Author: Mary H.K. Choi
Page Count: 385
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Original Publication Date: 2021
Genre(s): YA, Contemporary, Realistic fiction
New York has not been kind to Jayne. She barely makes it to class most days, she lives in a shitty apartment with her leech of a (not)boyfriend, and she struggles daily with an eating disorder that she’s not really able to admit to or deal with yet. But she’s made it out of Texas, and that’s all that matters. Until her sister June, who Jayne is not really speaking to at the moment, drops a bomb: June has cancer. June, the always-perfect older sister with the loaded bank account and glorious apartment and swanky job, has cancer. It’s amazing how something so horrible can bring people together when they need each other the most.
I moved to a different town back in November and literally just got a new library card. I know, I know — pretty pathetic. But in my defense, libraries have been closed due to the pandemic and my old card worked just fine on Libby, so there wasn’t much reason to get a new one. Luckily I have a friend who works at this new library, and it’s within walking distance. So I now have a library card in my new town. While I was there, my friend grabbed a copy of Yolk for me to check out because she is also my Goodreads friend and knew I wanted to read it. She’s pretty awesome, basically. So the first book I checked out at my new library was Yolk. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.
Yolk is Mary H.K. Choi’s third novel. I loved Emergency Contact, but DNFed Permanent Record. So I didn’t know how I’d feel about Yolk. Turns out, literally right in the middle. Yolk is told in first person POV from Jayne’s perspective. It’s a story about Jayne and June, Korean American sisters who moved away from their home in Texas to make it big in New York. June is wealthy and successful, while Jayne is hardcore struggling. They haven’t spoke in over a year, until June reveals that she has cancer. Jayne moves in with June to help June, but it’s also an escape for Jayne from her dismal life.
I couldn’t stand any of the characters in this novel — Jayne especially, which sucks because she’s literally the narrator. She’s realistic and a good person facing many struggles, but I did not like her at all. I think that seriously contributed to why I didn’t love the novel. I wasn’t a big fan of June, either, though I actually started enjoying the novel once they started getting along and interacting more. I like them as sisters, but also hated them. I know that doesn’t make much sense — sorry. I just wish I could have liked them more.
The first half of the novel was super slow for me. I wasn’t interested in Jayne’s crappy life or her past (which she constantly reflected on). I was bored. Once Patrick came into the story and Jayne moved in with June, I started getting more invested in the story. But still I felt something was lacking. Perhaps an interest in the story in general? Maybe an emotional connection to the characters? I’m not sure, but my slight interest in the latter half of the story saved this novel from getting a 2-star rating.
What I really like about this novel is that it handled difficult topics really well. As someone who has struggled with weight and food my entire life, Jayne’s eating disorders were tough to read about, but so necessary to talk about. I also related to Jayne’s struggle with family, specifically her mom. Lots of themes and topics going on here, and all of them were discussed in just the right way.
Overall, it was just okay for me. It’s not that I think this isn’t a good novel or a good story — I just think it wasn’t the story for me. Though I was able to find things I liked once the story picked up, I could have lived without reading this novel. I think many other people will find value in the story, which is why I’m still recommending it. Also, I did give it 3 stars because I did like it towards the end — I especially loved the ending — so please, if you like Mary H.K. Choi’s other novels, give this one a read. Do check out the trigger warnings, though, because there are some heavy topics such as mental illness, eating disorders, and cancer. Yolk wasn’t the right book for me, but it could be the right one for you.
– “It’s crazy how lonely it is to be in a family. Even if the stuff with my mom didn’t happen, even if everyone was super involved and therapized, I think just being in a family is what screws you up. I’m never going to fully understand them. And it’s fucked up because that means they’re never going to understand me. But who knows. Maybe it’s designed that way for a reason. Families are such fucked-up tiny cults.”