Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking those links, I will receive a small commission from the sale at no extra cost to you.Front Desk (Front Desk #1) by Kelly Yang
Published by Scholastic Press on May 29, 2018
Genres: Historical, Middle Grade Fiction
Format: eBook (228 pages)
Purchase: Amazon • IndieBound
Add Book: Goodreads • Bookhype
Mia Tang has a lot of secrets.
Number 1: She lives in a motel, not a big house. Every day, while her immigrant parents clean the rooms, ten-year-old Mia manages the front desk of the Calivista Motel and tends to its guests.
Number 2: Her parents hide immigrants. And if the mean motel owner, Mr. Yao, finds out they've been letting them stay in the empty rooms for free, the Tangs will be doomed.
Number 3: She wants to be a writer. But how can she when her mom thinks she should stick to math because English is not her first language?
It will take all of Mia's courage, kindness, and hard work to get through this year. Will she be able to hold on to her job, help the immigrants and guests, escape Mr. Yao, and go for her dreams?
Proceed With Caution:
This book contains racism, bullying, racial profiling, poverty, and assault.
Front Desk is narrated by ten-year-old Mia and follows her family as they begin working and living at a motel after living in their car. Mia’s parents moved them from China to Anaheim, California in hopes of a better life, but they have quickly realized that life in America is not as easy as it appeared. Becoming motel managers seemed like their big break, but the owner is a terrible, terrible man. Mia isn’t going to let that get her down though!
Front Desk surprised me. I know that I unfairly judge middle grade books as too easy and superficial, but as I’m reading more, I’m learning that is definitely not the case. Despite the adorable cover and younger intended audience, Front Desk handles some very serious topics. Mia’s lighthearted and open narrative keeps it from being dark or overwhelming. She and her family are doing the best that they can with the resources they have, even if Mia does seem to attract trouble.
The biggest surprise was this being Historical Fiction! Front Desk is set in 1993 Anaheim, California. It hurts me a little to think of the ’90s as “historical” but it was nearly thirty years ago! I was just a wee little thing! But I think it’s nice for kids to see a time before smart phones and home internet. It adds another layer of charm to Mia’s story.
There were times when I got frustrated at Front Desk because Mia does some dumb things. But I reminded myself that she’s ten and she’s desperate to help. And often times these things did have repercussions, because obviously. She can’t get away with just doing things on a whim without adult intervention. She always has the best intentions, and I believed that she’d give it her best shot. But nooo! Get your mom! Or Hank!
Front Desk is all about not judging people by their appearances. Mia’s family is looked down on because they’re Chinese. So of course they’re poor and bad at English and all those other stereotypes. One of the hotel weeklies, Hank, is a Black man who is constantly being harassed by the police and the motel owner because he is Black. Mia won’t stand for it though! This is one of those times when she takes matters into her own hands when she probably shouldn’t have, but it all works out. She does what she does best: writes a letter! The power of words.
I just really liked Front Desk. More than I thought I would. The plot was unique, but still relatable. Mia is a very caring, outgoing, and independent girl. She might not get everything right, but who does?