Overall rating: 5/5
Genre: Young adult contemporary fiction
Read if you loved: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, Normal People by Sally Rooney
Content warnings: Bulemia, cancer treatment, infertility, anxiety, depression, racism
I don’t really know how to start this, so I apologize if things seem a little out of order (synopsis at the bottom). This review is going to be a little different, because it’s a lot more personal. For some reason I feel more comfortable sharing this here on a blog that no one in my personal life reads, but I suppose it’s always easier talking about it with strangers who you’ll never meet. I’ve had a challenging relationship with food for many years now, and it’s only this year that I’ve finally confronted it head on. Some days are easier, some are harder, and while my experience may be nothing like yours, I just wanted to let you know that if you are also struggling, my heart goes out to you, and there are people willing to help. It can get better.
In the spirit of transparency, know that my personal experiences and unwillingness to be critical of the way Choi channels her own definitely plays a role in this rating. Yolk hit me hard. Jayne’s eating disorder is by no means the only challenging content tackled in her latest novel, but it’s the part of the story that had me in tears throughout. I could tell right away that this was personal to the author – the vulnerability in the way she writes about this topic is astounding. Every dark and dirty thought – the ones that feel so illicit that you squirrel them away into the the most deeply tucked away corners of your being – was laid bare on the page to the point that it was uncomfortable. The scene with Jayne and June at the Dairy Queen drive-thru absolutely wrecked me because it reminded me so starkly of similar conversations in my own life. Choi wrote straight to my soul, and I saw so many pieces of myself reflected back at me. How do I rate that? I can’t. I loved it. It was powerful and raw, and all I will say is that if you are someone who is struggling with an eating disorder, please take care of yourself if you do choose to pick up this book. I don’t think I could have read it this time last year.
The rest of the book is just as good. I was hooked from the first page and remained engaged in every other scene. Jayne is one of the most well-realized, fleshed out first person perspectives I have ever read. She is fucked up and difficult at times, but my goodness is she relatable. Be it her complex familial relationships, mental health issues, feeling of being lost in life, or challenging romantic endeavors – every 20-something year old will find some part of themselves in this book, and it is so compelling. Honestly, this book didn’t feel like YA until the ending (more on that in a second) given the sheer depth of the themes explored, and the nuance and elegance with which it is done. The scope of this book was not something I was anticipating but was certainly blown away by.
In case you haven’t picked up on it, I don’t have much that’s bad to say about this book but I do want to help you set expectations. The insurance fraud referenced in the synopsis might be something that grabs your eye (it did mine) but while it’s an interesting plot device used to bring Jayne and June together, it really doesn’t feature as a prominent driver of suspense or anything like that. I did also allude to the ending of this book being more YA and I do stand by that. Things come together perhaps more easily than you would deem realistic but I was okay with this. Everything else in this story resonated so deeply within me and was so difficult to read at times that I was happy to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
I would 100% recommend Yolk to anyone interested in contemporary fiction, YA or not. That being said, I think it’s very important to heed the content warnings because there is a lot of potentially triggering material in this book. It will stick with me for a long time, and I am very intrigued to explore Choi’s previous books now. Check out the synopsis for Yolk below and let me know what you think in the comments!
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.