Review Detail

Kids Fiction 143
Great Machinations
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Pippa loves to play basketball and struggles a tiny bit in school. She lives with her much older sister, Mina, and Mina's husband, and works in her sister's laundry to help out. Her mother's visa has expired, and she has returned to Korea. Mina pressures Pippa to do well in school, and when Pippa gets a letter that she is invited to attend Lakeview, a local private school on scholarship for her basketball skills, she is very pleased. Even though it means leaving her best friend, Buddy, and embracing a new way of life, Pippa does her best to fit in. She still struggles with math, but gets tutoring help from the very cute Eliot Haverford, who has his own troubled family life, including a father who is headmaster of Lakeview. She does get in with the popular Bianca and "the Royals"- the popular girls at school, but she has trouble getting along with Olive, and is dismayed to find out that Bianca also has a crush on Eliot. Pippa continues to struggle with math, has to deal with the fact that her mother has been in a car accident and Mina must go to Korea to be with her, and gets mean anonymous notes, but when she helps out Eliot's brother, she manages to get herself in line to be suspended. Will Pippa be able to hold onto her place at Lakeview and not alienate her friends and family?
Good Points
This was very reminiscent of The Dork Diaries, with the private school setting, mean girls, and jockeying for popularity. It also had a feel of Elena Delle Donne's Elle of the Ball series, where Elle has to balance school, sports, and her family life. It was nice to see a student having to work in a family business and dealing with a bit of monetary insecurity. The Korean culture was very welcome, and it's great to see characters from a wide variety of backgrounds. I loved the brother-in-law and how well he took care of Pippa, and her sister's academic expectations were well protrayed. .

I doubt that anyone in the target demographic will understand that this is a "reimagining of Great Expectations". If it weren't for Aunt Haverford, I wouldn't have seen it at all. This does add another layer of meaning for more advanced readers who want to look for the parallels.

Blending sports with culture is a great way to appeal to a lot of different readers. Fans of Lisa Yee's Millicent Min, Girl Genius, Paula Chase's So Done and Hena Khan's Zayd Saleem: Chasing the Dream series will enjoy this mix of basketball, middle school angst, and family culture.
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