Front Desk

Front DeskBy Kelly Yang

Mia Tang and her parents have immigrated from China to California.  Although the Tangs had excellent jobs in China, they are struggling to find work in the United States.  When they land a job managing a motel, they think they’ve hit the jackpot.  The pay is good, the whole family can work there, and they can also live there for free!

But the job at the Calivista isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  The pay is lower than the Tangs thought, the work never ends, and Mr. Yao, the motel owner is downright mean.  To make matters worse, Mia is one of the poorest kids at her school, and Mr. Yao’s son Jason (also mean) is in her class.

Although the Tangs are poor, they are always willing to help their fellow immigrants at great risk to themselves.  Soon after starting at the motel, the Tangs begin to allow some immigrants to stay at the motel for free.  They know that if Mr. Yao catches them, they will be fired.  But they also know what it’s like to have no money and nowhere to go, and they just can’t turn away those in need.

Meanwhile, Mia must also confront some of the sad realities of living in America.  When her friend, Hank, is targeted by the police and loses his job simply for being black, Mia knows she must speak out.  But how?

But the Calivista brings Mia some good experiences as well.  Mia makes friends with all the “weeklies”, or the people that live at the motel year-round.  When her friends are in need, Mia helps them as best she can and they are more than willing to help her too. She also learns that she’s very capable and can manage the front desk (mostly) on her own.

Mia also has a passion for writing and works hard to improve her English, despite her mother’s insistence that she will never be good enough at her second language.

Front Desk drew me in right away.  It deals with serious topics such as racism, poverty and immigration, but it’s also really easy and fun to read.  You will be rooting for Mia and her family throughout the novel.  

Highly recommended!