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Meet Allie Brosh, Reclusive Genius Behind the Blog (and Book) "Hyperbole and a Half"

Likes: drawing silly pictures, rescuing rats, playing "Magic." Dislikes: severe depression.

To peruse Allie Brosh's crudely drawn comics, one would never guess she is a perfectionist. But the lack of sophistication is deliberate. When she's not caring for rescued rats or playing Magic: The Gathering—"I'm a huge dork"—the 28-year-old blogger can be found holed up in her room scrutinizing and refining her drawings, which largely consist of a stick figure in a shapeless bright pink dress making odd facial expressions. "They look really simple and sort of shitty, but it takes a few hours trying to get it right," Brosh told me. "I don't have any reference material for this creature that I've made to represent myself, aside from what's in my head."

That creature is the star of Brosh's new book, Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened. Based on her popular comic blog, it chronicles her problem-child days (she once ate an entire cake intended for her grandfather's birthday party), adventures with her dogs (one of which she suspects is mentally impaired), and musings on her character flaws. Procrastination, for instance—she actually started the blog as a way to avoid studying for a college physics final. "I sort of wondered if I could write something that people would like," she says.

Four years, 383,000 Facebook likes, and some 72 million web visitors later, it's clear that she could.

The book deal was a longtime dream: Brosh had resolved to become an author at age eight, filling three spiral-bound notebooks with a saga about a guy who fights various things. Her small-town upbringing—first in Auburn, California; later near Sandpoint, Idaho—gave her space to "be a little bit weirder" growing up. "I would get up at six o'clock in the morning and walk around the forest and try to find deer," she says. "I was sort of a wild animal, forest child."

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Living in the sticks 10 miles from town, Brosh was forced to entertain herself. Her mom offered pens and rolls of butcher paper. "If things in the world actually looked like they did when I drew them, we would live in a terrifying place," she jokes of her early creations.

Her childhood tales, such as the time she attended her friend's birthday party heavily sedated, are among her most popular posts. But it was the darkly humorous accounts of her battles with severe depression that resonated most. "Trying to use willpower to overcome the apathetic sort of sadness that accompanies depression is like a person with no arms trying to punch themselves until their hands grow back," she wrote.

After revealing details of her depression to readers in October 2011, Brosh went AWOL for a year and a half, re-emerging this past May to post a painfully honest chronicle of her downward spiral and contemplation of suicide. (It received 1.5 million visits in a single day.) She was surprised to learn that her fans—thousands weighed in with supportive comments—had worried about her so much during her absence. "When I'm really, really depressed, I just don't find myself funny at all," she explains. "It's hard to know whether what I'm doing is something worth posting."

While she's excited about the book, Brosh, who is hermitic to begin with, says the isolation of writing it left her sympathetic to Jack Nicholson's character in The Shining. But "I sort of enjoyed the going crazy part," she says. "I have nostalgic memories of those 18-hour days where I'm just drawing silly pictures and going absolutely insane."

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