Welcome to the Pippa Park Raises Her Game Blog Tour!
To celebrate the release of Pippa Park Raises Her Game by Erin Yun on February 4th, blogs across the web are featuring exclusive original content from Erin, as well as five chances to win a finished copy of Pippa Park Raises Her Game, bookmark, sticker, and basketball stress ball!
Reimagining Great Expectations into a Middle-Grade Novel
by Erin Yun
For my debut novel, Pippa Park Raises Her Game, I followed a pretty unconventional path. Instead of writing my book and then querying literary agents, the creative director of Fabled Films Press, Tracey Hecht, put out a call for submissions for stories inspired by Great Expectations as part of a broader initiative to reimagine classic literature from different perspectives.
Immediately, ideas churned in my mind, and over the next seven days, I thought about almost nothing but how to update that iconic Dickens novel into a modern middle-grade book.
After experimenting with themes, characters, and plot points, sleeping very little, and playing Hamilton’s “My Shot” constantly, I had, by the end of the week, the first synopsis for the book that would later become Pippa Park Raises Her Game.
Similarities to Great Expectations
While brainstorming, I decided to make Pippa Park Raises Her Game a loose reimagining rather than a strict retelling. Still, I hoped that fans of the original would recognize the basic premises. In Great Expectations, the main character, Pip, has a mysterious benefactor who helps him become a gentleman.
In Pippa Park Raises Her Game, Pippa receives an unexpected basketball scholarship to an elite private school, unlocking a world of new opportunities. Both books share themes of ambition and class, feature a cold, aloof love interest, and have similar core relationships, such as the caring bond each protagonist has with an older sister’s husband.
But while I had a lot of fun figuring out which pieces of Great Expectations would carry over to my reimagining, I also wanted to make sure that Pippa Park Raises Her Game would stand out as its own story and could be appreciated by kids who had never heard of Dickens.
The first thing I switched up was the setting. Instead of having the book take place in nineteenth-century England, I decided that Pippa Park would live in twenty-first-century Massachusetts.
To me, the change initially felt small, but it ended up creating many differences: for example, the change in setting allowed me to introduce new conflicts—like an anonymous social-media bully—that you wouldn’t find in Dickens’s works. And while the contrast between classes exists in both novels, it’s portrayed in different ways—Pippa’s family, for example, owns a laundromat (partly because blacksmiths just aren’t so popular these days). I also added in and swapped out many characters and made plenty of plot changes.
However, out of all the twists I created, I think developing the character of Pippa Park helped me the most as I moved the story away from the source material and into something new.
From the start, I knew that I wanted Pippa to be a Korean American girl. I’m half-Korean, so incorporating bits of my childhood into Pippa’s life, from Korean food to elements of Korean pop culture, felt natural. Digging deeper into her mind took more time, but through countless weeks spent sketching Pippa, taking personality quizzes for her, and just listening to her voice, I was able to shape her into a fully developed character—a slightly awkward, enthusiastic, and endearing twelve-year-old girl with big ambitions to become a star basketball player.
After I began to know who Pippa was, she started to make her own distinct choices, taking the book in a direction that I hadn’t imagined from the start. It’s kind of funny: as a writer, I thought I would have complete control over my character’s behaviors, but in reality, it’s very much a give-and-take. I come up with the plot points that I think will occur, and Pippa decides if she agrees or disagrees.
So, yes, Pippa Park Raises Her Game is a reimagining of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations. But it’s also a book about new friendships, first crushes, and the immense pressures kids face. It’s about family, basketball, ambition, and a whole lot of Korean food. And, above all, it’s about one girl who, in trying to fit in, discovers that maybe she’s meant to stand out instead.
Readers will cheer on Korean American Pippa Park in this compelling middle grade reimagining of Great Expectations. Navigating friendships and cyberbullying at a new school, Pippa reinvents herself and discovers who she really is.
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.
About the Author
Debut author Erin Yun grew up in Frisco, Texas. She received her BFA in English from New York University and served as president of 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. Erin is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and has written reviews and articles for BookBrowse. She currently lives in New York City, and yes—she used to play basketball as a middle grader!
About Fabled Films and Fabled Films Press
Fabled Films is a publishing and entertainment company creating original content for young readers and middle-grade audiences. Fabled Films Press combines strong literary properties with high-quality production values to connect books with generations of parents and their children. Each property is supported by websites, educator guides, and activities for bookstores, educators, and librarians, as well as videos, social media content, and supplemental entertainment for additional platforms.
One winner will receive a finished copy of Pippa Park Raises Her Game, bookmark, sticker, and basketball stress ball!
– US/Canada only
– Ends 11:59pm ET on 2/14
Blog Tour Schedule:
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