So I fully expected that this book was going to break me, I just didn’t expect that THAT was the way it was going to break me.
Jayne is a New York City living college student, who seems pretty distanced from her family even though her sister, June, lives only streets away. That changes when June shows up one day with terrible news: she has cancer. Suddenly Jayne is pulled back into her life as she tries to navigate not only her sister’s illness, but her own mental health problems as well.
I honestly don’t know where to start with this review. First of all, I feel like it is so hard to write complex characters without making people hate them. Although, I really did hate how mean June seemed for a while. But as the story went on, my opinion of her changed with Jayne’s. The sibling rivalry to love journey was very well done, and I had to try really, really hard not to cry while reading in the dining hall.
Jane also experiences a lot of self-esteem issues and anxiety. A lot of times I was really upset because I saw myself in that part of her, and it gave me waaaay too many feelings.
“I thought a polished appearance and stellar behavior would be the passport to belonging. And when I inevitably failed at perfection, I could at least willfully do everything in my power to be kicked out before anyone left me.”
I don’t usually include quotes in my reviews, but that line hit me so hard. However I also realize that for Jayne, a lot of the pressure she felt came from trying to fit in as a Korean-American (as many reviewers have pointed out), so I can’t truly understand what she went through. I really just wanted to reach through the pages, hug her, and tell her she wasn’t alone.
The narrative style itself was really interesting. It almost came off like stream-of-consciousness, with a heavy emphasis on both Jayne’s deep and mundane inner thoughts. For the first half of the book it felt pretty slow. But once I got used to it, it was actually really amazing how present I felt in the book. Jayne might be the most real feeling fictional character I’ve ever read about.
Big content warning though, this book deals with some heavy topics. Jayne suffers from an eating disorder, and while it is touched on more subtly in the first part of the book, toward the end it is very present. And though I cannot speak to the to accuracy of this mental health rep specifically, I will say it was absolutely heart wrenching. She also talks about some tumultuous family dynamics, as well as her experiences as a Korean immigrant (which includes racism).
Overall I think this was a very emotionally heavy book, but also one that felt really important to read.
Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC!
Intended audience: Adult
Content warnings: MC with an eating disorder, MC experiences racism, parental abuse, cancer