Front Desk
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?

Front Desk Details

TitleFront Desk
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 29th, 2018
PublisherArthur A. Levine Books
ISBN-139781338157796
Rating
GenreChildrens, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Fiction, Family, Historical, Historical Fiction

Front Desk Review

  • Lola
    January 1, 1970
    Anyone who looks at the cover will think that it hides a light—but perhaps still meaningful—story. It does not let on that the reader will be outraged at many of the characters and situations hidden inside.Mia Tang’s family members are courageous and strong people, but they are immigrants who recently arrived in a completely foreign country—from China to America—and there is so much they don’t know yet. There is also so much they don’t have access to.And the problem with Anyone who looks at the cover will think that it hides a light—but perhaps still meaningful—story. It does not let on that the reader will be outraged at many of the characters and situations hidden inside.Mia Tang’s family members are courageous and strong people, but they are immigrants who recently arrived in a completely foreign country—from China to America—and there is so much they don’t know yet. There is also so much they don’t have access to.And the problem with being a new immigrant is that, unless you were able to transfer your fortune—should you have had one—from your native country to your adopted one or your school degrees are recognized, you have to start from basically zero.I know this because it happened to my mom and former step-father. They worked in a couple of apartment buildings, cleaning and maintaining, for minimum wage. We were poor, no question, and lived in a crappy apartment. But thinking back now, I realize we were just fine and we had it so much better than other immigrants who couldn’t find jobs or found horrendous ones.Like Mia’s parents, sadly. They are desperate for work, after an unfortunate accident leads both Mia and her mom to lose their jobs, and they end up working for an awful Mr. Yao who does not treat his employees with respect. In fact, he doesn’t even look at them as ‘‘people.’’ He considers himself to be above them. There is a huge amount of tension between Mia and him, for he often blames the victim and refuses to be reasonable. But Mia’s family doesn’t have another choice, and Mr. Yao knows that, so he preys upon them constantly.He infuriated me. I wanted to jump into the page and scream at him myself. I wanted to protect Mia and her parents in any way I could—but worry not, Mia, although only ten, is immensely brave and smart. She fights for what is right and learns so much working at the motel. She also meets incredible people who prove to her that there is goodness in this world, even though ugliness may be much more obvious to the eye. A lot of what happens in this story is actually based on real life events—the author’s life, growing up as a Chinese immigrant in a country that wasn’t too keen to have her there, or so it seemed. The truth is that people make a country, and if you have trusting people by your side, you will feel more at home each day. But you have to claim your place, too.A terrific and emotional story that, I hope, will push you to look at immigrants with more respect and understanding, because they deserve it. We deserve it. Blog | Youtube | Twitter | Instagram | Google+ | Bloglovin’
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  • Donalyn
    January 1, 1970
    Much deeper and complex than the playful cover indicates. A wonderful story about immigrants, poverty, and family.
  • Fafa's Book Corner
    January 1, 1970
    Mini review:GR Ultimate Summer Reading Challenge: Diversify Yourself.Trigger warning: Racism, a break-in (wherein a character gets injured), and bullying.I heard about Front Desk through Twitter. The cover caught my attention as did the synopsis. I'm happy to say that I enjoyed reading this!I'm honestly so surprised Front Desk isn't more popular. This is such an important book especially for immigrant families. Front Desk takes place in 1990 follow Mini review:GR Ultimate Summer Reading Challenge: Diversify Yourself.Trigger warning: Racism, a break-in (wherein a character gets injured), and bullying.I heard about Front Desk through Twitter. The cover caught my attention as did the synopsis. I'm happy to say that I enjoyed reading this!I'm honestly so surprised Front Desk isn't more popular. This is such an important book especially for immigrant families. Front Desk takes place in 1990 following Mia and her family adjusting to life in America. They moved from China to America hoping for a better life. Thus far their life has been nothing but obstacles. The family think they've caught their big break when they are hired to work for Mr. Yao. Shortly after they discover Mr. Yao to be horrible. Mr. Yao continues to take advantage off Mia and her family. Mia teams up with her friends, and some of the Motel guests to help build themselves a better life. Front Desk is an extremely important and heartbreaking read! Mia reads like a 16 year old. When in truth she's only 10! Through all the situations her family faces, Mia is forced to grow up. Reading about Mia's love for writing and her passion for English is wonderful! She works really hard to achieve her dreams and never gives up. I loved her interactions with all the characters in the book. Even Jason grew on me. I recommend this to everybody! Anyone can find something relatable in Front Desk.
