by Kelly Yang
Page Number: 286
Front Desk tells the story of 10-year-old Mia Tang. Every day, Mia manages the front desk of the Calivista Motel while her parents clean the rooms. She’s proud of her job. She loves the guests and treats them like family. When one of the guests gets into trouble with the police, it shakes Mia to her core. Her parents, meanwhile, hide immigrants in the empty rooms at night. If the mean motel owner Mr. Yao finds out, they’ll be doomed!
Rating: 5 stars
I was lucky enough to receive Front Desk to review earlier this year. However, due to formatting and not having a device that would run that format, I didn’t get to read it until recently after it was published. I have to say, this book was worth the wait.
The book is about Mia and her family who have moved to the United States from China. It tell the story of immigrants to the United States and how the American Dream is something so well known in the world, yet so unreachable when the realities of living in this country hit. Mia and her parents slept in their car for a while. They worked at a restaurant only to get fired because Mia was trying to help and broke plates. This leads to them working at a motel for Mr. Yao, someone who lies and cheats them at every turn, making it near impossible to survive. But Mia is determined to get her family their own motel, no matter what.
This book deals with a LOT of important issues. It takes place in the 90’s, but is still relevant today more than ever. It talks about how hard it is for immigrants from different countries to actually survive in the U.S. and yet they still get a bad rep for horrible reasons that aren’t actually the case. Mia and her friend Lupe talk about the fact its different even for the two of them, how Mia is seen for being Asian while Lupe herself is looked down on worse due to the fact she’s Mexican and has brown skin. It talks about racism that Lupe’s family faces and what Hank, a black man who lives at the motel, faces due to his skin color alone. When a crime is committed at Mia’s motel, she learns first hand the racism of the police and how the automatically blame Hank, who is completely innocent. She see’s the racism in other minorities such as the security guard from one of the other motels who tries to give her a list of ‘bad people’ who are all black. Mia learns and calls out these things and fights to get the list thrown out by all the businesses. It talks about how unfair the current health care system is, the idea of modern day slavery of immigrants, how not all things are what they seem, and so much more (without going into even more spoilers). But there’s also good. Mia learns what it’s like to have a community come together, what a found family is, and there is kindness out there.
I could probably go on and on about this book for a while. The writing is great and covers a lot of ground and information without it feeling like a textbook. It flows beautifully. The characters have depth, from Jason who despite having a horrible dad, is able to stand up for what’s right once he learns a bit of kindness, to Hank who is so deep and kind despite what unkindness he has faced in the world, to Mia’s mom who you assume is being hurtful to her daughter when she tells Mia she’ll never be good enough at English to expect anything from pursuing it, only for it come out that she’s talking about herself, knowing she could never help Mia with this area with her own short comings.
I have so much love for this book, so much so that I had a panic attack during the hard times and cried at the end. It’s beautiful and well written and I couldn’t give it more praise. It’s something that I think everyone should read to better understand the times we face.