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Front Desk

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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 Ta 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?


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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 Ta 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?

30 review for Front Desk

  1. 4 out of 5

    Donalyn

    Much deeper and complex than the playful cover indicates. A wonderful story about immigrants, poverty, and family.

  2. 5 out of 5

    emma

    This is very cute. And fun. And also nice. Not sure how much thoughtful analysis and critique you really want from a 23 year old on this award-winning and beloved children's book, which was in no way made for me. I am very jealous of the middle grade readers of today, because instead of my reading at the age of nine consisting of desperately trying to sneak into the young adult section of the library (which was on another floor and involved covertly passing not one but TWO information desks) witho This is very cute. And fun. And also nice. Not sure how much thoughtful analysis and critique you really want from a 23 year old on this award-winning and beloved children's book, which was in no way made for me. I am very jealous of the middle grade readers of today, because instead of my reading at the age of nine consisting of desperately trying to sneak into the young adult section of the library (which was on another floor and involved covertly passing not one but TWO information desks) without being kindly and firmly redirected by the children's librarian (Ms. Lori, I see now that you were on the right side, but then I viewed you as a military spy views the opposition), it could have been filled with stories like these, with solid but not overly didactic morals and diverse casts and stories I wouldn't have heard otherwise. Instead, this white kid in the suburbs read a lot about other white kids in the suburbs. We all live with regrets. Bottom line: Good stuff! I should not be reviewing this. 3.5 stars ------------ pre-review i am exclusively reading this because the cover is so cute i could explode. ------------ taking lily's idea and reading only books by asian authors this month! book 1: the incendiaries book 2: last night at the telegraph club book 3: dear girls book 4: sigh, gone book 5: frankly in love book 6: emergency contact book 7: your house will pay book 8: convenience store woman book 9: on earth we're briefly gorgeous book 10: we are not free book 11: searching for sylvie lee book 12: the displaced book 13: schoolgirl book 14: sweet bean paste book 15: little fires everywhere book 16: trust exercise book 17: front desk

  3. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea (chelseadolling reads)

    This book was absolutely phenomenal. And that author's note? My heart is aching. So powerful and so incredibly moving. TW: racism, bullying, police brutality This book was absolutely phenomenal. And that author's note? My heart is aching. So powerful and so incredibly moving. TW: racism, bullying, police brutality

  4. 4 out of 5

    Julie G (time traveling for a week)

    This middle grades novel features a Chinese-American protagonist named Mia, a nasty hotel owner named Mr. Yao, and the most realistic tackling of the subject of racism that I've ever encountered in a juvenile lit read. Mr. Yao is mean as hell and uses adult language (my 9 & 11-year-old daughters found this to be a scintillating element), and he uses and abuses Mia's parents, Chinese immigrants who have recently arrived in the U.S. People are hungry in this novel. Truly hungry. People are beaten, t This middle grades novel features a Chinese-American protagonist named Mia, a nasty hotel owner named Mr. Yao, and the most realistic tackling of the subject of racism that I've ever encountered in a juvenile lit read. Mr. Yao is mean as hell and uses adult language (my 9 & 11-year-old daughters found this to be a scintillating element), and he uses and abuses Mia's parents, Chinese immigrants who have recently arrived in the U.S. People are hungry in this novel. Truly hungry. People are beaten, too, and judged for the color of their skin. This is a tough examination of life for people of color and recent immigrants, and the author, Kelly Yang, knows a little something about the subject, and she doesn't shy away from tackling the tough stuff here. My daughters, who were once new immigrants from China themselves, were both drawn in and startled by this middle grades read. So was I. Although the ending was unrealistic for all of us, this 286 page novel is one we won't be forgetting anytime soon. Our favorite line from the book: It's going to be okay. I'll make friends, and if I don't, I'll borrow books from the library.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gavin Hetherington