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  • CW (The Quiet Pond) ✨
    January 1, 1970
    Front Desk is a book that means a lot to me. More importantly, I believe that Front Desk will be a book that will mean a lot to others - immigrants of all ages, children, adults, parents. - The story is so full of heart. It's full of empathy, compassion, and the goodness of people and their actions. For this reason, I think Front Desk is an excellent book for children. - The story, too, is full of tough lessons about the world. It addresses and explores how perspectives and prejudice can have significant ef Front Desk is a book that means a lot to me. More importantly, I believe that Front Desk will be a book that will mean a lot to others - immigrants of all ages, children, adults, parents. - The story is so full of heart. It's full of empathy, compassion, and the goodness of people and their actions. For this reason, I think Front Desk is an excellent book for children. - The story, too, is full of tough lessons about the world. It addresses and explores how perspectives and prejudice can have significant effects on people's lives, it explores racism, it explores poverty, and it explores immigration and how immigrants are and continue to be exploited. Yang explores these topics without sugarcoating them or hiding them for what they are, but instead examines them with the honesty and integrity. For this reason too, I think Front Desk is the perfect book for adults to read with children. - I found this book so empowering, and I'm confident that children will find this story empowering too. It highlights that, even if we are small and are told we are not important, we have the power to help others, to be compassionate, and to make the world a better place.- Mia was such a star. This story is based on Yang's childhood as an immigrant, and how earnest and genuine the narrative is really shines through. Honestly? I adored this book, and I recommend this to children, parents, teachers, teenagers - everybody. Content warning: (view spoiler)[racism towards black people that is challenged, physical assault, police prejudice that is challenged (hide spoiler)]
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  • Lisa Vegan
    January 1, 1970
    For some reason I had incorrectly thought this was a graphic book. I was looking for a quick read to read alongside my other main book and many ancillary books. It’s a regular text novel but it still worked the way I’d hoped, a fast read, and a gripping read, and completely satisfying.But I’ve been reading too many books with too much heartbreak and showing too many of the worst flaws that some humans have. This was another, and over and over again it broke my heart, but over and ove For some reason I had incorrectly thought this was a graphic book. I was looking for a quick read to read alongside my other main book and many ancillary books. It’s a regular text novel but it still worked the way I’d hoped, a fast read, and a gripping read, and completely satisfying.But I’ve been reading too many books with too much heartbreak and showing too many of the worst flaws that some humans have. This was another, and over and over again it broke my heart, but over and over again it also gave me faith in people, made me smile, and felt uplifting. I felt the gamut of emotions. I cared so much for Mia and almost all of the characters. The characters, even most of the minor ones, are memorable. Mia’s (ten-year-old) voice is marvelous. This is a wonderful middle grade novel. I highly recommend this to all kids 8-11 and anyone who can appreciate a novel about the meaning of family (including families made up of non-relatives) and about genuine friendships, about immigration and assimilation, about poverty, about gumption and going for one’s dreams, about doing the right thing, and it’s a great book for developing empathy for others in circumstances that might be different from those of the readers and a great book for some kids to help them feel less alone with their circumstances. It’s a terrific book for showing how much a child can do, but does stay realistic. ETA: Re realistic, one thing that deviates but not to the level of fantasy genre is (view spoiler)[ the resolution at the end. But the spirit of the thing leaves it in an idealized but realistic category. But I did feel the need to add that. (hide spoiler)]There is an enlightening author’s note in the back of the book that (view spoiler)[ once again broke my heart and once again lifted me up, the former because I could then tell that the end of the novel seems to be fiction, the latter because so much good in the book was true and the author is now a great success. (hide spoiler)]5 full stars. It’s a standout book. I loved it. Great book for independent readers and also for reading aloud one to one and to groups.ETA: Also a great book to read about bigotry!
