Monday, October 8, 2018

FRONT DESK by Kelly Yang

At first, I wasn’t sure I’d like this book but as I kept reading, I found I couldn’t put it down! A compelling & thought-provoking story that's also a lot of fun.

Description from the publisher:

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?

Front Desk, written by Kelly Yang, was published by Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc. in 2018.

Why you want to read this book… 

It’s an absorbing read that takes you right inside another person’s life and experiences. I grew quite emotionally connected to Mia and was rooting for things in her life to work out. Reading the stories of the different immigrants Mia’s family helped made me feel sad, but also inspired me. It was great, too, how this book showed that making friends isn’t always that easy, especially when you don’t have the things that other kids have.

That night I could not stop thinking about Uncle Li and how he was willing to do anything, go literally anywhere, even into the belly of a Dumpster, to get what he wanted.


My parents told me that America would be this amazing place where we could live in a house with a dog, do whatever we want, and eat hamburgers till we were red in the face.

If you’re a writer… 

You might study this novel to get a good sense of a strong middle grade perspective. Everything in this novel comes from Mia’s point of view. There are lots of small details that create an authentic reading experience. I also really enjoyed all the references to writing!

Panic seized me. The words were so open and exposed. My story looked like a belly button. I immediately wanted to cover it.

If you’re a teacher…

I thought so much about my own place in the world and my privilege while I was reading this story. An excellent choice for reading aloud, to get kids thinking deeper about the experiences of being an immigrant or sharing their own experiences and feelings. This book also provides several examples of practical writing for letters or job recommendations, and I loved how hard Mia worked to get her writing right.

He and his friends stopped talking, but I could feel their eyeballs on me. I could feel them sinking into my pants.

Go here to read an interesting article about Kelly and the story behind the book in the South China Morning Post.

There’s lots more middle grade fun for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Greg Pattridge's blog.


  1. I'd seen the cover of this book before but really didn't know what it was about. Thanks for filling in the holes. Now it is on the top of my future reads list. So many interesting themes and ones kids would enjoy.

    1. Definitely one of the best MG books I've read this year!

  2. After reading your MMGM post, I will definitely be looking for this one at our local library. Mia sounds like my kind of a strong, female character in a MG novel. Thanks for the recommendation, Andrea!

  3. I've been seeing this cover pop up as a beloved story, but didn't really know much about it. Thanks for filling in the gaps! It's going on the top of my TBR pile!

    1. I don't think you will be disappointed. I don't think I've read an MG quite like this before.

  4. I keep hearing great things about this book. I really want to read it because there are so many themes. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Yes, that's true. I didn't think I'd like it at first but it was a book that helped open my eyes and heart a little wider.

  5. I've seen this book around and have been curious about it. Glad you enjoyed it.

  6. This sounds like a very timely story, one a lot of kids will connect with. I hadn't heard about it, but I will be looking for it. Thanks for telling me about it.


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