    A fantastic contemporary (though it's set in the 90s) middle grade novel that follows Mia Tang and her parents after leaving China for America. They find work at a motel but it isn't easy (nor profitable) for them, as they face so many obstacles as they try to live and work in poverty. Not only that, but Mia is enrolled in a nearby school, and constantly being a new kid is tiring to her, especially when she faces racism and bullying from her peers. Mia helps her parents at the motel, usually wor A fantastic contemporary (though it's set in the 90s) middle grade novel that follows Mia Tang and her parents after leaving China for America. They find work at a motel but it isn't easy (nor profitable) for them, as they face so many obstacles as they try to live and work in poverty. Not only that, but Mia is enrolled in a nearby school, and constantly being a new kid is tiring to her, especially when she faces racism and bullying from her peers. Mia helps her parents at the motel, usually working the front desk, and at times even helping immigrants who are needing a place to stay. The fact this book is also based on the author's own life when she was between the ages of 8 and 12 really heightens the impact this novel has. It also boasts the strength of Mia and her determination to help her family. I loved Mia and everything she tried to do to make her parents, and herself, happier. She is helpful, though she doesn't always get it right, and believe me I FELT for her when she made mistakes. This is a family who can't afford to make mistakes, and the level of empathy I felt while reading this was high. A really compelling undercurrent of morals makes this a riveting read, and at times I was unsure what to expect from this book. It left me rooting for a family that felt real (I know they kind of are since it's based on real life, but I mean the author has done an amazing job at representing them fictionally) and I was really anticipating the outcome. This was also, at times, rather harrowing when the characters are faced with racism and you hear stories about other immigrants who are desperate to find work. These moments really enhanced the story, because it's more than just a story when it's a reflection of reality. It made me feel so damn privileged and reflective of my own luck. It made me think about a different perspective and appreciate what everyday people go through. Kelly Yang, the author, is just incredible and I have so much respect and admiration for her.

  6. 5 out of 5

    jenny✨

    This blasted year isn't over yet, but I knew the moment I read this book that it would be my best read of 2020. Here is a novel I can't stop thinking about, can't stop talking about. Mia's story—her love for her family and the motel, her fiery determination to stand up for her friends—tackles racism, immigration, poverty, owning our mistakes, and solidarity between people of colour. It is a call to action, a heartwarming tale based on true events, that uplifts without ever being heavy-handed. Mi This blasted year isn't over yet, but I knew the moment I read this book that it would be my best read of 2020. Here is a novel I can't stop thinking about, can't stop talking about. Mia's story—her love for her family and the motel, her fiery determination to stand up for her friends—tackles racism, immigration, poverty, owning our mistakes, and solidarity between people of colour. It is a call to action, a heartwarming tale based on true events, that uplifts without ever being heavy-handed. Mia and Front Desk have captured my whole damn heart. ◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️◻️ UPDATE 01/26/2021: In the time since I read this in May 2020, I've recommended Front Desk to five friends—and birthday-gifted copies to two—and each friend has fallen utterly in love with Mia, just like I did. One of those friends is an educator, and she selected Front Desk as a book club pick for her students in December. It's incredible seeing how this book brings such joy to the people who find themselves immersed in Mia's story. All of this to say: READ THIS BOOK. It has touched the hearts of many of my people, and I just know that it will resonate with you, too.

  7. 4 out of 5

    CW (The Quiet Pond) ✨

    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 si 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)]

  8. 5 out of 5

    Fadwa (Word Wonders)

