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The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

Worth the read: “Yolk”

Set in New York City, Jayne Baek reconnects with her sister while struggling with an eating disorder.

Content warming: mentions and depictions of eating disorders (bulimia/ anorexia/body dysmorphia), racism, cancer

Welcome to the third edition of “Worth the Read,” where I read books and tell you if they are actually worth the read. This week I read “Yolk” by Mary H.K. Choi, published in 2021, to find out if it’s really all that the reviewers say it is.

The plot: Ji-Young “Jayne” Baek is a student at a prestigious fashion school in New York City who becomes closer with her estranged sister, Ji-Hyun “June” Baek, after moving in with her. However, she soon realizes that June has been committing insurance fraud by pretending to be Jayne in order to get Jayne’s health insurance so she can receive treatment for her uterine cancer. Jayne copes with this very well, all things considered, and learns several life lessons as she grows closer to her sister, finds love and starts to recover from her eating disorder.


This book was released recently, so it’s no surprise that it reads well to a modern audience. The book is told in the first-person from Jayne’s perspective. I think that this was the better choice as opposed to seeing it from June’s perspective, as it seemed like June already had most of her life figured out and wouldn’t be as interesting as she doesn’t grow as much as Jayne over the course of the book. Plus I feel that the story would’ve lost its slice-of-life charm if it had been told in the third person.

Overall, a 10/10 for readability.


First, I’d like to draw attention to the cover art of the book. Featuring two girls on each side reaching out to hold hands with each other, the design bleeds onto the fore edge of the book and, with each page flipped, their hands become closer together until they’re intertwined. I really loved this because I felt like it added to the book as a subtle way to show the sisters becoming closer as the book progressed. and think that more authors should be creative with the artwork and take it beyond the front and back cover.

I was captivated by the characters and how strikingly human they felt. Each of them has glaring flaws that make you want to grab them by the shoulders and shake them. This was refreshing for me, as I found it to be a break from most books I read where the flaws don’t detract from the characters’ likability. Instead, Jayne irritated me. I didn’t like how she always complained and victimized herself. Her growth throughout the book shows her coming to see other people’s perspectives and realizing that she was sometimes the perpetrator rather than the innocent victim she thought she was, which makes Jayne’s arc incredibly satisfying to me.

I also liked how each character has their reasons for being who they are. Jayne’s trauma with her mom led to the breakdown of her relationship with her sister, while June helped Jayne come to New York City by helping with her college tuition only to then become estranged from her and is now dealing with her own life falling apart. It’s amazing watching all of this unfold, as Choi took me back and forth on believing June or Jayne with every scene they are in together.

The only thing I didn’t like about the content of this book was Jayne’s romance with Patrick. It honestly just felt contrived and had no real reason being there other than to add a romantic element to the story. I think that it would’ve been more interesting if Choi further built up Jayne’s familial relationships with her parents instead.

Overall, a solid 9.5/10 for good character development, cover art and dynamics.


This book was seriously well-written.

Harkening back to the point I made about how humanly the characters behave, this can be shown through Choi’s use of dialogue and monologue. I enjoyed how many swears Choi uses in both the characters’ dialogues and Jayne’s monologue. Like, seriously, it’s impressive how many swears and insults June and Jayne lob at each other throughout the book. June and Jayne’s insults are vulgar which, while charming and certainly contributing to the humanity of the characters, becomes a little repetitive after a while. But that’s just because I want more creative insults.

More importantly though, I really liked the choices that Choi made in the characterization of Jayne and how she uses the lens of first person as a means of developing Jayne’s character. When reading in first person, it is sometimes easy to take whatever the character is saying at face value. However, Choi avoids this trap, making Jayne an unreliable narrator, specifically when referring to her eating disorder and mental illness. She lets Jayne victimize herself, blaming her previous roommates for kicking her out unjustly, and keeps that narrative going until the story’s climax, where it’s revealed that she was actually stealing food from both of them and got kicked out for it. My jaw dropped when I discovered this towards the end of the book. While I’d had inklings that Jayne wasn’t all that reliable, seeing it brought out so plainly made me realize just how deep the unreliability ran, and it all ties in to characterize how deeply in denial Jayne was about having an eating disorder.

Overall, I’d give this a 9.7/10, just because I feel like Choi could’ve found better insults for each of the sisters to throw at each other (after all, they’ve known each other for years, surely they have better, more personally hurtful remarks for each other!)


Readability: 10/10
Content: 9.5/10
Writing: 9.7/10

Overall, a 9.7 for excellent writing and masterfully handled content. This is definitely worth the read and a re-read or two just to fully understand all of the things happening in the book. This is the kind of writing that you have to read twice, once just to understand the action, and twice to pick apart everything else and all of the symbolism the story has.

While I do like high action stories, this book captivated me in its mundanity. While yes, having your sister fake your identity to steal your health insurance certainly isn’t a common occurrence, the other events in the plot certainly are. Instead, this book was gripping and took me through a turbulent ride of sibling relationships and reconciliations that had me on edge until the end.

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