writes is worth waiting for.