TL/DR Rating: 3.5 chuckles out of 5
Big Mushy Happy Lump is a perfectly lovely collection of comics that I’m very grateful to have been gifted (…in 2017…) and I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to get around to reading it.
Big Mushy Happy Lump (2017) is Sarah Andersen’s second collection of webcomics and illustrated personal essays following the ups and downs of the unrelenting self-esteem roller coaster that is young adult life. While self-esteem is a huge topic in this collection, other comics touch on budgeting, relationships and friendships, cramps, the patriarchy, and the struggle of being introverted and awkward.
This collection of webcomics was my first real exposure to “Sarah’s Scribbles”, and I look forward to reading her other collections: Adulthood Is A Myth (2016) and Herding Cats (2018), hopefully sometime this year for my Goodreads reading challenge! I pledged 60 books this year, so something I can finish in one sitting will really help :)
Here are my thoughts:
WHAT I LOVED
Big Mushy Happy Lump is the kind of book you need when you’ve had a stressful day, and you just need 30 min to sit quietly and try and make yourself feel less homicidal. It will do the trick because:
- The comics are so relatable! From the power of supportive female friendships, to the struggles of going through life with champagne tastes and a beer budget, to critical self-talk and body image issues…so much of this book resonated with my own experience. Which, in cases like social awkwardness and money woes, I found extremely validating. Honestly, with the exception of just a few topics, this book had me thinking “samesies” most of the time. Do I also buy drugstore makeup and house brand condiments and then turn around and splurge on books? Heck yeah I do.
- The illustrations are adorable! When comic Sarah is smiling and happy it makes you smile. When she’s teary-eyed or mortified, you just want to hug her. There’s a sweetness and innocence to the illustration that helps you connect with what you’re reading. Like the book is about your friend and not just a webcomic character.
- The illustrated essays! The short comics are cute and all, but honestly the illustrated essays are pure gold. Picture the short comics as seeing what your friend is up to in an Instagram story, but the essays are like sitting down over coffee for a chat. They reminded me a little of all the reasons I loved Hyperbole and a Half. That creepy, childlike, raw quality to the illustrations as they weave through a story of how your brain is f-ed up, or that dumb thing you did once is what I’m here for.
WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE
To be honest I struggled for a long while between rating this collection 3.5 or 4, but I settled on the lower rating for two reasons:
- Andersen’s humor strikes me as a bit observational. These comics are fluffy and cute, and while they consistently made me think “huh, yeah that IS what x feels like”, only a few of them actually made me lol. I mostly just made that throat chuckle noise before I turned to the next page. It’s possible that part of the problem is that, at 32, I might be on the Methuselah end of the Millennial spectrum for which these comics are intended.
- For me, I didn’t loOove this collection until I reached the end of the book and Andersen’s illustrated essays. The comics for these are consistent with the rest of the collection, but the accompanying text describing, for example, what it’s like to struggle every day with anxiety, over-thinking, and a crippling lack of self-confidence just offered a level of realness that was missing from the short comics. I am left wishing this had been a whole book of these honest, authentic essays because they are much more poignant.
Have you read Big Mushy Happy Lump? What did you think?