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  • Rachel Reads Ravenously
    January 1, 1970
    4 stars! Middle grade is quickly becoming one of my favorite genres, mostly because of stories like this one. Placed in the 90's, Mia and her family moved to the USA from China in hopes for a better future. They get a job working at a hotel and realize they are completely overwhelmed and outnumbered. Mia spends all her free time from school managing the front desk and she learns a lot along the way.I think there are so many children who can relate to Mia and her story. While the cover makes this loo 4 stars! Middle grade is quickly becoming one of my favorite genres, mostly because of stories like this one. Placed in the 90's, Mia and her family moved to the USA from China in hopes for a better future. They get a job working at a hotel and realize they are completely overwhelmed and outnumbered. Mia spends all her free time from school managing the front desk and she learns a lot along the way.I think there are so many children who can relate to Mia and her story. While the cover makes this look like a light-hearted book, it's a mix of that and some important topics like racism and the struggles many immigrants face. Follow me on ♥ Facebook ♥ Blog ♥ Instagram ♥ Twitter ♥
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  • Kate ☀️ Olson
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to @kidlitexchange for this review copy ~ all opinions are my own!Hands-down one of my favorite middle grade titles of 2018, FRONT DESK is a spectacular and accessible glimpse into the life a 5th grade girl named Mia who lives in a motel that her parents manage. It is also a glimpse into the life of many Chinese immigrants in the US in the 1980s and early 1990s, as detailed in the author's note. The book draws heavily on the childhood experiences of the author, making the stor Thanks to @kidlitexchange for this review copy ~ all opinions are my own!Hands-down one of my favorite middle grade titles of 2018, FRONT DESK is a spectacular and accessible glimpse into the life a 5th grade girl named Mia who lives in a motel that her parents manage. It is also a glimpse into the life of many Chinese immigrants in the US in the 1980s and early 1990s, as detailed in the author's note. The book draws heavily on the childhood experiences of the author, making the story even more poignant and authentic. Yang has written Mia's tale in such a way, however, that despite the hardships that Mia's family faces, the story is still ultimately fast-paced, uplifting and incredibly educational. There are adventure and mystery and so many touching relationships. The excellent author's note goes into much detail about this, and is a must-read part of the book. I adored the messages about language, perseverance, combatting racism and breaking the cycle of poverty and misfortune that so many immigrants face. First purchase for libraries and classrooms serving grades 3-6.
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  • Danielle
    January 1, 1970
    Wow. This book. It tackles injustices for immigrants, and other communities, and I really admire the way Kelly Yang created that overlap and connection. The story is centered around Mia, a young girl working with her parents' at a motel near Disneyland who discovers that her writing has the power to fight injustice for herself and those around her that she cares about. A true and unflinching yet very hopeful, optimistic story sure to buoy and inspire kid readers. "We're immigrants...Our lives ar Wow. This book. It tackles injustices for immigrants, and other communities, and I really admire the way Kelly Yang created that overlap and connection. The story is centered around Mia, a young girl working with her parents' at a motel near Disneyland who discovers that her writing has the power to fight injustice for herself and those around her that she cares about. A true and unflinching yet very hopeful, optimistic story sure to buoy and inspire kid readers. "We're immigrants...Our lives are never fair." (p.68)"Use this to write down everything that happens...Who knows, maybe someday it'll seem funny to you." (p. 149)"It was the most incredible feeling ever, knowing that something I wrote actually changed someone's life." (p.218)"'When people look at you, they see a nice, sweet Chinese girl. When they look at me do you know what they see? A criminal,' Hank said." (p.219)From the Author's Note: "Often during tough times, the first instinct is to exclude. But this book is about what happens when you include, when, despite all your suffering and your heartache, you still wake up every morning and look at the world with fresh, curious eyes."
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  • Ms. Yingling
    January 1, 1970
    ARC provided by the publisherIt's the early 1990s, and Mia and her parents have moved to California from China in search of more freedom and opportunities. Unfortunately, they are not able to get the same sort of professional jobs they had in China, and work at a Chinese restaurant until Mia's help turns disastrous! They eventually find a hotel in Anaheim in need of managers, and are happy that they won't have to pay all of their salary for rent. The owner, Mr. Yao, promi ARC provided by the publisherIt's the early 1990s, and Mia and her parents have moved to California from China in search of more freedom and opportunities. Unfortunately, they are not able to get the same sort of professional jobs they had in China, and work at a Chinese restaurant until Mia's help turns disastrous! They eventually find a hotel in Anaheim in need of managers, and are happy that they won't have to pay all of their salary for rent. The owner, Mr. Yao, promises them a certain rate per customer, but ends up not treating them very fairly. This makes things even harder for Mia. Not only is she helping to run the front desk while her parents spend a lot of time cleaning, she has to be in class with Jason Yao. Mia struggles a bit in school, although her English is very good. She has some trouble getting along with the other students, who are not very kind about the clothes she wears or her immigrant status, but she does find a friend in Lupe, whose father comes to repair something at the hotel. Both girls have told some white lies about their lives, knowing that other students might not understand how difficult their lives can be. Word gets out that Mia's parents occasionally will put up other Chinese immigrants at the hotel for free, so there is a steady stream of people in need of a helping hand. Mia also gets to know the "weekly" residents, including Hank. When a car is stolen from the hotel, the police look suspiciously at Hank, who is black, and when Hank later runs down criminals who beat up Mia's mother, he ends up in jail. Mia doesn't think this is fair at all, and uses her writing skills to try to improve his situation. She also uses these skills to try to win a hotel in Vermont in an essay contest. She even manages to gather a lot of money to enter, although her mother's hospital visit after being beat up threatens to be very expensive. Mia learns that while her hard work doesn't always pay off, it gets her and her family much closer to their goals of being comfortable US citizens, and also helps those around her. Strengths: This had a lot of very well placed elements going for it. First, it is an #ownvoices book, and Yang has drawn on her own experiences. She mentions in a forward that her early days in the US were very difficult, and she wanted to share this with her son without writing a depressing book. She succeeded admirably. While the difficulties on Mia's life are very apparent, Mia, her parents, and the other people with whom Mia interacts all try very hard to do their best and to help others who need it. This makes the book realistic but upbeat. Young readers who do not understand the difficulties of immigrant life will definitely understand them after reading this book, but because Mia is such a likable character, they will hopefully use this understanding to be nicer to people in their own lives. The incident with Mia having to wear flowered stretch pants instead of jeans was heart breaking to read as an adult, and I hope that it will help readers be more aware of the difficulties their own classmates may face. Weaknesses: As an adult, my heart broke for Mia again and again. While I am not normally a fan of books that encourage the main character to become a writer (the 1950s teen novels I collect are big fans of doing this, which might be why I spent the summer after my freshman year in college trying to break into publishing poems.) While this was a very bad idea for me, I'm glad that Ms. Yang was able to succeed and bring us this fantastic book!What I really think: This is an essential purchase for elementary and middle schools alike, and will be enjoyed by readers who may not understand how powerful the book is. I do think it will help readers to be empathetic, and we certainly need more of that!