    CW: physical assault, racism, employee mistreatment, poverty, systemic oppression, anti-blackness, bullying, talk of robbery and assault, hospital. I really do not know where to start with this review because I went into it not knowing what to expect, not even knowing what the book was about and it absolutely blew me away. FRONT DESK is both wholesome because of the main character's desire to help everyone and heavy because of the topics it deals with. This motel was a micro-society of its own, t CW: physical assault, racism, employee mistreatment, poverty, systemic oppression, anti-blackness, bullying, talk of robbery and assault, hospital. I really do not know where to start with this review because I went into it not knowing what to expect, not even knowing what the book was about and it absolutely blew me away. FRONT DESK is both wholesome because of the main character's desire to help everyone and heavy because of the topics it deals with. This motel was a micro-society of its own, through it the author was able to tackle so many topics while keeping them accessible to kids who might read this book and doing so from the lens, innocence and sometimes naivety of a little girl. Mia is such an incredible main character that you can't help but love her. Her and her family have immigrated from China two years prior to the start of the book hoping for a better life but the truth was a cold shower, they found themselves living well below the poverty line and struggling to stay afloat. Mia is determined to do whatever she can to help herself and her parents out of that situation, and whatever she can she does. She's so smart and resourceful and just a hopeful kid you know? She didn't take no for an answer. And seeing how passionate she was about so many things: the motel, writing, and most of all standing up in the face of injustice even if it got her in trouble, and doing her best to set things right. Finding out at the end that so many of the experiences in the book are directly taken out of the author's life made this story even more poignant. She helped her parents run a motel as a kid, they helped immigrants, her mom was assaulted, their bosses her terrible,the racism and anti-blackness ran rampant and it's just...a lot. This story made me smile and laugh, and cry and it moved me in so many ways that I know that it will be a book that I put into my kids' hands one day because of how fun and engaging it is, while still managing to initiate and educate kids about the hardships of life like what it is like to be very poor and struggle with money, what it is like to be an immigrant who doesn't have their paper just yet, what it is like to be a person of color, etc... and the oppression and mistreatment that come with being at the intersection of all those things. This is an incredible read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Vegan

    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 a 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!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kate Olson

    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 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.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Reads Ravenously

    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 thi 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 ♥

  12. 5 out of 5

    Adri

    AN INCREDIBLY BRILLIANT TOUR DE FORCE WITH SO MUCH HEART AND SO MUCH TO SAY. READ IT 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

  13. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    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 t 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.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Christy

    4.5 Stars. This was the first book I chose to try out for Middle Grade March and I found the author, Kelly Yang, to be so fascinating. She started going to college at the young age of 13 and graduated from UC Berkeley at 17 and Harvard Law School at 20.... WOW!! No wonder she can write a good story. Plus, much of this book is based on real life experiences that she went through. I listened to this one on Audio and thought it was a delightful, yet somewhat difficult read full of issues. It's not 4.5 Stars. This was the first book I chose to try out for Middle Grade March and I found the author, Kelly Yang, to be so fascinating. She started going to college at the young age of 13 and graduated from UC Berkeley at 17 and Harvard Law School at 20.... WOW!! No wonder she can write a good story. Plus, much of this book is based on real life experiences that she went through. I listened to this one on Audio and thought it was a delightful, yet somewhat difficult read full of issues. It's not just a light, fluffy book written for kids. It's a story centered around Mia Tang and her family. The unique thing about her family is that they live in a hotel. Her parents work 24/7 for next to nothing, while Mia often helps out managing the front desk. The hotel owner, Mr. Yao, is an absolute jerk and uses Mia's parents in the worst way. There is a lot of poverty and racism in this book, and it really examines how different the lives of people can be.... particularly immigrants. I love Mia. She is such a sweet, brave, and smart girl. She wants to help all the immigrants her parents hide and loves to write, even though her mom thinks she can't possibly be good at it compared to the white kids. Her letters written to different people were some of my favorite parts. Mia was always going the extra mile to help anyone out that she could. This book could be a shining example to young minds about the importance of kindness and compassion. Plus the racial issues could be a really great discussion for middle school kids.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    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."

