Sep 26, 2023 Staff Reads: Front Desk
Reviewed by Charity Craig, Marketing Assistant
Front Desk, the award-winning first book in Kelly Yang’s series by the same name, is the story of ten-year-old Mia Tang, whose family immigrated to the United States from China. Her parents manage the Calivista Motel in Anaheim, California. While they clean the rooms, Mia runs the front desk and gets to know the guests, including the “weeklies,” who live at the motel.
If it seems like a lot of responsibility for a ten-year-old, it is. But Mia is up for the challenge. She even implements several of her own “procedures,” like recording guest’s addresses so she can return left-behind items and setting out a secret tip jar, that she hides from the greedy hotel owner, Mr. Yao. The tip jar is not the only thing Mia and her family are hiding. They also let other immigrants stay at the motel for free when they are down on their luck.
In addition to chronicling Mia’s life and work at the Calivista, Front Desk also includes Mia’s experiences at school, where she hides the details of her actual life and pretends to live in a large house with a dog. That’s what Mia imagined things would be like in America when her parents first told her they were leaving China to follow their dreams. Despite the difficult differences of her actual life in her new country, Mia hasn’t given up hope that things will get better. She also doesn’t let her troubles get in the way of being a good friend and helping others.
This is the message at the heart of Front Desk: no matter how difficult life becomes, there’s always hope for something better, especially when you’re surrounded by good friends and family who care about you. According to the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association, Yang’s perspective on issues facing immigrants also “is compelling and translatable beyond cultural borders by giving the voiceless a voice.” Front Desk was awarded the 2019 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature.
If you or the young readers (grades 4 – 8) in your family like a good story with a strong, spirited protagonist who embraces the challenges of home and school with creativity and ingenuity, or if you like books that deal with the complexities of the immigrant experience, especially for families with children, then Front Desk is for you! Get it in print, playaway, eAudio, or eBook.