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  • Jessica Woodbury
    January 1, 1970
    Reading this book reminded me of the vast difference between the way kids and adults read. For me, FRONT DESK was lovely and important but also harrowing. I was really anxious about all the difficult things Mia and her family go through, because there really are a lot of them. Mia is so optimistic and action-oriented, but as an adult I felt overwhelmed. My kids, however, were unphased. They really liked Mia, they liked the idea of working in the motel, they were happy to see each new problem def Reading this book reminded me of the vast difference between the way kids and adults read. For me, FRONT DESK was lovely and important but also harrowing. I was really anxious about all the difficult things Mia and her family go through, because there really are a lot of them. Mia is so optimistic and action-oriented, but as an adult I felt overwhelmed. My kids, however, were unphased. They really liked Mia, they liked the idea of working in the motel, they were happy to see each new problem defeated.I want books to show my kids different experiences people have, and this one certainly did the trick. We were able to talk about kids they'd met in school who had moved recently from another country and had to learn a new language. We got to talk about poverty through a kid's eyes using the things that make sense to kids, like Mia's flowered pants. But this is not a Very Special Lesson book, it's perfect for kids, with chapters that often end in cliffhangers and many nights they asked if we could keep reading. Highly recommended as a readaloud. You may want to read the author's note before you read to your kids so you can tell them that a lot of what's in the book really happened and that the author really did help her parents run a motel when she was a kid.
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  • Beth
    January 1, 1970
    I read three compelling books this weekend. This was the first, and the easiest to talk about. It's a straightforward story - maybe too straightforward - the sort of children's book where the child is the focus of the story, that which propels it forward. There's a charm to that, because often children are reactive. I don't mean passive: think of Narnia, where they walk through a wardrobe and find themselves in another world. How many children's books read like that?There's a certain unre I read three compelling books this weekend. This was the first, and the easiest to talk about. It's a straightforward story - maybe too straightforward - the sort of children's book where the child is the focus of the story, that which propels it forward. There's a charm to that, because often children are reactive. I don't mean passive: think of Narnia, where they walk through a wardrobe and find themselves in another world. How many children's books read like that?There's a certain unreality to this type of storytelling, too. It's exciting, the idea that children can shape their worlds. But somehow it's less convincing to me than Narnia. "What if?" is a more persuasive foundation upon which to build a book. "What if my world is bigger than I imagine? What if I face something unexpected?" It speaks to me more than "How can I solve everyone's problems, armed only with a good heart?"It's not a fantasy-over-contemporary preference, either. Mia has so much success that I find her almost incongruous in her own story. Possessing enormous, inspiring goodwill isn't really the key to clawing your way out of poverty before you've hit teenagehood, is it? Mia's circumstances are important, though, and maybe, like her parents say, this is the story of America, and you are freer here. It's a message I didn't expect to find in these - let's say tumultuous - times. As an aside: I can make a strong case for Jason being the best character in the book, starting with the fact that he's the only one who actually changes. The world needs Mias, scarce though they may be. But it needs more Jasons, people who come to look beyond themselves, to learn empathy - simply because there are more Jasons in the world.
