To preface this review, I’d like to clear something up: if you are easily offended, this book is likely not for you. Tyler Oakley’s Binge is unapologetic, and sometimes treads on toes.
It is a combination of fantastic storytelling and voice that make Binge a five star read. For anyone who’s watched Tyler Oakley’s videos and loved them because of his personality, Binge is definitely worth reading. Oakley has successfully written a book in his voice—the activist voice for LGBTQ+ youth; the silly, light-hearted voice of a young man finding his way; and the progressive voice of an entire generation of people growing up during a time when being different is more often regarded as destructive than empowering.
I’m normally reluctant to pick up autobiographies. This isn’t because they’re confusing to follow and full of anecdotes that more often feel bizarre than authentic, but because autobiographies almost always feel self-centered. A degree of self-centeredness is always going to seep into autobiographies—after all, these people are writing entire books about themselves—but there is a tactful way to do so. Oakley has successfully managed this seemingly impossible feat.
Do you need to be a Tyler Oakley fan to enjoy this book? No. Will you enjoy the book more if you are a Tyler Oakley fan? Yes. The main reason I liked this book so much is because it doesn’t completely rely on Oakley’s fandom for happy readers. Even if I wasn’t a viewer of Oakley’s (I actually recently found him, so feel justified in saying this), I would have liked this book. Binge can stand on its own, and hold its own weight.
Now, on to the story.
** Hover for spoiler content. **
First of all, the shocker of Oakley’s real name being Mathew was a shocker. I didn’t see that coming. Page one, and I’ve already learned something about Oakley that I didn’t know before, as promised.
I hate being disappointed by sneaky marketing ploys; Oakley saying that there was much to be revealed in Binge was not a sneaky marketing ploy, but simply the truth.
I particularly enjoyed Oakley’s reminiscing about coming out. He feels he repeatedly—even five years after initially coming out—has to continue to come out to the new people in his life. This really hit home for me: coming out is not a one-step process. There will always be someone in this world, people who will enter his life in future, who won’t know that he’s gay. And he’ll have to come out to them, just as he did for all the people who are already in his life. Coming out is a part of who he is. Because being gay is a minority, the need for “coming out” will continue to be present. Straight people don’t face this dilemma; straight is standard.
I hope one day, we live in a world in which no one feels the need to sexually self-identify.
Oakley’s first sexual relationship with Adam was absolutely addicting to read about. I felt for Adam, as I’m sure many readers have. A boy who will remain silent during a David Archuleta performance for you, despite just having heard his mother has died? That’s one worth fighting for. I’m so glad that, despite their having broken up, Oakley still considers Adam one of the loves of his life. As someone who’s been so influential in making Tyler Oakley who he is, I’m really happy to know that they’re now friends.
If you didn’t feel absolutely devastated when Oakley was left holding two glasses of water, in his underwear, in his dorm room, then this book was likely not for you. This was the singular scene in Binge that made me ache unexpectedly.
I’m shocked by how open and honest Oakley has been in this book. His eating disorder, sexual escapades, and moments of self-centeredness are completely on display, and not in a callous way.
If I felt at all like a weirdo before reading this book, I don’t now. In a good way.
Tyler Oakley’s Binge is strangely identifiable. I’m not a 20-something gay living in San Fran, but I can now imagine myself into those shoes. This book has opened my eyes to the fact that we’re all weird in our own ways. To be unapologetic about that is definitely admirable.
My full review of Tyler Oakley’s Binge is also available on Goodreads. Have you read Binge? What did you think? Please leave a comment below (spoiler free)!