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Over the Top

A Raw Journey to Self-Love
Written by: Jonathan Van Ness
Narrated by: Jonathan Van Ness
Length: 5 hrs and 50 mins
4.8 out of 5 stars (566 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

New York Times Best Seller

Google's Best Audiobooks of 2019

NPR's Favorite Books of the Year

Indie Best Seller

Goodreads Choice Award Winner: Best Memoir & Autobiography

A laugh-and-cry-out-loud memoir from the beloved star of Netflix’s Queer Eye, Jonathan Van Ness, sharing never-before-told, deeply personal stories of growing up gay, transforming pain into positivity, and embracing what makes you gorgeously different.

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.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2019 Jonathan Van Ness (P)2019 HarperAudio

What the critics say

"Jonathan Van Ness narrates his hilarious and moving memoir with all the bright energy he's known for - no one but the queer icon himself could narrate his story.... Van Ness holds no emotions back as he shares the impact of that trauma, along with the difficulty of growing up femme and gay, learning of his HIV-positive diagnosis, and recovering from addiction. His voice shakes as he shares a powerful truth with listeners: 'We are never too broken to heal.'" (AudioFile Magazine)

"There is plenty to laugh at in the ways Van Ness frames his story - like protecting the identities of his loved ones, exes, fellow drug addicts and johns with 'Russian aliases' like Doroteya and Sergei and Helenskaya; or layering pop-culture references with the ways they formed him, as many queer comedians and artists do. But it is his candid articulation of his evolving relationship with himself, his acceptance of who he is, that brings the one-liners their sweetness. His narration, as pithy and 'over the top' as his beloved TV persona, is incredibly endearing. The battles that Van Ness has waged against the darker corners of his soul to become the bright light we know today provide the necessary context for this book to shine." (The New York Times Book Review)

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What listeners say about Over the Top

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  • bre
  • 2020-01-06

I love these guys' stories

this was so hard to stop reading. also hilarious. also inspiring. highly recommend. 10/10 would read again

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An inspiration.

This book is Genuine and Raw. Loved hearing his story in his voice. It made me see issues people face on a daily basis through different eyes.

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easy, funny listen

It was a nice easy listen, I love the way he narrated, lots of funny moments that had me laughing out loud. It was a great honest life story, only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is I felt like he could have dug deeper, gone into more detail about his feelings and personal growth etc.

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Super amazing and gorgeous :inside and out

Love Jonathan and everything THEY stand for . I am so happy to live my life better and full of more love because of this inspiring biography!💝💕💝🦄💗🧡💙💛💝💕💗🧡💙💛

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Such Heart

I really didn't know what to expect. It's so easy to think you know somebody, based off an aspect of themselves that they portray on television, but this book is a fantastic reminder that human beings are twisted, complicated, and completely fallible. After hearing JVN's story, I think I respect the light inside him even more, because I know he had to struggle, like the rest of us to find himself and his voice. Also, I may have forgotten that he was using Russian pseudonyms for everyone, and at one point I might have thought, "Wow, I had no idea there was such a massive Russian population in this small town." 😂

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Have a seat in Jonathan's salon and just listen.

Learning how to love oneself and what true self care means regardless of the outcome is the journey...thanks for sharing Jonathan.

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famous, Fearless and Over the Top!

Love it, from start to finish. so honest so raw and for an LGBT2SQ ally, it was eye opening!

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Love him, love everything about him :)

I love Jonathan Van Ness and this story of him baring all his parts was moving, revealing, vulnerable, and wonderful. Will definitely be listening to it again :)

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Loved it!

I can’t get enough of Jonathan on Queer Eye and his book did not disappoint. I so appreciated his honesty and vulnerability in telling his story. I laughed, I cried and felt all the feels while listening.

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absolutely incredible 💛

JVN's audiobook is an absolute treasure. I adored this queen before I read the book and I adore her even more now. The vulnerability and poise is absolutely stunning. a MUST READ.

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  • Russell Ricard
  • 2019-09-29

Raw and Bravely inspiring Story

I’m grateful for creative and vulnerable souls like Jonathan Van Ness who inspire us toward our braver selves. Sure there’s glam, glitter, and wit in his memoir, Over The Top: A Raw Journey to Self Love, but Van Ness shares an extraordinarily honest voice (a particular treat in the audio version) that de-stigmatizes so much in society revolving around our understanding of well being, gender roles, and self awareness. Juxtaposing health, wellness, medical, self help research studies/theories with his deeply moving, and at times truly dark life experiences, adds to his story’s impact. I agree with him when he says, “The key is being grounded in the relationship with yourself.” All told, Van Ness is a survivor who continues his winning streak against all the bullies from his past.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Cookie2703
  • 2019-09-24

Everything I knew it would be and more.