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  • Jessica
    January 1, 1970
    Based on the author's own experience coming to America from China at a young age and having to help her parents manage a small hotel. Fascinating, heartbreaking, and ultimately full of hope. This is a book written with love, and even when things looked dark for Mia and her family, it was a book written with a sort of joy, and humor, that made even the bad things seem like they would be okay. I've heard a lot of buzz about this book, and it's entirely deserved. I am going to thinking about this b Based on the author's own experience coming to America from China at a young age and having to help her parents manage a small hotel. Fascinating, heartbreaking, and ultimately full of hope. This is a book written with love, and even when things looked dark for Mia and her family, it was a book written with a sort of joy, and humor, that made even the bad things seem like they would be okay. I've heard a lot of buzz about this book, and it's entirely deserved. I am going to thinking about this book, and telling people about it, for a long time!
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  • Adriana
    January 1, 1970
    AN INCREDIBLY BRILLIANT TOUR DE FORCE WITH SO MUCH HEART AND SO MUCH TO SAY. READ IT 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼
  • Manybooks
    January 1, 1970
    Although I have for the most part very much enjoyed Kelly Yang's (semi-autobiographoical) Middle Grade immigration novel Front Desk, I am also just a wee bit conflicted regarding some of the novel's thematics and contents. Now indeed, I do generally and for the most part very much love young Mia's first person singular narration in Front Desk. Her voice most certainly does to and for me feel and read like an authentic ten year old, although indeed, I also do at times think that Mia acts and talks perhaps Although I have for the most part very much enjoyed Kelly Yang's (semi-autobiographoical) Middle Grade immigration novel Front Desk, I am also just a wee bit conflicted regarding some of the novel's thematics and contents. Now indeed, I do generally and for the most part very much love young Mia's first person singular narration in Front Desk. Her voice most certainly does to and for me feel and read like an authentic ten year old, although indeed, I also do at times think that Mia acts and talks perhaps just a bit too maturely and grown-up for a typical ten year old. However, that having all been said and if truth be told, young Mia is actually not really just a typical ten year old girl (for yes, Mia's experiences as a recent Chinese immigrant to the United Sates with little cash and no social safety net will have of course and sadly, unfortunately made her even at the tender age of ten much more grown-up, with more adult-type experiences and problems than what children being raised and living in more affluent families and in better areas would ever likely experience at such young ages). But while I do definitely appreciate and applaud Mia's courage and determination in Front Desk and find her a generally delightfully relatable, entertaining and lovable main protagonist, I also and certainly must rather wonder whether Mia does for one not solve the multitude of problems that come her and her family's way (while they are managing that California motel at slave wages) just a trifle too quickly, conveniently and unproblematically and that for two, the conclusion, the ending for Front Desk is, while emotionally satisfying and making me smile, also a bit too fairy tale-like and Hollywood for my own and personal tastes and desires. And indeed, I have also found that some of the myriad of problems Mia and her family encounter tend to come across as almost a bit over-done and in one's face, almost as though author Kelly Yang has decided to have Mia and her parents experience almost everything that can go wrong for a recent Chinese immigrant family (and yes indeed, I for one would find Front Desk a bit more relatable and believable, a bit more realistic if the author had not just showered Mia's family with an absolute avalanche of issues and horrors and if the ending had been positive but not quite so wish-fulfillment and magical).
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  • Melanie
    January 1, 1970
    I first heard about this middle grade debut many months ago, and FRONT DESK has remained on my radar since then thanks to incredible reviews and word of mouth, all of which are solidly earned by the novel. I was invested in Mia's story from page one. I couldn't wait to find out what would happen to her and her Chinese immigrant family as they struggled to make ends meet as managers of a motel while the whole world seemed to be against them--except, ultimately, their own vibrant diverse community I first heard about this middle grade debut many months ago, and FRONT DESK has remained on my radar since then thanks to incredible reviews and word of mouth, all of which are solidly earned by the novel. I was invested in Mia's story from page one. I couldn't wait to find out what would happen to her and her Chinese immigrant family as they struggled to make ends meet as managers of a motel while the whole world seemed to be against them--except, ultimately, their own vibrant diverse community. I'm especially fond of Mia's mother, a complicated woman who sometimes pushes too hard and reminds us that no parent is perfect, but that doesn't mean that we don't love our kids. Highly recommended for classrooms, libraries, and readers of all ages.
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  • Kelly
    January 1, 1970
    Mia's family immigrated from China, and finding a job has been tough for her parents. But when the opportunity arises that allows them to live at a motel in exchange for their work (and a small salary on top of that), they take it. Mia is, of course, also recruited for covering shifts at the desk.What follows is a story of Mia learning to fit into her new school, navigating new friendships and explanations for what her life is like, dealing with racism, and finding herself in the pos Mia's family immigrated from China, and finding a job has been tough for her parents. But when the opportunity arises that allows them to live at a motel in exchange for their work (and a small salary on top of that), they take it. Mia is, of course, also recruited for covering shifts at the desk.What follows is a story of Mia learning to fit into her new school, navigating new friendships and explanations for what her life is like, dealing with racism, and finding herself in the position to change the fate of many of the weeklies in the motel. All the while, Mia remains a supremely likable character you root for -- even when you know some of the decisions she makes aren't particularly great ones. Yang dives deep into what life is like for newly arrived immigrants, as well as frankly explores racism and social class at numerous levels. There's no shying away from the big challenges and issues here, all while showing how a young girl can make a big difference in the lives of those around her. And maybe that's why I liked most: those smaller moments. The desire Mia had to make the people and world around her a little brighter, even when she, herself, put her wishes at the bottom of the pyramid.
