mary h.k. choi: emergency contact, permanent record, yolk | standalone reviews

Hello! Today’s post is all about Mary H.K. Choi’s releases up till now which consists of her standalone: Emergency Contact, Permanent Record, and Yolk. I read her debut in 2018 and it left quite an impression on me. As of now, I think Yolk is probably my favorite.

Navigate through this post with the titles below:
Emergency Contact | Permanent Record | Yolk

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Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi


Standalone
Published March 27th 2018 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Age Range: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Representation: Korean-American MC, Anxiety

Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis:

For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him. 

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.


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I received the review copy from Pansing. This book is available at all good bookstores. Kinokuniya | Popular

trigger and content warnings:

In Emergency Contact, the lives of two main characters–Sam and Penny–are similar yet different. Both of them have difficult relationships with their own mothers and problems with self-esteem. Most importantly, they have doubts about their ability in achieving their dreams. I went into Emergency Contact thinking that it would be a light-hearted rom-com but it was vastly different.

Sam has been working towards being a filmmaker while Penny aspires to be a writer. Fearing rejection, they’ve never really shown other people their works.

The slow-burn relationship between Penny and Sam was satisfying. It made their friendship and attraction genuine. The two of them complemented each other well.

Overall, I really liked Emergency Contact. It was full of colors and ideas and wacky characters. The banter between Penny and Sam was amusing. Mary H.K. Choi‘s writing was easy to get into. It’s the first of her books. I’m definitely picking up her future releases.

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The next review is for Mary H.K. Choi’s Permanent Record, another standalone!

Navigate through this post with the titles below:
Emergency Contact | Permanent Record | Yolk

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Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi


Standalone
Published September 3rd 2019 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Age Range: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Representation: Korean-Pakistan MC

Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Synopsis:

After a year of college, Pablo is working at his local twenty-four-hour deli, selling overpriced snacks to brownstone yuppies. He’s dodging calls from the student loan office and he has no idea what his next move is.

Leanna Smart’s life so far has been nothing but success. Age eight: Disney Mouseketeer; Age fifteen: first #1 single on the US pop chart; Age seventeen, *tenth* #1 single; and now, at Age nineteen…life is a queasy blur of private planes, weird hotel rooms, and strangers asking for selfies on the street.

When Leanna and Pab randomly meet at 4:00 a.m. in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn, they both know they can’t be together forever. So, they keep things on the down-low and off Instagram for as long as they can. But it takes about three seconds before the world finds out…


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Frankly, after the halfway mark, I started skimming Permanent Record. Sadly, I got bored pretty quickly. Maybe it just wasn’t what I was looking for. The relationship was bland and basic. There wasn’t any foundation of trust between Pablo and Leanna. He couldn’t tell her the truth about his life choices while she was unwilling to show him who she truly is. Their romance could spontaneously combust and everything would just shatter into million ugly pieces. Both of them had their own reasons for doing what they were doing but it wasn’t for me.

Pablo was okay but I couldn’t relate to his personality and his ways of handling certain issues. Although Leanne wasn’t exactly a main character, she played a huge role and impact on Pablo. On the other hand, Pablo can be annoying. The way he brushed things off could be seen as unsupportive or uncaring towards the person he was targeting it to. I didn’t like how irresponsible Pablo was. His actions left his loved ones hanging and worrying.

The ending was okay. Any alternative to this ending would seem unrealistic and false, especially with how toxic and complicated everything was.

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The next review is for Mary H.K. Choi’s Yolk, another standalone!

Navigate through this post with the titles below:
Emergency Contact | Permanent Record | Yolk

♡♡♡♡♡

Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi


Standalone
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:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis:

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.

that’s it for the standalone reviews! it’s pretty cool to experience mary h.k. choi’s growth as an author. i can’t wait for her next book~

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