Author: Tyler Oakley
Publisher: Gallery Books
Pub Date: October 20, 2015
Pop-culture phenomenon, social rights advocate, and the most prominent LGBTQ+ voice on YouTube, Tyler Oakley brings you his first collection of witty, personal, and hilarious essays.
For someone who made a career out of over-sharing on the Internet, Tyler has a shocking number of personal mishaps and shenanigans to reveal in his first book: experiencing a legitimate rage blackout in a Cheesecake Factory; negotiating a tense standoff with a White House official; crashing a car in front of his entire high school, in an Arby’s uniform; projectile vomiting while bartering with a grandmother; and so much more. In Binge, Tyler delivers his best untold, hilariously side-splitting moments with the trademark flair that made him a star.
[If you’re here for the giveaway, scroll down to the bottom! Of course, I wouldn’t object to your reading some of what I’ve written about the book as well . . .]
Binge content warnings: profanity, eating disorders, depression, sexual content.
I’ve never fully understood Tyler Oakley’s Youtube demographics, but this is a very grown up books, and I would not recommend Binge to readers under the age of 16.
A couple of my favorite excerpts (SPOILER FREE!):
"It's like when I was in sixth grade and this kid told me in the hot-lunch line that I had a hook head. When I asked what what even meant, he said that the back of my head jutted out like a pirate'shook, like I've got a big brain or a least a siza- ble tumor going on. I had no clue whether it was true, but he had planted the seed of doubt in my big hook head. To this day, you will never catch meprofiling my silhouette." - pp 111-112
"February 29 needs to be discussed. Every four years, we have an extra day in our calendar and call it a leap day, and everyone just kind of goes along with it. But why don't we do something radi- cal on that day to celebrate? Like something com- pletely outrageous. I've got ideas. Hear me out. What if, on February 29 we . . . -Give women equal pay. -Don't shoot people based on racial bias. -Gays and straights alike accent the existence of bisexuals. -People stop accusing me of having a hook head. Let me know what y'all think! Maybe if everyone likes these the first year, we can just make them an everyday thing?" p 159
I’m going to start another review detailing what this book is NOT. This book is not written in the lush prose styles of literary fiction. This is not the type of book that is going to win a Pulitzer. I think we tend to forget that the vast majority of published works out there do not go on to win groundbreaking or career-defining awards. Most books are just books. A lot of them are good books, don’t get me wrong! But there are only a few selected every year that get the prestigious honors we tend to associate with “good” literature.
Moral of that mini-rant: until last week, Tyler Oakley was not a published author. This is his first book, so take it easy on him. That being said, I think that anyone who has haphazardly dismissed Tyler or his videos for any reason might find this book illuminating. He’s not just that twink with the colorful hair – he’s an admired figure in today’s society, and someone who has lots of stories to tell.
Youtuber books are kind of a double-edged sword for skeptical readers. On the one hand, these Youtubers have spent years of their lives developing and branding their voices. For the most popular Youtube creators, creating content within the personality they’ve created has become second-nature, and they’ve worked very hard to get to this point. As a long time follower and subscriber of Tyler’s I was excited to see that signature voice show itself in new ways. And as a subscriber, I wasn’t sure what to expect in Binge. The hype surrounding it insisted that I’d be hearing stories I’d never ever heard before – something that might be hard to believe if you’ve watched some of the vlogs that got Tyler to where he is today. I’m less surprised that Tyler was able to keep so many aspects of his life separate from his online persona than I am downright impressed.
Starting Binge, I felt as though I was within the familiar rhythm of one of Tyler’s videos . . . the book is incredibly hard to put down. It was so enthralling that I nearly missed my train stop on the way home more than once. I found myself wanting to scream-laugh like I often do when watching his videos. I had to constantly remind myself that I was in a public place, not the relative privacy of my own apartment. The book’s ability to do this is an accomplishment in itself.
But more than that – this book moved me to tears. (Says the girl who never cried watching Titanic or Les Mis. The only movie that has legitimately made me cry was TFIOS – more on that in a later post, I suppose.) Yes, there is a whole essay on the bowel movements of his childhood that I was giggling my way through, but there are also essays personal in entirely different ways. Young love, coming out, eating disorders, body acceptance – nothing was too personal for Tyler to write about. So much so that when I turned the last page, the first thing I wanted to do was to give Tyler Oakley a big ol’ hug. If he was trying to bring himself closer to his fans in this way, he succeeded.
It’s a quick read – like I hinted at in the previous paragraphs, it is written in the cute colloquial language that you hear on Tyler’s Youtube channel. This might bother some people, but to me it seems more authentic than anything else. (i.e. What else would you be expecting?!) Rather than a book of essays, I’ve been describing this book as a “collection of party stories.” And while that label is not 100% accurate for the content of Binge, it fits the tone perfectly, I think. Binge is less personal than a diary, but far more personal than a standard book of essays.
My favorite thing about the book was the unquestionably mature way Tyler writes about his past relationships. Somehow, he writes them without tainting the passages with leftover feelings of guilt, resentment, or those other nasties that come with break-ups. It’s all so level-headed that you might question the stories’ validity, if it were not for the detailed and heartfelt writing to back it all up. To be honest, it irked me at first – I was annoyed that somehow Tyler had come out the other side of all these break ups with such positive experiences, while I feel like most of the people I know only have bad memories from their past relationships. But it all comes with advice to his readers so clear and rational that not even I could argue with it.
The only negative thing I have to say about this book, really, is that it is printed on glossy paper. You know, the kind you usually see in coffee-table books? While Binge does utilize old photos in a pseudo-scrapbook way, I’m not crazy about the choice to use glossy paper. I cringed inwardly when I first opened the cover. But maybe I’m biased. Maybe Mamrie Hart’s You Deserve A Drink is the exception to the rule, which also used photographs but was printed on good ol’ regular paper. Either way, Binge seems in a way destined to grace readers’ coffee tables (next to other glossy titles like Grace’s Guide, My Drunk Kitchen, and Self Help) rather than their bookshelves, and this makes me a little sad.
Tyler has been promoting Binge like crazy, which anyone who’s seen his twitter page lately would instantly know. Part of this is the author’s first book tour, which it seems as though he’s enjoying. Tyler has also been doing some person-to-person promoting via twitter as well. He’s kept busy favoriting, RTing, and replying to readers’ tweets about #BingeBook – which I have now experienced firsthand several times. I feel like nothing could embody the message of this book better – simple connections between author and reader emphasize the personal investment Tyler has in this book.
Anyone who is under the misconception that Youtube personalities are silly and unimportant should buy Binge because this book will PROVE THAT WRONG.
About the Author: Tyler Oakley
Michigan native and pop-culture tastemaker Tyler Oakley has amassed more than 21 million social media followers through his humorous, no-holds-barred YouTube videos, high-profile interviews, and social rights advocacy. After uploading his first video eight years ago, Oakley took the Internet by storm. With successes ranging from interviews with First Lady Michelle Obama and boy band One Direction; a worldwide, multi-city live tour; and a record-breaking social media following, Oakley is a YouTube icon. He lives in Los Angeles, California, where he uploads weekly videos from his living room.