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  • Jen Petro-Roy
    January 1, 1970
    Absolutely spectacular. This is a must-read and such a vivid window into the life of new immigrants and those struggling with money. I love the voice in this one, and the supporting characters are so great.
  • Jillian Heise
    January 1, 1970
    So full of heart and love. With messages of acceptance and perseverance and community, this is a story that is so needed today. This middle grade is a must-add to classroom and school libraries.
  • Cheryl
    January 1, 1970
    Much darker and more intense than the cover suggests. Normally in a book about a family facing extraordinary challenges, the reader sees at least some love, some light. There's very little of that here. And the happy ending, well, I suppose it *could* happen. The author's note teaches some history and explains that the book is almost a memoir, but doesn't claim that it's all really true. I have no idea if young readers will appreciate the story, either. I hope they do, so, rounding up my persona Much darker and more intense than the cover suggests. Normally in a book about a family facing extraordinary challenges, the reader sees at least some love, some light. There's very little of that here. And the happy ending, well, I suppose it *could* happen. The author's note teaches some history and explains that the book is almost a memoir, but doesn't claim that it's all really true. I have no idea if young readers will appreciate the story, either. I hope they do, so, rounding up my personal 3.5 star reaction to do my bit to get more ppl to read and share it.
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  • Rase McCray
    January 1, 1970
    Just over a year ago, I read Gary D. Schmidt’s Okay For Now, and I was absolutely blown away by how good it was. It’s easily one of the best middle grade books I’ve ever read—maybe THE best middle grade book I’ve read.Front Desk by Kelly Yang is the best book I’ve read since then—it’s that good. It’s funny and exciting even as it explores heavy subjects, and main character Mia’s charm and wit carry you through to a nail biting, high stakes climax. Basically, I can’t say enough good t Just over a year ago, I read Gary D. Schmidt’s Okay For Now, and I was absolutely blown away by how good it was. It’s easily one of the best middle grade books I’ve ever read—maybe THE best middle grade book I’ve read.Front Desk by Kelly Yang is the best book I’ve read since then—it’s that good. It’s funny and exciting even as it explores heavy subjects, and main character Mia’s charm and wit carry you through to a nail biting, high stakes climax. Basically, I can’t say enough good things about this book!If you haven’t read it already, you owe it to yourself to read it right now.
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  • Aj Sterkel
    January 1, 1970
    Likes: This book is an #OwnVoices novel based on the author’s experience as a Chinese immigrant whose parents ran a motel. The author actually spent part of her childhood working at the front desk. The book’s main character, Mia, is a likeable child. She’s resourceful and independent and puts up with a lot of nonsense from adults. At a young age, she has to face racism, poverty, crime, homelessness, and her parents being exploited by their bosses. Even though this novel’s plot is relentlessly depressi Likes: This book is an #OwnVoices novel based on the author’s experience as a Chinese immigrant whose parents ran a motel. The author actually spent part of her childhood working at the front desk. The book’s main character, Mia, is a likeable child. She’s resourceful and independent and puts up with a lot of nonsense from adults. At a young age, she has to face racism, poverty, crime, homelessness, and her parents being exploited by their bosses. Even though this novel’s plot is relentlessly depressing at times, you get the sense that Mia will be okay. Since she solves every problem that comes at her, she’ll probably find her way off the “poverty rollercoaster” eventually. Mia’s family’s situation is bleak, but it never feels completely hopeless.Mia’s parents are loving, but not perfect. There are a lot of conflicts between characters in this story. The most unique one is between Mia and her mother. Mia loves to write. Her mother thinks Mia will never be good at “native” English and wants her to focus on math instead. Parental expectations are a common theme in middlegrade books, but I haven’t seen this exact conflict before. I love that Mia keeps working on her writing, even when her mother disapproves. She’s definitely a strong-willed child. I like that the reader can see her English improve over the course of the novel. All of that practice is paying off.Dislikes: Honestly, I struggled with this book. If I wasn’t judging it for the Cybils Awards, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. I found the structure repetitive and tedious. It’s like the author made a list of everything that could go wrong for a Chinese family running a motel and gave Mia 10 pages to fix each problem. She solves a lot of the problems by writing letters. I picked up on the formula quickly and got bored. This is a children’s book, so maybe kids will have more patience with the repetition than I did.I don’t want to spoil anything, but I didn’t believe the ending. I was happy that something had finally gone right for Mia’s family, but why couldn’t something go realistically right?I also had to keep reminding myself that Mia is supposed to be 10. She comes across as a much older character. Since she starts the book as a strong, capable child, she doesn’t really grow up over the course of the story. Her character is static. I didn’t feel like she learned much from her nonstop problem-solving because she already knows everything.The Bottom Line: I appreciate that it’s #OwnVoices and shines light on immigrant experiences, but it’s definitely not a “me” book. I lost patience with the repetitiveness.Do you like opinions, giveaways, and bookish nonsense? I have a blog for that.
