Monday 12 October 2020

#CBR12 Book 74: "Solutions and Other Problems" by Allie Brosh

Page count: 528 pages
Rating: 5 stars

Back in 2013, Allie Brosh published Hyperbole and a Half named after the blog she kept (and has finally updated with a new post!). I pre-ordered the last book and bought it as a Christmas present for pretty much every single person my husband and I knew that year (now our own copy seems to have mysteriously gone missing - which distresses me). Allie's blog (we are clearly on first-name basis, and would be great friends if we ever met) and her book meant a lot to me, frequently made me laugh until I gasped and allowed me to lose many hours on the internet, just reading her older entries. So many of her posts and drawings are now memes.

Then, suddenly, Allie just seemed to vanish entirely from the internet. She stopped updating her blog. Her rumoured second book failed to appear and no one really knew what had happened to her. Because of her honest portrayal of depression and anxiety, there was every possibility that something serious was to blame for her complete disappearance from the web. Until earlier this year, when suddenly this book, Solutions and Other Problems had a cover and a confirmed publishing date and I think I genuinely screamed with joy - because it meant that no matter what else had happened, Allie was alive and had completed another book and was ready to share her thoughts with the world again.

You'd best believe I pre-ordered this the very second I saw the news. I feared that with the usual Covid-delays, my book wouldn't make it here in time for the release day, but I was wrong. Even if this book had been a series of blank pages with the occasional gibberish scrawled on them, I would have happily paid for the book, because I'm so relieved and happy that Allie is OK (in a manner of speaking) and ready to engage with the internet again. She posted one chapter of the new book on her blog. If this doesn't make you laugh like a loon until your stomach hurts, then maybe her way of telling stories isn't for you. 

For anyone wondering what happened to Allie, and why she's been gone for so long - it all gets explained in the book. Not everything she writes is laugh-out-loud funny. Like Jenny Lawson, Allie Brosh balances the hilarious and the tragic really well. She was honest about her struggles with depression and mental illness in the last book. When I reviewed her first book back in 2013, I had only the memory of my years of depression back at Uni and during my first years in Edinburgh. Now I'm fighting my way through another fairly major depressive episode and trying to navigate therapy and I feel like some sort of toxic rage monster has taken over my body and is slowly poisoning me and making me unable to control my thoughts and emotions. So this book probably meant even more to me now than Allie's first book did back in 2013. 

From what I can gather from my Facebook updates feed, I am not the only one who pre-ordered and has happily consumed this book. For those like-minded people who love Allie and her wonderful way with words (and illustration), she is also updating her Facebook page with pictures, sketches, little videos, and many other things to show her fans more of what she's been up to in the seven years since she last appeared "in public". 2020 has been a very difficult year, this book and Allie Brosh's reappearance feels like a true blessing.

Judging a book by its cover: Oh Allie and your strange little MS Paint style self-portraits, I've missed you so much! Before I read the book, I thought this image was of childhood Allie, but it turns out I was wrong. I don't really want to say anymore so as not to spoil anything. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

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