Author Kelly Yang looked at her own life as an immigrant to create a touching, inspiring story of hope, empathy, and understanding. Racism is the central focus but strong themes of friendship front desk.jpgand never giving up also grace the pages. It reaffirms the belief there’s always someone who will help in time of need.

Ten-year-old Mia Tang and her parents get a job managing a motel in Anaheim, California. The owner is deceitful and greedy, going to great lengths to make life even harder for this family. Her parents clean rooms and deal with general upkeep, while Mia manages the front desk. She narrates with a lot of spunk, desperately wanting to make things better.  Her opinions often collide with a mother who has a more traditional view of how they should act.

Short chapters (67 in all) put you firmly on the side of this family. Mia takes to writing letters to get what she wants. Her writing skills are compromised by still learning the rules of English spelling and grammar, but she continues to improve. School is often not the happiest place, full of hateful attitudes and misunderstandings. The jeans you wear, or want to wear, bring many heartbreaking scenes. Mia’s one friend has her own troubled past in Mexico. Together they hope to get off the “roller coaster” and live a life of promise.

I highly recommend this touching look at life in the 1990’s for a Chinese immigrant. It provides an open avenue of discussion as we continue to struggle with the topic of immigration in the United States.

THE OFFICIAL BLURB (From Scholastic)

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?

Learn more about Kelly Yang and the Kelly Yang Project here.


MARVELOUS MIDDLE GRADE MONDAY is taking the rest of the month off as it falls on both Christmas and New Year’s Eve. This coming Monday I’ll have a holiday wish with links to all the bloggers who have participated in MMGM this past year. On December 31st, I’ll reveal my picks for the best in MG this year. I call them the Golden Cup Awards.

MMGM will return for my second year of hosting on January 7, 2019.


About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
This entry was posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to FRONT DESK

  1. This book was one of my favorite MG reads of 2018. Great review!

  2. Danielle Hammelef says:

    I read and enjoyed this book when it first came out. Fun characters and family and friendship.

  3. I have been wanting to read this story. I can’t imagine Mia having to keep so many secrets.

  4. I’ve been hearing about this one. I hope to get to it one day soon. Thanks for your thoughts. Merry Christmas.

  5. Pingback: THE PARKER INHERITANCE | Always in the Middle…

  6. Pingback: THREE KEYS | Always in the Middle…

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