2016 POPSUGAR Challenge · Book Review

Book Review: Binge

Who is Tyler Oakley?

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If you know anything about YouTubers, then you know Tyler Oakley. For the uninitiated, I can only describe him as pure, contagious joy. I only recently started to become a fan of Tyler in the past month after finding his podcast Psychobabble, where he and his best friend Korey Kuhl talk about pop culture and personal stories. It is HILARIOUS and I refuse to start my day without listening to an episode. Who needs coffee to get you pumped for your day when you have Tyler and Korey talking about booty bites and gayliens? When I saw that he had recently released a book, Binge, I quickly moved it to the top of my To-Read list.

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For a long time I didn’t understand the popularity of YouTubers and there are still plenty of popular YouTubers I’m not that into. At twenty-nine, I’m honestly past the brink of “Too Old For This” but there are YouTubers whom I adore. It started out innocently enough over the summer as I decided to finally learn how to apply eyeliner without looking like Taylor Momsen circa 2007. I watched a TON of makeup tutorials, and stumbled upon makeup hauls, which lead to BookTube, which lead to living vicariously through others with subscription box unboxing videos. I had always loved Hannah Hart of My Drunk Kitchen and went on a Hannah binge. I’m not sure how I managed to go months without hearing of Tyler, but again, I’m old and not hip to these things. I finally decided to watch his videos after I saw a Baby Food Challenge collaboration with Hannah Hart. I was a fan at first sight.

Tyler’s videos don’t have just one focus. He does travel videos, collaborations with other YouTubers, challenges, Q&A’s, Day in the Life videos, and videos where he talks about his life and causes that are important to him. His most passionate cause is The Trevor Project, which offers crisis and suicide prevention resources for LGBTQ+ youth. Tyler interned with them before making YouTube his full-time job and fundraises for them every year. He also co-hosts their annual red carpet event, TrevorLIVE! Much of Tyler’s public persona melds with his identity as an out gay man wanting to use his fame and his platform to help other LGBTQ young people. The book explores all of this and more, so let’s get to it!

Binge Overview and My Thoughts

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Binge is comprised of thirty-two essays about Tyler’s childhood, adolescence, college years, and his post-grad life as a young adult trying to navigate his way into adulthood and exploding into internet fame. The stories are told in chronological order, beginning with his childhood forays into playing with identity (his first name is actually Mathew!), birthday anxiety, the early days of the internet, pre-pubescent hustling, early crushes, and a poop story. Every autobiographical work should include a poop story. If you’re willing to tell me an embarrassing poop story, you’re probably a trustworthy and honest person.

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The adolescent chapters deal with getting braces, coming out, Tyler’s involvement in his high school’s yearbook club and drama productions, trying to be the “cool” camp counselor, and how much he sucks at driving. In college, Tyler experiences his first real love and heartbreak, dating in the 21st century, job hunting, and his beginnings on YouTube. If it were only these stories, the book would still be good but not great. These stories are sometimes laugh-out-loud hilarious, others are “I swear I’m not crying, there’s just something in my eye” bittersweet, but they’re still relatively easy stories to tell.

What makes this a great book is Tyler’s decision to include dark stories about truly awful times in his life. After reading a hilarious chapter about Tyler’s non-luck behind the wheel, I was shocked to turn the page and find a short chapter about an abusive relationship Tyler was in. Another chapter explores Tyler’s fraught relationship with his religious father, who refused to accept Tyler’s sexuality, and how they spent years not speaking to each other. He describes a time he went to a YouTube convention and had a nervous breakdown over dealing with his fame. Tyler reveals his fight with anorexia as a teenager, and his ongoing struggle with body dysmorphia.

Tyler’s videos are so bubbly and happy you wouldn’t think he ever had a bad day. I often think, “I want to be that freakin happy!” when I listen to his podcast or watch one of his videos. In Binge, he honestly says he, like everyone else, has bad days. There are days when he questions his path in life and whether he can handle the pressure of being a celebrity. He sacrifices time with family, the ability to date without the nagging thought that the person you’re into might be using you, and the ability to go to a convention without being mobbed by people. He reveals that after his first big heartbreak he called The Trevor Project’s suicide hotline because he was having suicidal thoughts. Tyler calls himself out on times when he acted like an ungrateful diva and how ashamed he was of his behavior and his entitlement.

These stories are SO IMPORTANT because his audience, made up of mostly teenagers, rarely hear these messages outside of cheesy PSAs. Tyler’s honesty gives authenticity to his causes and his advice. He wants his fans to know he’s far from perfect. He wants to be a role model, but he doesn’t want to be placed on a pedestal as a paragon of success. You can have all the money and fame in the world, still make horrible choices, and generally be a terrible person. Tyler makes it a priority to stay humble and true to himself. His first hope for his fans is that they take care of themselves and get help if they need it. The message of Binge could be summed up in the following points:

  • Take care of yourself.
  • Don’t sell yourself short.
  • Fight for what you want.
  • Surround yourself with support.
  • Strive to improve yourself and your life.
  • Always remember that no one is perfect.

What makes these messages stick is the stories Tyler tells about his experiences with both success and hardship. It helps to normalize the struggles we all go through and shows that we can overcome roadblocks that make us feel hopeless. It can be hard to follow a path you love, to break up with someone who isn’t kind to you, to forgive yourself for mistakes and embrace your imperfections. It’s a bit easier when someone you admire talks openly about their experiences with the same struggles you’re going through while also advocating for your well-being. Tyler Oakley serves up vitally important lessons with his signature brand of light silliness, and it works well. Thanks for sharing, Tyler.

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Rating: 5 out of 5 SkinnyLicious Veggie Burgers (with beets)

2016 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge Categories: A Book Written By A Celebrity, A Book Written By A Comedian

Are you also a Tyler fan?  Let’s fangirl in the comments!
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