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  • Karen Witzler
    January 1, 1970
    Grades 4 -6 - Front Desk is written from the perspective of Mia Tang, who along with her parents runs the Calivista Motel. Mia is 10(?) years old and she and her parents have just arrived in California from China. This book provides a window into the lives of immigrants who may live in a state of cultural/legal limbo as they attempt to establish a life on a new part of the globe. Exploitative employers, loan sharks, the US health care system, racism, as well as kindness, hard work, and persevera Grades 4 -6 - Front Desk is written from the perspective of Mia Tang, who along with her parents runs the Calivista Motel. Mia is 10(?) years old and she and her parents have just arrived in California from China. This book provides a window into the lives of immigrants who may live in a state of cultural/legal limbo as they attempt to establish a life on a new part of the globe. Exploitative employers, loan sharks, the US health care system, racism, as well as kindness, hard work, and perseverance are seen through Mia's eyes. Empathy-building and also one of those Movin' on Up and Only in America tales even if Mia is not quite Huck Finn. It is likely that a lot of young people would see themselves and their family situation mirrored in that of the Chinese-American Tangs.
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  • Kathie
    January 1, 1970
    ALL the stars, and easily one of my very favorite books of the year!!!! .FRONT DESK is highly deserving of every positive review. It’s an eye opening book that will warm your heart one minute, and have you shaking your head in frustration the next. I can’t remember the last time I experienced so many emotions, and felt like I really comprehended what it can be like for an immigrant family in America. You definitely need to make time to read this book, and add it to your classroom lib ALL the stars, and easily one of my very favorite books of the year!!!! .FRONT DESK is highly deserving of every positive review. It’s an eye opening book that will warm your heart one minute, and have you shaking your head in frustration the next. I can’t remember the last time I experienced so many emotions, and felt like I really comprehended what it can be like for an immigrant family in America. You definitely need to make time to read this book, and add it to your classroom libraries and discussions.
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  • Mary Lee
    January 1, 1970
    An insider's story of the challenges of immigration, language learning, poverty. This book doesn't flinch away from racism, classism, gender bias or bullying. Mia, the main character, is full of spunk and perseverance. In a hundred small ways (and a few big ones) she changes lives with her positive ideas and actions.
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  • Liesl Shurtliff
    January 1, 1970
    I loved this book so much. Everyone should read it. Read it it your kids. Read it to your class. Read it to yourself. A much needed book.
  • Laura Harrison
    January 1, 1970
    Disregard the cute but fluff cover art. This is a serious Newbery contender for 2019. Better yet, children will love it!
  • Lou (Lou and Life)
    January 1, 1970
    THIS BOOK IS AMAZING. I absolutely loved it. This book was everything that I was expecting it to be and more. I have a lot of books on my to be read pile of probably 400+ books, but within 24 hours of the book arriving in my house, I had read it. That is amazing for a reader like me. So Front Desk is a middle grade book that tackles so many important topics in such a good way. It deals with topics like racism, but not only to Asians, but to Black people as well. The story asks us to question the THIS BOOK IS AMAZING. I absolutely loved it. This book was everything that I was expecting it to be and more. I have a lot of books on my to be read pile of probably 400+ books, but within 24 hours of the book arriving in my house, I had read it. That is amazing for a reader like me. So Front Desk is a middle grade book that tackles so many important topics in such a good way. It deals with topics like racism, but not only to Asians, but to Black people as well. The story asks us to question the stereotypes society places on races, and to ask the reader if those perceptions on races seem right or fair.The plot of this book is more of a slice-of-life of Mia’s story. There is no clear plot, rather a combination of subplots that form Mia’s life. I really like that because there was always something different happening, and kept me reading. Front Desk made my eyes water so many times, and I actually cried at one point. I was expecting to relate to this book through Mia being a child navigating life as an Asian-American, to my experiences of being Euro-Asian as a child, but I didn’t expect to relate to Mia’s financial circumstances so much, and it hit me hard, and even made me cry at times.The best part of this book is the characters. You can’t help but fall in love with Mia as soon as you love her. Then you have Mia’s parents who work their best to provide a better life for Mia, and they are so great. Of course Mia’s mother reminds me a lot of my own. I remember being 16, and it was Christmas Day. My mother was almost forcing me to choose maths for A-Levels when we was having our Christmas lunch, and I spent the rest of the day crying because maths was one of my weakest subjects. I had to study so hard in order to be an average student. Luckily my mother eventually relented (mainly because of the influence of my father), but I understood Mia so well, and related to her. In many ways, I saw my own childhood in Mia.There is also great secondary characters. Mia’s best friend is Lupe, a Mexican immigrant, and you see a tiny bit of her culture through Mia's conversations with Lupe. Then there’s Jason, a Taiwanese boy who was born in America and makes Mia’s life hell, and all the regular people who stay at the motel. It’s almost as if the characters come off the page and meet you in real life when you read this book.Overall, I give this book a big 5/5! Front Desk is an important book because it shows the perspective of an immigrant. Unless you are one yourself, reading Front Desk is a great way to partially understand the same world that different people navigate through. It’s especially important if you end up reading this book to a young child, because it could teach them how the world works differently for others, and not to be so mean to other children. I cannot recommend this book more!