Jonathan is unapologetically honest about his journey. I cried before the end of Chapter 1. Jonathan’s positivity, enduring spirit, and determination has changed my life and learning more about his past and what’s made him the beautiful ball of light he shares with the world today, makes me admire him even more. Loved loved loved it.

16 people found this helpful

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  • After The Final Page Reviews
  • 2019-09-25

You'll laugh, cry, and scream "Yasss Queen!"

"Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self Love" is exactly that; it's what you expect, but so much more. We get an authentic look at his journey from early childhood all the way to "Queer Eye" in true JVN fashion. All I can say is buckle up, because it's one hell of a ride. The way in which JVN opens the door and invites us into his story felt like sitting on a couch with a new friend; open and honest but still a little hesitant in some truly vulnerable places. But you feel like he's holding your hand while continuing to move through the painful memories together to find the humor and light. While excruciatingly raw at times (I felt like I had cold water splashed on me at some of the most difficult points), JVN perseveres to overcome the tragedy of his past and allows his spirit shines through. "Over the Top" will give you all the feels. You come away from the book cheering, enlightened, and feeling more connected. And yes, Jonathan, we still love you.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Ian
  • 2019-10-23

My favorite Audiobook

A moving and hilarious story that is not read but preformed. I’d recommend this book to anyone but particularly those struggling with their own self worth.

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  • Sarah Boone
  • 2019-09-25

You will laugh and cry

This is the first time I've finished an audio book. I adore JVN and his sassy voice. This story was exactly what I needed to hear to help get out of my own head. I was strugs to func but this book had me ready to take on the world.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-09-30

you'll love him even more!!

great book. finished it in a day.. what a story!! you wont want to stop until the end.

