The Wit and Appeal of Allie Brosh

Allie Brosh is the author of two brilliantly personal and entertaining graphic memoirs Hyperbole and a Half and Solutions and Other Problems. Her style of storytelling has got the attention of millions around the world, and in this article we’re discussing why that might be.

Allie Brosh: Origin Story

Alli Brosh’s storytelling journey began with a web comic blog she started in 2009. Here she was writing about everything from family birthday parties to mental health struggles and everything in between. The blog began to catch on by 2010 and soon had developed a loyal fan base of millions.

Allie Brosh wasn’t writing pure comics because the panels would be broken by paragraphs, but it was a format that worked. Her writing has always been simple and accessible and her comics are deliberately guileless, with shaky lines and a stick figure protagonist (herself).

In 2013, she published her first book, namesake of the blog Hyperbole and a Half. Regular entries on the blog stopped after this, and another book, her latest one, Solutions and Other Problems was published in 2020.

A look at her writing style

The best way to understand her style of storytelling is to just see it for yourself. Below is a glimpse at what you can expect. This is from a chapter from Solutions and Other Problems that is available to read for free on her blog.

Allie Brosh's comic about her neighbors

This book was published after a hiatus of 7 years during which her ardent readers had lost all hope of seeing new work from her. However, Brosh made a comeback with a brilliant new book. She disclosed later that this time had been a difficult phase in her life.  She alludes to this sparingly but honestly in the book as well.

Why It Works

Allie Brosh appeals to a wide demographic

Allie Brosh appeals to a wide demographic because of the variety of topics she touches upon in her writing. Although the subjects and stories are all anecdotal (or perhaps precisely because of it), they cover the vast realm of human emotion and experiences.

She might be telling a story about a kid who insists on showing her room to Allie and then immediately afterwards stark talking about mental health struggles.

Refreshing and captivating Illustrations

The illustrations, which she does herself, are refreshing and captivating. Most of us might not want to have our avatar in our own book look like this:

Cartoon representing Allie Brosh

And yet, don’t you just want to find out what this kid is up to?

Vulnerability and Honesty

Her style of writing emerges as a breath of fresh air due to its vulnerability and honesty. Right from the first chapter and the first story, the reader can tell that she has no qualms about revealing her most human and honest self. She does it in her own way, masked under a layer of self-deprecating humour, but she endears herself to the reader almost immediately. It almost feels like a friend or a sibling telling you a story and you feel about ready to forgive them any level of questionable behaviour. It is a great tool in any writer’s arsenal, to become that friend that has the most ludicrous stories to tell, to their entire readership.

Evokes a Sense of Nostalgia

Regardless of where you’re from, childhood and the good-old-times are often coloured in similar shades for most people. Combine that with nonchalant humour, and amusingly expressive illustrations and you’ve got Allie Brosh’s memoires. She evokes a sense of nostalgia. The fact that both her books open with stories of her child self is likely a deliberate choice and not accidental.

Common Themes in Brosh’s Works

Having read the description of her writing style above, this might surprise you. Some of the more serious themes from her books include:

  1. Depression
  2. Self-image and self-love
  3. Relationships
  4. Failure
  5. Struggle and perseverance
  6. Love
  7. Coping mechanisms
  8. Humanity with all its manifestations

Time magazine published an interview with Allie Brosh after the publication of her second book. It offers insight into the deeper messages behind the seemingly funny stories. Give it a read if you would like to learn more about the themes of the book.

Reception and Critical Acclaim

Both her books, Hyperbole a Half (published in 2013) and the subsequent Solutions and Other Problems (published in 2020) became New York Times Bestsellers.

Rolling Stone magazine called her blog and comic style ‘comedy scripture’ for kids on the internet.

She received the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Humour, and a mere look at the Goodreads and Amazon rating of both her books clearly shows readers’ approval.

Her style of writing might not be for everyone, but those who enjoy it will most definitely breeze through the books.

Allie Brosh described her second book as:

‘A wildlife documentary about one really weird animal, which was written and directed by the animal’.

If I had to describe her writing in one word, I’d use ‘endearing’.

The human experience is incredibly vast and Allie Brosh covers most of it. In doing that she also demonstrates how a recounting of the range of thoughts and feelings any human has had can act as the spark that connects thousands of others.

If you’d like to read about how you can find your voice as a writer, take a look at our blog on The Art of Storytelling.

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