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).
This book definitely won't be for everyone. For one thing, you have to have a sense of humor. If you don't at least smile at the inside flap, then droThis book definitely won't be for everyone. For one thing, you have to have a sense of humor. If you don't at least smile at the inside flap, then drop this book now, because I can almost guarantee that you won't like it. In addition to prolific swearing, the book contains a LONG, detailed chapter concerning sex—straight, gay, lesbian, bi and trans—by way of real written letters and responses a la "Dear Abby", and a chapter on politics (specifically describing Republicans and Feminists). However, there are also laundry tips, tested recipes, and true stories of working in restaurants.
I guess I'd recommend it to anyone who is really, really stressed about going off to college who has a sense of humor and an open mind. A lot of statements in the book are there purely for comedic effect (see the sections on music and books), but there are quite a few sincere pieces of advice as well (see the chapter on Drugs).
I don't know if I would have picked this up before heading off to college, and if I had, I don't know if it would have changed much of my experience. But I do think that voicing and addressing some of the fears a newly graduated 17/18-year-old can be helpful, even (especially) when delivered in a comedic and frank fashion.
My dad picked this up as he was perusing the bookshelves at Goodwill. I was pretty surprised when I saw it since he primarily rea~ Amazon ~ Powell's ~
My dad picked this up as he was perusing the bookshelves at Goodwill. I was pretty surprised when I saw it since he primarily reads only non-fiction, and definitely not picture books. But he said he'd heard good things about it, and had read the author before. So I shrugged and didn't think any more of it.
A week or two passes and he shows up with it again. Says I would really enjoy it and get some good advice out of it. I grabbed it, mostly for my sister who's a huge manga enthusiast, and again didn't think much of it.
Then there I was—trapped at the dentist's office with absolutely nothing to do while my sister was getting her mouth worked on. And there was her bag...with yarn and knitting supplies spilling out of it. If only I'd learned to knit!
But wait... What's that? That weird-looking career book was in there too! Oh, fine. After all, I had nothing better to do...
I ended up reading the whole thing twice through. Okay, yes it's short, but it's also really, really good.
Open the cover and BAM! you're in the story. No blank pages, no title page, just straight into Johnny's life. His humdrum, uninspired, boring life. He steps out of a late night of work to grab a quick something to eat (which he diligently brings back to his cubicle) and upon snapping open the chopsticks...a pointy-eared woman appears!
Okay, I know how it sounds, but really it's a seriously good book. It may sound (and look) really strange, and you're probably thinking, "What kind of serious advice can I get out of a fantasy comic book?" Well, the fantasy is more of a means for comedy rather than a major plot point. She (Diana) poofs in whenever Johnny is in a snag and disappears once her message is conveyed. Having her as a magic genie/fairy-godmother/demon/entity is more of a plot convenience or manga trope than an all out fantasy trope.
And if you don't believe me, check out her first piece of career advice:
1. There is no plan.
Deep stuff, huh?
What? That means nothing to you? Well then read the book!
Okay, okay, I won't leave you hanging like that. Think about it for a second. What have your parents and teachers been telling you since you were old enough for a job? Finish high school, go to college, get a degree, get an internship/minor job in a company where you can move up, work your way up...and you're set for life! That's the plan. But...ask anyone you know (even your teachers) who are happy with their job and I guarantee that's not the history they'll give. So...why do we perpetuate this myth of a plan? And what do we do now that we know there isn't one?
...Check out the book. Just trust me on this one.
Overall, I found Johnny Bunko an entertaining, insightful, and fast read. I'd recommend it to anyone and everyone working, schooling, entering, or even thinking of entering the job world. There is some minor language, so I'd say appropriate for high school and up. And while it might not be the last career guide I'll ever pick up, The Adventures of Johnny Bunko definitely should be the first one on your list.