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  • Tracy
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to the Kid Lit Exchange for sharing a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.FRONT DESK is loosely based on author Kelly Yang’s life experience, as explained in an author’s note at the end of the book.Her straightforward writing makes this book perfect for younger middle grade readers (Mia is 10). Yet Yang tackles difficult issues like interpersonal, systemic, and institutional racism. She writes so simply and honestly, it’s hard to imagine a young perso Thanks to the Kid Lit Exchange for sharing a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.FRONT DESK is loosely based on author Kelly Yang’s life experience, as explained in an author’s note at the end of the book.Her straightforward writing makes this book perfect for younger middle grade readers (Mia is 10). Yet Yang tackles difficult issues like interpersonal, systemic, and institutional racism. She writes so simply and honestly, it’s hard to imagine a young person walking away without understanding these powerful messages.FRONT DESK is infused with dark truths about America and still manages to be light, heartwarming, and fast-paced. Lovable Mia solves problems by using her writing skills—not her math skills as her mother wishes she would. She beats the system by using her words, often disguised as the words of adults, to point out injustices and find pathways to a better life for her family and friends.Mia’s and her parents’ find—actually, create—community at the Calavista Motel. They fight back when multiple systems conspire to make life impossible for Hank, an African American man who lives at the hotel. They devise a system to hide desperate Chinese immigrants in vacant rooms. This is deep social justice work, accompanied by anecdotes of Mia’s follies at the front desk and problems at school.The book ends on a hopeful note, with the Tangs’ community surrounding them to help them take the first step off the poverty rollercoaster. The solution they come up with has a chance at helping others get off, too.FRONT DESK shifts the narrative about the American experience, acknowledging that there are many American experiences. The pathway to the American Dream can take many forms, and Yang has described one that is heart wrenching, hopeful, and a lot of fun along the way.One final note: I was disappointed to see some early reviews of FRONT DESK that criticized it for being too mature, age-inconsistent, or “political” for younger readers. I have no doubt that these criticisms were written by fellow white parents. If you have the choice whether to expose your child to racism and other social injustices, you’re showing your privilege. Kids of color don’t get to choose whether they want to be exposed to racism. It’s a part of their lives from birth. So why would we choose to withhold that information from our white children? When we withhold books on the experiences of other cultures because they make us uncomfortable, we’re a part of the problem. Exposing our children and ourselves to books that represent diverse perspectives can be a first step toward understanding our own roles in upholding the systems of injustice in our country.
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  • Laura (bbliophile)
    January 1, 1970
    I stayed up way too late to finish this book but I have no regrets because I loved it so, so much
  • Bookishrealm
    January 1, 1970
    Update! Here's my full review: https://bookishrealmreviews.blogspot....This. Book. Is. Phenomenal. I don’t know why more people don’t know about this book but it is AMAZING and is one of the most important books that can be read by anyone at any age. It speaks to discrimination, bigotry, immigration, the importance of community, friendship, and more. I love that a lot of this book was based on the experiences of the author. Some parts were hard to read but I realized how important they were to the narrative of the story. I de Update! Here's my full review: https://bookishrealmreviews.blogspot....This. Book. Is. Phenomenal. I don’t know why more people don’t know about this book but it is AMAZING and is one of the most important books that can be read by anyone at any age. It speaks to discrimination, bigotry, immigration, the importance of community, friendship, and more. I love that a lot of this book was based on the experiences of the author. Some parts were hard to read but I realized how important they were to the narrative of the story. I definitely will be doing a full review of this one.
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