Saturday, July 6, 2019

Summer Reading 2019 Pippa Park Raises Her Game


Publisher's Synopsis:
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 surprising basketball scholarship to Lakeview Private, she jumps at the chance to reinvent herself.

At Lakeview, Pippa struggles with popularity and the pressure to perform academically and athletically while keeping her past and family’s laundromat a secret from her elite new classmates. Juggling jealous Queen Bees, old and new friends, her own place at Lakeview, and an unrequited crush on the school's most handsome— and most haughty— 8th grader is hard enough. But when Pippa begins to receive a string of hateful, anonymous messages via social media that threaten to unmask her carefully built persona, things begin to spiral out of control. 

With pressure mounting, Pippa discovers the real reason she was admitted to Lakeview Private, and wonders if she can keep her old and new lives separate, or if she should even try.

My Review:
Even if readers have never heard of Great Expectations, they will enjoy Pippa's story. Just imagine how it would feel to be forbidden to do the one thing you excel at. That is how Pippa feels when her older sister says she cannot play on the school's basketball team because her math grade is too low. And when Pippa learns that she has to see a math tutor once a week - it's like pouring salt on the wound. As she thinks, "No amount of Choco Pies or chestnut cakes could fix this." But things don't seem so bad once she meets the tutor and find out he is really cute, even if he does live in a fancy house and have very stuffy relatives. 

Then she learns that she will be attending the same school as her tutor due to an anonymous scholarship offer. Pressure mounts as Pippa struggles to fit in with the rich kids at Lakeview, keep her math grade up, and do her best on the basketball team. It is similar to what many students feel when they transfer to a new school, but since Pippa is trying hard to create an "interesting, confident, private school version" of herself, she has turned her life into a pressure cooker. The threatening messages she receives keep her constantly on edge, worried that her school life and home life will collide, adding to her already frazzled nerves.

When the big explosion happens, it throws open all the secrets Pippa had tried to hide, but it also releases all that pressure and makes it possible to start setting things straight. As her brother-in-law says, "the lower you fall, the more room you have to rise." Maybe she can meet those great expectations after all, at least those that are worth the effort.

The contemporary setting, the diverse mix of characters, the contrast between rich and working class, and the typical teen issues of friends, crushes, and deciding what sort of person one will become all mix together for an entertaining story that has something to offer a variety of readers. 

Highly recommended for middle grade readers who enjoy realistic fiction

I read an advance reader copy provided by the publisher for review purposes. Any quotes are from that copy and may change before final publication.

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