Front Desk by Kelly Yang

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Front Desk by Kelly Yang (Scholastic, 2018) is a story about a family of immigrants from China who are trying to achieve the American dream, but they haven’t been having much success. In this first novel of a middle-grade series, Mia begins to see just how she can help her family with her skills and ideas. It strikes me as funny to realize that Front Desk is historical fiction taking place in the 1990s!

Mia finds herself starting in a new school once again, as her parents take another job, this time as managers of a small motel. Since she’s been growing up and attending school in America for the past few years, Mia’s English is stronger than that of her parents, and she has begun to realize just how much her parents have been taken advantage of. Their new boss, Mr. Yao, has unrealistic expectations for the motel, but Mia is determined to help her parents be successful in running the motel. After school, she takes over as front desk “manager” of the motel.

But working in the motel is not the only challenge in Mia’s life: now Mia has to face Mr. Yao’s bratty son in her middle school class as well! Plus, Mia’s parents have been hiding immigrants in the empty hotel rooms without charging them, and Mia needs to help keep the secret from Mr. Yao. As for Mia, although she has learned English as a second language, she has found the power behind the written word. Even though her mother discourages her, Mia continues to improve her writing. It turns out that her writing helps her family, her friends in the motel, and the motel itself.

I loved the characters in this book. They were likeable (the ones who were supposed to be likeable) and clever. Mia’s solutions for helping didn’t always work out how she expected, but she still found success that helps her family on their “American dream” journey. I look forward to reading her continued story in the sequels.

Reviewed on May 10, 2023

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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