  16. 5 out of 5

    Reading_ Tamishly

    This is the story of a girl whose family moved from China and is having a hard time dealing with the difficult owner of the motel where her parents are given the job of full-time managers. They meet different kinds of people, the good and the bad. The way the story is being written tells that giving up and living like a victim are not the solutions. I loved how hopeful this story made me feel. It feels so good reading about a family struggling their days to survive but living their lives like the This is the story of a girl whose family moved from China and is having a hard time dealing with the difficult owner of the motel where her parents are given the job of full-time managers. They meet different kinds of people, the good and the bad. The way the story is being written tells that giving up and living like a victim are not the solutions. I loved how hopeful this story made me feel. It feels so good reading about a family struggling their days to survive but living their lives like they would do everything they could to protect themselves and those they care about. It's their never giving up attitude on the ones they love that made all the difference. Unity in diversity indeed. "I would make them a cup of tea if they were having a bad day. And I would get it out of them what happened. Because sometimes terrible things happen, but there's nothing more terrible than not having anybody to tell it to." The multicultural representation is done so well. The culture shock and the circumstances in which the new migrants struggle to survive, the ways they try to adjust to the unfairness and how things really get to be difficult for them are shown in the story in such a way that it's realistic and told quite genuinely. There are so many stories happening in this story! I loved every bit of it. Such a good book. I don't know what I have been reading all this time. "Here we are, strangers from all corners of the world, blown to the Calivista by the winds of life, only to find each other and reemerge as a new family." "Life's short and it's important to celebrate the good stuff when it happens." You will come across one of the most hateful fictional characters in this book. Mr. Yao. Go to hell. And seriously, mothers stop putting down your daughters. It sucks as it happens more in real. Do read the author's note at the end of the book. You will see why the story is so real. Dear author, you're the best writer as Mia is in the story. I see you in her. *Bullying, racist remarks and acts And this one on gender discrimination that still exists: "There used to be a time when I let my cousins walk all over me. They were all boys, and I was the only girl, and in China, girls are kind of like spare tires. It's nice if you have one, but they're not important." This book! 2021 favourite obviously! "You can't win if you don't play." This is the kind of book I would want every school library must have. "It's going to be okay. I'll make friends, and if I don't, I'll borrow books from the library." (Her first thought on attending a new school.)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Manybooks

    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 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 I also do at times think that Mia acts and talks perhaps just a 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 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 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 I for one would definitely find Front Desk 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).

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    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.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sheena

    The most wholesome book I have ever read. The themes of this book are SOOOO important: racism, poverty, community.. I love children's books that can be read by any age. If my child doesn't turn out like Mia - I don't want it. I could gush about this book but just read it instead. Thank you Jenny for the recommendation and I can't wait to read the next one!!!! The most wholesome book I have ever read. The themes of this book are SOOOO important: racism, poverty, community.. I love children's books that can be read by any age. If my child doesn't turn out like Mia - I don't want it. I could gush about this book but just read it instead. Thank you Jenny for the recommendation and I can't wait to read the next one!!!!

  20. 4 out of 5

    breana / milkyboos ♡

    what a wonderful story! add to the list of books i wish i had as a kid 🥺 i teared up so many times throughout the story and the author’s note opened the floodgates ;-; mia is such a lovely protag and i can’t wait to read the rest of the series!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Aj Sterkel

    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 de 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.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    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!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lisa (Remarkablylisa)

    The book that everyone needs to read! It discusses racism inside the immigrant community. The relationship between Taiwanese and Chinese people. The scary life of immigrants. And racial profiling towards black people from the police. It's the perfect book to read to younger readers or for yourself. The book that everyone needs to read! It discusses racism inside the immigrant community. The relationship between Taiwanese and Chinese people. The scary life of immigrants. And racial profiling towards black people from the police. It's the perfect book to read to younger readers or for yourself.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    I promise I'm not crying right now. Something must have jumped right into my eyes. Weird. What a beautiful story that was so relatable to this particular immigrant kid. My girls read this book and re-read it a year or so ago and I am so glad I decided to read it too. Now to go and grab some tissues. I promise I'm not crying right now. Something must have jumped right into my eyes. Weird. What a beautiful story that was so relatable to this particular immigrant kid. My girls read this book and re-read it a year or so ago and I am so glad I decided to read it too. Now to go and grab some tissues.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tessa

