Teen Book Review Blog

Katie's Review of "Yolk" by Mary H. K. Choi

PRE-PUBLICATION Review of Advanced Reader Copy by Katie

Review date: December 2, 2020 - Publish date: March 2, 2021

Yolk Mary H K Choi

4 stars of 5

Yolk by Mary H. K. Choi

Mary H.K. Choi’s Yolk opens with a warning of the book’s descriptions of disordered eating and body dysmorphia. The warning is written personally and tenderly, indicative of the entire book’s cathartic and human story. Yolk is a young adult novel that follows Jayne, a college student living in New York. It chronicles her life cracking open upon the revelation that her estranged sister, June, has cancer. The diagnosis chaotically brings them together, opening the floodgates of their relationship, Jayne’s view of herself and her world, and the ultimate totality of death and loss.

A shaky beginning flourishes into an emotional and resonant portrait of Jayne, her history, her relationships, and her family. The core of the novel is a kaleidoscope of complex family dynamics; ones fractured, but deeply loving nonetheless. June’s illness prompts a visit to their parents in Texas, triggering an exploration into Jayne’s relationship with her mother. Jayne is stuck processing hardships paired with motherly devotion that must have been there in her childhood, even if it was eclipsed at points. Outside of her family, Jayne’s self-image chokes her. A disconnection from her culture as a Korean-American guilts her, history with toxic men traps her, and a nearly lifelong struggle with bulimia spills into every facet of her world. Jayne’s breakdowns offer her little hope and the nagging possibility of June’s death leaves her desolate. 

Despite this, Choi is loyal to an unabashed optimism. She closes the novel with distinct warmth, tying everything together quickly but earnestly. She offers an ambiguous finale that is both satisfying and endearing. In the midst of seemingly too much trauma for any one person to deal with, an unexpected hand is outstretched to Jayne. On the cusp of something terrifying, there is comfort in uncertainty. Choi’s conclusion is a testament to her talents as a writer and to the deep humanity that permeates Yolk from beginning to end. 

Tags: teen book review YA realistic fiction Yolk Mary H. K. Choi cancer sisters family

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