Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Published by Arthur A. Levine Books

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Summary:  When Mia’s parents left China for the United States, they were full of dreams for a better life.  A year later, they’re working difficult, low-paying jobs, and are a step away from being homeless.  When her mom sees an want-ad for a family to run a hotel near Anaheim, Mia and her family think all their dreams are about to come true.  Unfortunately, the hotel owner is Mr. Yao, a cruel and racist man who makes unreasonable demands on his workers and pays them a pittance; his son is in Mia’s class and makes her life miserable.  The hotel is robbed and Mia’s mom is beaten up; her father endures sleepless nights when customers wake him up at all hours; and Mia has a scare when she is threatened by a drunken customer.  Nevertheless, she is determined to help her family get ahead, and her excellent customer service at the front desk, combined with her parents’ hard work, begins to pay dividends.  When Mr. Yao announces he is selling the motel, the connections Mia and her family have made to their neighbors and to other immigrants pay off, leading them to a happy ending and the promise of a brighter future.  304 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  Based on the author’s experiences in the early 1990’s, this story will give readers who aren’t recent immigrants greater understanding and empathy for those who are.  Sympathetic characters and a fast-paced plot will keep kids turning the pages.

Cons:  Some of Mia’s victories, especially the big one at the end, were a little unbelievable.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.


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