    This book is terrible. Good points: --The relationship between Mia and her mom was complex and interesting. --That cover is beautiful! Bad points: --Mia needs to be SPANKED. Seriously. This child lies, steals, forges letters, and inserts herself into everyone's business. Is there anything she won't interfere with? To make things worse, the adults around her celebrate it and encourage her to keep doing this. Mia's a nosy brat. --This book is so SIMPLISTIC. Have a huge problem? Don't worry, a nine-y This book is terrible. Good points: --The relationship between Mia and her mom was complex and interesting. --That cover is beautiful! Bad points: --Mia needs to be SPANKED. Seriously. This child lies, steals, forges letters, and inserts herself into everyone's business. Is there anything she won't interfere with? To make things worse, the adults around her celebrate it and encourage her to keep doing this. Mia's a nosy brat. --This book is so SIMPLISTIC. Have a huge problem? Don't worry, a nine-year-old who isn't fluent in English will write a letter that will solve everything. These aren't simple problems either. Mia actually forges a letter of recommendation for one of her friends that lies about his work history. He gets the job he applied for. --There are way way way too many issues shoehorned into this short junior book. None of them have space to resolve in a realistic way. --The characterizations in this book are very simplistic. All immigrants are poor but good. All police officers and people in charge are mean bullies. There is no depth or nuance in this book; it has an agenda and it pushes it hard. This book had an opportunity to explore an interesting story about struggling immigrants but it got lost in all this nonsense. --This book feels dated. The hotel Mia's family works at charges $20 per night. That is like...unbelievably cheap. Other parts of the story (such as the list of black people that local businesses won't serve) feel like they are straight out of the eighties or nineties, but this book was published in 2018. EDIT: Someone in the comments pointed out that it is actually stated in the book that it is set in 1993. That's good! But the fact that I read the entire thing and didn't catch that (because it was only mentioned once) is very poor writing. Overall: This book is terrible. This is a case of a good premise that is killed by the execution of the story.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ms. Yingling

    ARC provided by the publisher It'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 ARC provided by the publisher It'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!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bookishrealm

    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 t 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.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Liesl Shurtliff

    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.

  29. 4 out of 5

    julianna ➹

    this is a middle-grade book that i really, really hope a lot of kids will have access to— especially kids of immigrants and chinese kids. this features a young girl whose immigrant parents have been struggling to find jobs to support themselves, and soon find themselves a job that seems to grant them hope, but ultimately turns out to pay them very little. the main character, Mia, then starts pitching in to help her parents by working at the front desk. there's a lot of struggling in this novel, this is a middle-grade book that i really, really hope a lot of kids will have access to— especially kids of immigrants and chinese kids. this features a young girl whose immigrant parents have been struggling to find jobs to support themselves, and soon find themselves a job that seems to grant them hope, but ultimately turns out to pay them very little. the main character, Mia, then starts pitching in to help her parents by working at the front desk. there's a lot of struggling in this novel, both within Mia's family as well as the immigrants that they choose to help. although painful to read at times, ultimately, this book provides insight into the painful truth of what immigrants and people of color face in America, and how it's not necessarily the land of the free when immigrants are often being extorted by people like loan sharks and companies. to be completely frank, this kind of extortion is definitely still happening today, and it's not right to pretend it doesn't exist. i (along with black reviewers) also thought that this book gave a very nuanced exploration of racism, and i really appreciated how antiblack sentiment within asian communities (specifically chinese in this case) was acknowledged and challenged. there also were anti-asian beliefs from non-asian people of color, which were also challenged! i thought this was really excellent, because poc solidarity is not always something that exists, and even when it does, internal biases often exist, which we all have to actively work to remove. also, i really liked how generational abuse was acknowledged within this, and how it presented the fact that your parents don't define who you are. there's always room for growth, for breaking the cycle of trauma, and for ultimately choosing to become better. the fact that it was based closely off of the author's own past (as noted in the author's note) really hits close to home for me, because these stories of immigrants being extorted could very well have happened to my parents. in the end, however, this is a story that's full of hope for the future and for change, and again, i just want to mass-print this book and send it to schools everywhere, because i don't know how i would have felt if it had read it as a kid— but it probably would have changed me for the better. specific representation: chinese cast, black side character, hispanic side character, taiwanese side characters content/trigger warnings: (view spoiler)[racism, antiblack racism, bullying, police brutality, racial profiling (of black people), physical assault, poverty (hide spoiler)] > buddy read with cas (we are not going to talk abt how she read the entire book before i started it)

  30. 5 out of 5

    Laura (bbliophile)

    I stayed up way too late to finish this book but I have no regrets because I loved it so, so much

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