Monday, January 27, 2020

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: PIPPA PARK RAISES HER GAME by Erin Yun

Image result for erin yun 
(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.

Opening Lines:
"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."

My Thoughts:
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

Monday, January 13, 2020

YA For A Day: The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

What It's About (from Goodreads):
Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Opening Lines:
From a Prologue: "Carl Sagan says that if you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe. When he says "from scratch" he means from nothing. He means from before a time the world even existed."

What I Thought:
This was a fast read, and will appeal to the hopelessly romantic. As such, it is a tonic for this cynical and querulous age. I liked that the MCs were kids of color: Natasha is from Jamaica, and Daniel's parents are Korean. The main time frame of the novel takes place within 24 hours, and it is about chance and the different paths life can take.

Daniel is a poet, and Natasha has a scientific bent--but both of them impart some of their world view to the other. I liked the way Yoon dealt with the limitations of a first person narrative, by having chapters from a secondary characters viewpoint, and even interludes about multiverses, hair, and eyes.

While I was reading, I kept thinking in cinematic terms--so I wasn't surprised to read that it had been made into a movie!

About the Author:
Nicola Yoon grew up in Jamaica (the island) and Brooklyn (part of Long Island). She currently resides in Los Angeles, CA with her husband and daughter, both of whom she loves beyond all reason. The Sun Is Also a Star is her second novel, after Everything, Everything.