Yolk by Mary H. K. Choi
Published: March 2nd 2021 by Simon & Schuster
Rating: ★★★★★ (5)
Genre: Young Adult, New Adult // Romance, Contemporary
Quick Thoughts: An unflinchingly honest and achingly beautiful novel that has changed me forever.
About The Book:
From New York Times bestselling author Mary H.K. Choi comes a funny and emotional story about two estranged sisters switching places and committing insurance fraud to save one of their lives.
Jayne Baek is barely getting by. She shuffles through fashion school, saddled with a deadbeat boyfriend, clout-chasing friends, and a wretched eating disorder that she’s not fully ready to confront. But that’s New York City, right? At least she isn’t in Texas anymore, and is finally living in a city that feels right for her.
On the other hand, her sister June is dazzlingly rich with a high-flying finance job and a massive apartment. Unlike Jayne, June has never struggled a day in her life. Until she’s diagnosed with uterine cancer.
Suddenly, these estranged sisters who have nothing in common are living together. Because sisterly obligations are kind of important when one of you is dying.
I’ve had Yolk for well over a year and I’m not sure why I kept pushing it off for so long. Maybe because of the topic, which on a personal level was slightly triggering, but because I just wasn’t ready for it—but starting it, I kind of realised I never would be prepared for just how much it would touch my heart.
Jayne has been struggling for a long time. If it wasn’t enough to have a complex relationship with her family and friends, she also has a warped one with her own body, which was one of the first red-flag things I picked up on as I got to know her as our main character. She barely attends fashion school, sailing through New York days and nights with a sinking feeling of repeating behaviours she knows aren’t right, just hoping that people will like her—that they’ll stay—battling demons that resurface from childhood and present day, when her estranged older sister, June, comes back into her orbit.
June has the high-life—an amazing job, incredible apartment, and is doing pretty well for herself money-wise—basically everything that Jayne doesn’t have. But then June is diagnosed with uterine cancer. The sisters with heavy baggage and complicated history come together in a unique, very sisterly way, because June is sick, she needs Jayne, and that changes things—it moves mountains. Even when things get crazier when Jayne finds out something June has been hiding, she knows they need each other. They might not always like one another, but the love runs so much deeper, and they’re finding that, purely, means the most.
Overall, Yolk was somewhat of a masterpiece to me. I ate up the pages with precision and greed, desperately rooting for Jayne and June, for characters that became so vivid to me in those almost-400 pages. I loved that, although powerfully meaningful, the romance within took a backseat to the main message. As a younger sister—the youngest daughter—like Jayne, I felt so many of the same feelings she did, too. The desire to be as smart, to be as liked, to go as far. I also understood that estrangement between them, the rooted absence that twists around a happy childhood and distorts the people they are now. In so many ways that I cannot fully explain, this was an unflinchingly honest and achingly beautiful novel that has changed me forever. I adore Mary’s writing style, even more so for including Jayne-with-a-Y, because that’s my middle name. A bright, beaming five-stars.
Mary H.K. Choi is a Korean-American author, editor, television and print journalist. She is the author of young adult novel Emergency Contact (2018). She is the culture correspondent on Vice News Tonight on HBO and was previously a columnist at Wired and Allure magazines as well as a freelance writer. She attended a large public high school in a suburb of San Antonio, then college at the University of Texas at Austin, where she majored in Textile and Apparel.