yolk – mary h.k. choi | review

Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi

Published March 2nd 2021 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Age Range: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Mental Health
Representation: Korean-American MC and SCs


Rating: 4.5 out of 5.


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.


trigger and content warnings:

I’ve read the other works by Mary H.K. Choi and can confidently announce that Yolk is my absolute favorite. There’s just something so unapologetically messy and raw about Yolk. Two estranged sisters were brought back to one another because one of them is diagnosed with cancer. Add in insurance fraud, June and Jayne are tossed in an even more complex situation.

Written in Jayne’s perspective, her problems are plenty and convoluted: deadbeat boyfriend, an eating disorder, clout-chasing friends, and self-image. On top of that, Jayne reflects upon what it means to be an Asian in America, a sister to a high achiever, and herself. Essentially, she doesn’t have it together and Jayne is slowly falling apart.

Jayne’s infuriating to read at times but mostly, it’s really heart-wrenching. I wanted Jayne to just kick Jeremy out from day one. He didn’t deserve her and she didn’t deserve to be treated as a second option. A lot of Jayne’s insecurity and low self-esteem seemed to be from her childhood environment. The comments by her mother and the aunties always reminded Jayne of how chubby she used to be. Linking this with her eating disorder, Jayne’s self-loathing becomes apparent whenever she scrolled through social media taking in curated feeds of beautiful, Western women. As compared to her older sister who works in hedge funds, Jayne felt inferior and the spare in the family.

I felt that the more I hide, the more presentable I am to the world.

The implication and consequences of the insurance fraud were oddly hard-hitting when Jayne voiced it out. Their willingness to continue this whole charade just proved how much the sisters love each other even though they’ve been distant for ages. The family dynamic is complicated whenever Jayne flashback to certain moments. Mary H.K. Choi used this to explore conversations of Jayne and June’s immigrant parents moving from their home country to provide a better life for their kids. I cried for the sisters and for their mom. For the things they should’ve said to one another long ago, for the love they should’ve shown each other but didn’t until now.

Secrets are like wishes. Everyone knows they don’t work if you tell. But if you really want them to gain power, you can’t acknowledge that they even exist.

There’s so much history between the sisters that prompted them to drift apart. The lack of trying and the insincere catch-ups they would have all accumulated into a big ball of mess. When Jayne found out about June’s situation, readers could see how affected she was. June’s older sister instincts kicked in regarding instances about Jayne’s “boyfriend”. Though Jayne bemoans about June’s status as the firstborn and the more successful one, when she recapped their past, the two sisters seemed to have a normal childhood with the regular ups and downs. The more Jayne reminisces the days June acted as an older sister, the more she wants to take care of June now.

If you’re finding for romance, other than the deadbeat boyfriend who cannot appreciate Jayne, there’s another love interest. I was more focused on Jayne and June’s storylines than anything else.

Mary H.K. Choi’s Yolk is a raw take on all kinds of topics–family, identity, eating disorder, and cancer. An absolutely riveting reunion of two sisters who are more like strangers. I couldn’t put it down.

It’s the psychosis of knowing that your eyes are broken. That we all know what it’s like to look at yourself in the mirror one minute and then see something completely different the next.

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