Audiobook Review: Over the Top by Jonathan Van Ness

Over the Top: My Story
by Jonathan Van Ness

Publication date: September 24th 2019
Publisher: Simon Schuster Audio UK


Who gave Jonathan Van Ness permission to be the radiant human he is today? No one, honey.

The truth is, it hasn’t always been gorgeous for this beacon of positivity and joy.

Before he stole our hearts as the grooming and self-care expert on Netflix’s hit show Queer Eye , Jonathan was growing up in a small Midwestern town that didn’t understand why he was so…over the top. From choreographed carpet figure skating routines to the unavoidable fact that he was Just. So. Gay., Jonathan was an easy target and endured years of judgement, ridicule and trauma – yet none of it crushed his uniquely effervescent spirit.

Over the Top  uncovers the pain and passion it took to end up becoming the model of self-love and acceptance that Jonathan is today. In this revelatory, raw, and rambunctious memoir, Jonathan shares never-before-told secrets and reveals sides of himself that the public has never seen. JVN fans may think they know the man behind the stiletto heels, the crop tops, and the iconic sayings, but there’s much more to him than meets the Queer Eye.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll come away knowing that no matter how broken or lost you may be, you’re a Kelly Clarkson song, you’re strong, and you’ve got this. 

Source: Goodreads


As a fan of Queer Eye, I thought I’d give Jonathan Van Nessaudiobook a try. I was particularly interested when I saw that he had narrated it himself and if you know anything about him at all, you’ll know how unique his voice and style is!

I feel like I’ve learned a lot listening to this book. Jonathan has been through some terrible things and had a pretty traumatic childhood at times, yet having come through this hardship he’s still positive and upbeat. This is certainly a book that makes you think about what has made us all the people we are today and equally how your past needn’t hold you back.

This read is funny at times and it’s sad too. Sure, it’s a little over the top in parts, but this is hardly surprising given the title and Jonathan’s signature energy and positive attitude. I’m really glad that I chose the audiobook version of this story and feel that actually hearing the author say his own words aloud made them even more powerful.

“Because when you have this much personality, there’s a fear lurking just below the surface: If you knew all of me, you wouldn’t love me anymore.”

I was entertained and enjoyed most of this book, but unfortunately I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had expected. Of course, Queer Eye is just a small part of his life and it’s a relatively new addition in the grand scheme of things, but I would probably have preferred to hear a little bit more about it. The chapter about the interview process was one of my favourites and I’d have loved to hear a little more about the start of the show, before the rush of fame. There were some other chapters which I didn’t really like or feel the need for, the report on the Bill Clinton scandal was a bit much, for example.

I also don’t think that the book was particularly well written, but I completely appreciate that Jonathan isn’t an author and the courage it must have taken to reveal some of the darker sides of his past.

“Imperfection is beautiful. To anyone who has ever felt broken beyond repair, this is for you. If you’ve ever been excluded, or told you were not enough, know that you are enough, and beautifully complete.”

Overall rating: Jonathan Van Ness has written a courageous memoir about his life so far in which he bares all. It’s both fun and heartbreaking, warm and educational. I didn’t love this read but I appreciate the journey that JVN has been through so far – 3 stars.

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