Front Desk (Scholastic Gold) Paperback – June 25, 2019
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Asian / Pacific American Award for Children's Literature
Parents' Choice Gold Medal Fiction Award Winner
NPR Best Books of the Year
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Top Ten Debut Novels 2018 - ALA Booklist
* "Debut author Yang weaves in autobiographical content while creating a feisty and empowered heroine. The supporting characters are rich in voice and context, with multiple villains and friends that achingly reveal life in America in the 1990s for persons of color and those living in poverty. Heavy themes, including extortion, fraud, and racism, are balanced with the naïve dreams and determination of a 10-year-old.... With bittersweet information on Chinese immigration to America added in an author's note, this book captures many important themes to explore individually or in the classroom. Many readers will recognize themselves or their neighbors in these pages." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review
* "Mia herself is an irresistible protagonist, and it is a pleasure to see both her writing and her power grow through a series of letters that she sends to remedy injustices. The hefty and satisfying dose of wish fulfillment that closes the story feels fully earned by the specificity and detailed warmth of Yang's setup. Many young readers will see themselves in Mia and her friends.... A swiftly moving plot and a winsome protagonist make this a first purchase for any collection, especially where realistic fiction is in demand." -- School Library Journal, starred review
* "It's the details that sing in this novel, particularly the small moments that feel like everything when you're a kid...This book will help foster empathy for the immigrant experience for young readers, while for immigrant children, it is a much-needed and validating mirror....Deserving of shelf space in every classroom and library." -- Booklist, starred review
"Reminiscent of the television series Fresh Off the Boat, this title is an honest account of the ups and downs of immigrant life in America in the early 1990s, here told from a child's perspective. Basing the story on her own childhood experiences, Yang writes Mia's dreams into reality without sacrificing or minimizing the heartbreaking realities of many immigrants' hardships. Resilient Mia stumbles over and over again, but she satisfyingly picks herself right back up, often with the help of her parents, Calivista family, and friends. The question of whether Mia will win the essay contest is a big one, but whether or not the answer is yes, there is much satisfaction in this book's powerful and heart-wrenching close." -- Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books, starred review
"Mia's gradual understanding of racism and prejudice in America and her subsequent activism are at the heart of this triumphant tale. Readers will admire Mia for her audacity and her creativity.... Yang threads both comedy and social issues through Mia's relatable and entertaining storyline from a few decades ago (the 1990s) and makes it relevant to 2018 America." -- Horn Book
"Front Desk is a story about the hardships of immigrant life, the perpetuation of injustice, and a sweet, kind, indomitable young girl who chooses to rise up and fight no matter how hard it gets. Kelly Yang's debut is a stunner." -- Mike Jung, author of Unidentified Suburban Object
About the Author
when she was a young girl, and she grew up in California, in circumstances very similar to those of Mia Tang. She eventually left the motels and went to college at the age of 13, and is a graduate of UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School. Upon graduation, she gave up law to pursue her dream of writing and teaching kids writing. She is the founder of The Kelly Yang Project, a leading writing and debating program for children in Asia and the United States. She is also a columnist for the South China Morning Post and has been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Atlantic. Kelly is the mother
of three children and splits her time between Hong Kong and San Francisco. Please find her online at:
Facebook: www .facebook.com/kellyyangproject
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The novel, Front Desk by Kelly Yang, was a very interesting and exciting book. It shows stories of immigrants, the story of a ten year old running a motel, and the hardships of the Tang family. Mia is a ten year old girl who moved to America from China when she was eight years old. Though, her family is poor and is struggling in this country. When she and her family get employed in a motel called the Calivista, Mia runs the front desk. The story also follows Mia to school, around her motel, and through her memories back to China.
One reason why I loved this book was learning about the Tangs’ hardships. I think that this book can open the eyes of many people to how immigrating is hard and painful to many. When I learned about what the Tangs went through, I thought about what it must have been like for everyone else like them. More people need to know about these people and what they go through, and how they make America a great and stronger country.
One feature of the book I liked was that it shows stories of other Chinese immigrants. Like one, a true tale, was told by a man named Zhang. When he first came to America, he had borrowed money from the loan sharks,(500, to be precise), and then he had gotten a job in a restaurant to pay the loan sharks back. His employer had confiscated his passport and ID, and Zhang had to sleep in the boss’s basement. But, Immigration came to the cafe, and the employees were forced to escape. The point is, all the immigrants had very hard jobs, and they had no choice but to do them. This was a detail that came throughout the story that made the story more detailed and envisionable.
Those were the reasons why I loved this book, and you should definitely read this 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.
As a caveat to parents who care about this, there is one bad work in the book where one character calls another a name that starts with the letter b that is a term used to say someone is born out of wedlock. I feel it's OK for my daughter to read that word (not sure she even picked up on it) but figured some parents would feel differently.
Top international reviews
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 her 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 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!