Published by Fabled Films Press on February 4, 2020
Genres: Middle Grade, Contemporary, Retellings
Source: The Publisher
Cover Artist: Bev Johnson
My content rating: MG (Middle school crush)
A Contemporary Reimagining of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens for Middle Graders
Life is full of great expectations for Korean American Pippa Park. It seems like everyone, from her family to the other kids at school, has a plan for how her life should look. So when Pippa gets a mysterious basketball scholarship to Lakeview Private, she jumps at the chance to reinvent herself by following the “Rules of Cool.”
At Lakeview, Pippa juggles old and new friends, an unrequited crush, and the pressure to perform academically and athletically while keeping her past and her family’s laundromat a secret from her elite new classmates. But when Pippa begins to receive a string of hateful, anonymous messages via social media, her carefully built persona is threatened.
As things begin to spiral out of control, Pippa discovers the real reason she was admitted to Lakeview and wonders if she can keep her old and new lives separate, or if she should even try.
Bonus Content: Discussion Questions, Author Q&A, and Korean Language Glossary and Pronunciation Guide
To sum this book up, it’s Mean Girls for middle graders with the addition of basketball and a big lie that threatens to blow up everything!
I know this is a Great Expectations retelling, but honestly, as I was reading this, I couldn’t help but think of Mean Girls often—it just has that vibe (I guess I’d forgotten most of GA, which I read in my high school days, but that didn’t cut down on my enjoyment of the book). Pippa has just transferred to a private school from the local public school, and she feels like a fish out of water. She wants so much to fit in, but she isn’t really sure how. All of the kids in her class come from money, and they seem to have a bunch of expectations that she has no idea how to live up to. So, she lies. Or, at least, leaves out a whole bunch of details. She doesn’t want them to know that she’s poor or that she came from the public school they seem to despise, so she just leaves those little facts out. Problem is, it gets harder and harder to hide. Plus, she has a crush on the boy that the leader of the Royals also has her eye on—not good—and her relationship with her best friend from her old school ends up becoming very strained.
But I have to say that this story ended up veering from the Mean Girls formula in the end, and I was quite pleased with how everything turned out. Pippa not only learned to be proud of who she is, but she also realized that everyone else may not have been judging her nearly as much as she thought (which is probably true 99% of the time in real life). Pippa messes up in this book—she makes some big mistakes, but she also learns from them. And I fell in love with her and found myself rooting for her the whole time!
Having basketball as a backdrop will appeal to quite a few kids, but they definitely don’t have to be sports fans to enjoy it—the basketball team is really just used to show the dynamics of Pippa’s new friends. But kids who do like sports will be drawn to that—there are a couple of scenes that highlight basketball, and I felt like they were very well written and I could easily imagine what was happening in the games and practices without having to know a whole lot about the sport. The book also features aspects of Korean-American culture, especially the food, which is described wonderfully!
Overall, I think this is a wholly appealing story that will keep kids reading!
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Praise for PIPPA PARK RAISES HER GAME
“An empowering celebration of identity, friendship, and embracing one’s roots, Yun’s loose reimagining of Great Expectations follows a first-generation Korean-American girl learning to navigate her new life at an elite private school…. author Yun writes of Korean-American family life with heart-warming, authentic detail…” —Publishers Weekly December 1st issue
“Pippa is a magnetic heroine, funny and good-hearted, and young readers will relate as she makes one honest mistake after another in an effort to fit in. A nice balancing act between sports action, middle-school drama, and the struggles of an underprivileged immigrant family that will appeal to a wide audience.” —Booklist November 1st issue
“In this reimagining of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, familiar themes and predictability are offset by the depiction of Korean culture and language, which add texture and depth to the narrative. Readers will sympathize with this likable heroine as she struggles to succeed. VERDICT An enjoyable read with a buoyant contemporary twist on an old classic.” —School Library Journal November 1st issue
“This is a highly engaging and relevant title for schools that takes up issues of social class, ethnic identity, and the venture of staying true to oneself which will lend itself well to educators and parents looking to support growth in today’s tweens. Highly Recommended.” —School Library Connection March 2020 issue
“In Erin Yun’s enchanting Pippa Park Raises Her Game, a girl starts a new school and tries to reinvent her image… an exciting middle grade novel about middle school struggles and feeling out of place.” —Foreword Reviews March 2020 issue
About the Author
Debut author Erin Yun grew up in Frisco, Texas. She received her BFA in English from New York University and served as president of its policy debate team. This experience came in handy for her job as the debate consultant for the Tony-nominated Best Play on Broadway—What the Constitution Means to Me. Erin is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and has written reviews and articles for BookBrowse. She currently lives in New York City, and yes—she used to play basketball as a middle grader!
5 Winners will receive the PIPPA PARK RAISES HER GAME Swag (Book, Sticker, Bookmark, and Basketball Stress Ball) by Erin Yun.
*JBN is not responsible for Lost or Damaged Books in your Nerdy Mail Box*
This sounds like a fun read! I agree that, while it is a Great Expectations retelling, it does give Mean Girls vibes. The basketball element will definitely appeal to many kids who love sports. Such books are high in demand. I remember, back when I taught, trying to hunt down books with sports elements for my classroom library!
Yeah, it’s nice that it appeals to kids who like sports—I didn’t think about the fact that those might be hard to find.
This sounds really cute! Funny timing, though — another friend just reviewed Great Expectations on his blog. I’ve never considered doing a retelling of Great Expectations (probably because I didn’t like it when I read it for high school) but this is a neat review of this book! It really is a good story at heart, even if I don’t like the way Dickens tells it. 😉
I honestly can’t remember my specific feelings about Great Expectations in high school, but I remember liking Dickens in general, so I definitely must not have hated it. 🙂
I’ve never read Great Expectations, so it would probably make me think of Mean Girls too. LOL Sounds like a nice read!
It probably didn’t help that I’d just recently seen the musical version of Mean Girls, so it was pretty freshly on my mind. 🙂
I enjoyed this book. I really liked Pippa, and appreciated her struggle to find her way in this new world. There were some really beautiful moments in there with her brother in law too.
Oooh! Yes, the moments with her brother-in-law were very sweet! It’s nice to see a non-traditional family featured in a way that isn’t angsty.
As I was reading your review, Mean Girls popped into my head as well. I’m glad you liked this though.
I like Mean Girls, so there could definitely be worse comparisons.
fun title and cover. enjoyed your review
Thanks for stopping by!
I agree that, while it is a Great Expectations retelling, it does give Mean Girls vibes. The basketball element will definitely appeal to many kids who love sports. I really liked Pippa and appreciated her struggle to find her way in this new world. I remember, back when I taught, trying to hunt down books with sports elements for my classroom library.