Telling a story in a book and telling one on YouTube are completely different beasts. But in his new book, “Binge,” YouTube star Tyler Oakley proves that regardless of the medium, he is a natural-born storyteller.
Oakley is known for his videos, where his topics range from humorous takes on pop culture to serious activism for the LGBTQ community, especially LGBTQ youth. In “Binge” — published by Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster — Oakley tackles the experiences that helped him grow up through a series of short stories and essays. They read like a playlist of his videos: funny, smart, honest and sincere.
The YouTuber takes a chronological approach to his book. He begins by writing about early experiences with porn, eating disorders and coming to terms with his sexuality — among other tales. Although he shares stories about many different aspects of his life, the essay topics are strategically chosen so the book doesn’t get repetitive.
In one of the essays — appropriately titled “Brace Yourself” — Oakley describes the convergence of getting braces with some of his first attempts at flirting.
He writes, “On that day, as I looked into [the orthodontist’s] eyes, something made me lose control. I thought, ‘You know what? I should probably make a move before our final appointment.’ So, I did what any twelve-year-old flirting with a man twice his age might do — I licked his fingers.”
Oakley writes about glamorous encounters with Harry Styles and Paris Hilton, but does not shy away from talking about the time he totaled his car in front of his high school crush or his days working at Arby’s and McDonald’s. As he writes, Oakley alternates between life coach and best friend, sharing life lessons and dropping the f-bomb in a way that, surprisingly, comes together.
Many of the lessons Oakley shares in the book come from his family, and especially from his mother. Throughout, Oakley expresses his love for her in many different ways, and it is obvious that they are continuing to learn from each other.
In the essay “The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far,” Oakley discusses some advice he has given her.
He writes, “My mom is my favorite human on Earth, despite that she farts nonstop. Not until recently did I finally convince her to stop farting in the house and to start farting out of the sliding door to the back porch.”
“Binge” imparts wisdom from Oakley’s own experience in ways that do not demean the reader, or suggest that they will not be able to figure anything out for themselves. Readers of this book won’t learn how to be Tyler Oakley, but instead will close the book knowing how to laugh at life’s many lessons — and at themselves — just as Oakley does.
Although the word “binge” can have a negative connotation, it can just as easily be applied to the act of doing a lot of something you like, or even love. If you like watching Oakley’s YouTube channel, reading a well-written essay or just want to be reminded that you, too, will be able to figure it all out, then you might just want to take some time to binge on this new book.