PIPPA PARK RAISES HER GAME
(Fabled Films Press, February 2020)
What It's About (from Goodreads):
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.
"I was the only person in the park. Tucking a damp strand of hair back behind one ear, I surveyed the abandoned slides and empty benches. It was just past six p.m. on a Friday, but it looked like nobody else wanted to be out in the rain."
This is the second book I've read in a row with a Korean-American main character, and I am enjoying getting to know a bit more of Korean culture (and food!) Pippa is an endearing and believable 7th-grader, worrying about her status, and making regretful choices. As she says midway through the novel: "I'd wanted a different life, but changing myself into the popular, private school Pippa had left me feeling more alone than ever."
Pippa doesn't disown her ethnicity, but she is embarrassed by her perceived poverty--her small apartment, and the fact that her older sister runs a laundromat. In her posh new private school, she is determined to erase the fact that she transferred from a public school--yet she feels conflicted when she doesn't speak up in support of her friend Buddy, whom she bumps into when she is out with her somewhat catty new social circle, "The Royals." These girls are rich, and they are also the mainstay of the basketball team. I liked the fact that the conflict spilled out into the sports arena, where Pippa has traditionally felt good about herself. There's also the opportunity to reflect on cyberbullying, which is a scourge of the middle school experience.
For an English Literature major (aka geek) like me, I enjoyed the parallels with Dickens' Great Expectations, down to the fact that the Haverford family live in a place called Satis House. As with Dickens, there's a lot going on plot-wise in this novel, but Erin Yun never loses control of the moving pieces. This was a satisfying read with an eye-catching cover. Highly recommended!
About the Author:
Erin Yun grew up in Frisco, Texas. She received her BFA in English from NYU and served as president for 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. She currently lives in New York City, and yes--she used to play basketball as a middle grader! WEBSITE