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  • Kodiyak
  • 2020-06-08

Decent but disappointing

First off, full disclosure - I have never seen an episode of the reboot of Queer Eye. The reason I bought this book was because Jonathan Van Ness identifies as non-binary (pronouns he/him/his) and, as a person identified male at birth who also newly identifies as non-binary I was hoping to gain some insights from the story of his journey. Unfortunately, there is no reference whatsoever to his non-binary identity. Perhaps it's simply wrapped up in his overall queer identity that he just figured it didn't bear mention. After all, for some folks labels become a handy touchstone for a while but then later become cumbersome. I'm not sure why it went without mention so I can only say there was nothing about his evolution toward a non-binary identity. There is stuff to like about this book and stuff that, for myself, made me look forward to the end of it. I'll call these categories The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The Good The book is a short, light read and Johnathan narrates it himself. I always prefer autobiographies read by the author because you tend to get a more conversational tone and delivery laden with the feelings the authors themselves are experiencing. Johnathan's bubbly personality comes through and this falls under both The Good and The Bad. It's good in that it makes the narration more vibrant than someone who is simply reading to deliver a clear, well-enunciated narrative. Another good point is that, while the book doesn't really delve as deeply into his journey as some other LGBTQIA+ books, it weaves the details of his personal life, his professional life, and his journey as a gay person together in a way that doesn't separate the strands. Very often such autobiographies really isolate the queer aspect and separate it from the rest of a person's story which often fuels the idea that it is somehow separate and the "not normal" part of their identity. The overlapping facets of his identity and his story cohere together in a way that normalizes it nicely. We could use more narratives that take this holistic view of queer people. The Bad As said above, Johnathan's narration also detracts from the book as well as enhances it. Moments that have more gravitas come off as still somewhat glibly delivered. It's probably just his way of talking in general but it almost feels as if he's glossing over the more visceral components. And that may be the case. One of the things I felt detracted from the book was it seemed written more for his fans and fans of Queer Eye than for people who wanted to hear his story in the hopes of learning things they may apply to their own struggles as queer individuals. It's less about his evolution as a person and coming to accept himself and more about his journey from a young, chubby gay boy to one of the stars of Queer Eye. Johnathan has some powerful, wonderful views on self-acceptance and some great messages that only really get dumped into the book in the last few minutes almost as an afterthought. I would have really liked to have seen more exploration of how he came to internalize these views and his work to apply them to himself. As it was, the book was less about contributing to the narratives of growth, struggle, and acceptance of LGBTQIA+ folks and felt more like it was written from the standpoint of, "Hey, here's a famous person everybody loves right now. Let's let him tell his story. People will eat it up!" Truth told, I can't blame JVN for this because I have a feeling there were probably a lot of "suggested edits" from his publisher that likely excised the more insightful details in favor of the celebrity fluff. The Ugly Put simply, this book is atrociously mired in references to pop culture, figure skating, Olympic factoids, and general celebrity worship. If you don't know all of the minute details about this Olympic moment that took place on this day at this time, all of the lyrics to this Beyonce or Kelly Clarkson song, moments from Game of Thrones and Stranger Things, have have no point of reference for hair styling then there is a lot in this book that loses focus on the point it's trying to make at the moment. They say write what you know and Johnathan obviously knows a lot about these things and is very passionate about them. The problem, however, is that he references them SO much that the point is lost if you, the reader, don't know the details. When used judiciously, these pop-culture references can be fun little sprinkles of flavor and personality into a narrative. You do see these a lot in books involving queer culture and issues but, surprise surprise, not all of us queer folk are tuned into pop culture and may even have a bit of a distaste for it. The main problem comes when such references are used as metaphors for something the author wants to convey but then never explained to those of us who don't get the reference. It can be cumbersome to use a metaphor and then also explain it when you could have just not used it in the first place, so it's a balancing act. And, when used to a certain degree, it's not really an issue as a reader like myself can accept that, okay, I don't get that reference because I don't queen out to Cher or Celine Dion or whomever. You just accept that you don't quite relate to the reference and move on. But when an author goes into such excruciating detail about things many readers are not going to relate to, such as all of the jargon and events surrounding gymnastics or figure skating, that their point is lost to the majority of readers that's on the author. Ideally, such obscure references may be dropped for flavor but also briefly related to the author's point or experience that you still understand what they're trying to express in that moment. Pop-culture references and metaphors are the sizzle, not the steak. And by that I mean they make the delivery enticing but they don't provide the actual substance. (See what I did there? Metaphor then pulling sense out of it for those who don't understand the phrase.) Unfortunately, JVN's book repeatedly mistakes sizzle for steak and so you get a lot of moments when he's trying to make a point and it's lost because you're just not a slave to media and popular culture. I eventually just started zoning out whenever he went into these moments and rejoined the book when he actually started writing something relevant to the general reader. Conclusion Overall, it wasn't a bad book. It was a good little fluff piece and it had its moments. I at least pulled one important insight from it that I can apply to my own journey as a queer and genderqueer person, but it certainly wasn't the transformative experience I had listening to other authors such as Jacob Tobia or Kate Bornstein. If you're a fan of JVN and Queer Eye then you'll probably enjoy this insight into his rise to where he is now. If you're a queer person struggling with your identity and self-acceptance then you may not get much out of his book other than a sense of solidarity. But as with many things, especially when it comes to your journey as a queer person, your mileage may vary. Just remember, you are important and you are valid.

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  • JesseS94
  • 2019-10-04

A Story that Needs Told

Hearing this story has made me understand that I am not alone in my traumatic experiences. Thank you Jonathan for showing that you can make better choices and inspire those who need it. This book was absolutely inspiring and will be a highly recommended read throughout my life.

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  • Mslarevalo
  • 2019-10-04

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It was an excellent read. I laughed, cried, laughed some more, pondered - reflected. It’s a good authentic read. I really enjoyed reading Jonathan’s (& baby Jack’s) journey toward healing and respected his honesty that healing is an ever evolving process. And to answer his initial question at the beginning of the book: not only did I love, admire and accept JVN before reading this book, I adore, honor and unconditionally accept his honesty even more. It takes a lot to be vulnerable about ALL of yourself to the world. And I hope his journey will help others to love themselves & accept themselves just as they are - because you are always worth it Queen! Much love 🙏❤️

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  • Michelle H.
  • 2019-09-26

Over the Moon with Over The Top!

Oh, Jonathan! Henny! Thank you for your openness, vulnerability, bravery and willingness to share all the parts of you. You’re an amazing human! Your story touched my heart in ways you will never know! Absolutely loved this book! I hope for a sequel in 30 years!

1 person found this helpful