In this middle-grade retelling of Great Expectations, Pippa Park tries to “raise her game” at an exclusive private school.
Pippa Park Raises Her Game by Erin Yun. Fabled Films Press, 2020, 262 pages plus bonus material.
Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12
Recommended for: ages 10-14
Pippa Park is shooting baskets in the park one dreary evening when she abruptly becomes aware of the silent figure in the green hoodie, watching her. Startled, she blurts out, “Please don’t hurt me.” But the stranger—upon closer inspection, a teenage boy—seems more downcast than dangerous. Her own mood is far from sunny. Who would want to be her: fatherless, her mother deported back to South Korea, her sister constantly ragging on her to bring up her GPA so she can aim higher than the family laundry business. But shortly after the odd meeting with the stranger, Pippa’s luck begins to change with a basketball scholarship to the town’s most exclusive school, Haverford Academy! Who could be responsible for that? It must have been Eliot Haverford, Pippa’s outrageously handsome new math tutor, even though Eliot seems to have no more interest in her than any average algebra student.
Pippa is determined to make good on this new opportunity, socially as much as academically–even if it means blowing off Buddy, her former best bud, because she no longer belongs to that social strata. The Rules of Cool, as published in Tween Things Magazine, must be followed.
If the story sounds familiar, it’s based on Dicken’s Great Expectations, even to character roles and names (Pippa/Pip, Eliot/Estella, Haverford/Havisham, Buddy/Biddy). Great Expectations, in turn, charts the classic territory of sudden reversal and the pride that goes before a fall. Since the story concerns middle graders (who don’t generally get involved in crime or smuggling), it lacks some dramatic tension, and the Miss Havisham role is rather weak, especially compared to the original. Still, Pippa Park is an entertaining read with a winsome protagonist and solid, uplifting theme. If Great Expectations could be made alongside, it would make for interesting comparisons.
Overall Rating: 3.75 (out of 5)
- Worldview/moral value: 3.5
- Artistic/literary value: 4
- There are a few (three, I believe) instances of “oh god” profanity.
Also at Redeemed Reader
- In a similar theme, Front Desk features a Chinese immigrant trying to climb the economic ladder in 1990s California.
- About Dickens: we celebrated the bicentennial of his birth in 2012 with a tribute and a roundup of resources, both print and video.
- Speaking up adaptations of the classics, Pride and Prejudice has had more than its share. See our reviews of Prom and Prejudice, Enthusiasm, Keeping the Castle, and a roundup of others, including the original.
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