MG Book Review: Pippa Park Raises Her Game

It’s been far too long since I’ve reviewed a Middle-Grade book! While my almost fourteen-year-old is generally more interested in YA-aged fiction these days, Erin Yun’s appealing debut novel PIPPA PARK RAISES HER GAME strikes just the right notes to appeal to both MG and younger YA readers.
Many thanks to Media Masters Publicity for providing me with an advanced copy of the book; all opinions are my own. This post also includes affiliate links.

MG Book Review: Pippa Park Raises Her GamePippa Park Raises Her Game by Erin Yun
Published by Fabled Films LLC on February 4, 2020
Genres: Middle Grade
Pages: 288
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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.


PIPPA PARK RAISES HER GAME was a delightful read that will appeal to middle-grade readers and younger YA readers. Author Yun gets her characters just right without caving to stereotype – impulsive, wanting to fit in Pippa; Pippa’s older sister Mina who has taken on a motherly role as their own mother is in Korea; irrepressibly cheery Buddy, Pippa’s best friend. The Royals – the popular crowd Pippa finds herself hanging out with – are not pigeonholed as spoiled mean girls and have their own personalities and differences. That said, along with Pippa, we don’t really know she stands with them closer to the end of the book.

Pippa herself is likable, quirky, and real. Yun captures all the emotions that Pippa goes through: the nerves of being someplace new and wanting to fit in (she doesn’t want to be known as a “scholarship kid”), her excitement for playing with the basketball team and holding her own, the apprehension and fear that goes along with trying to maintain an image that doesn’t match her reality.

The desire to fit in is something that readers of any age can relate to. Pippa finds herself weighing how to balance paying for pizza slices at school and her ice creams with Buddy, and justifying the manicure she splurges on with her new friends to her sister, who works hard in their family laundromat to make ends meet. Does she always make the right decisions? No – but she really wants to, and you’ll find yourself rooting for her to do so.

Throw in complicated family issues on her tutor Elliot’s side to offer some “grass is always greener” type perspective and online bullying to add some layers of conflict and you have a story you can sink your teeth into.

I enjoyed reading all the tidbits surrounding her Korean heritage. The dishes prepared for a favorite holiday, the snacks she loved to eat, and traditions all built a more tangible character.

This is an endearing, warmhearted story about a strong female character you’ll want to root for. Three points and five stars for this lovely book.

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