Rummanah Aasi

Description: 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?

Review: Front Desk is a wonderful debut middle grade novel that explores a multitude of themes that are nicely woven into a story of activism. Mia Tang and her family has immigrated from China two years ago in dreams of starting over. After being fired from their restaurant jobs, Mia and her family are struggling to make ends meet and needing to live in their car, they are beyond thrilled to become motel managers for the Calivista MotelTheir dream job, however, is a nightmare after a series of setbacks for the Tang family. The washing machine breaks down. A customer’s car is stolen. Mia’s mother is beaten by robbers. Mr. Yao, the miserly and racist, motel manager mistreats the Tang family and cuts their wages at every turn. Meanwhile Mia is learning the unfair treatment and plight of immigrants as well as the gradual understanding of racism and prejudice in America. Mia is also fighting a personal battle among her peers who ridicule her for wearing thrift-shop clothes and her desire to be a writer when her mother insists she must study math because she can never compete with the natural English born students.
  I absolutely adored Mia. She is spunky and creative when it comes to solving her family's issues. She turns to activism to call out racist behavior and finds a way to help out poor immigrants find shelter. I was constantly rooting for her even when the competition of writing an essay to win a motel seemed like a very shady deal. I just wished we learned a little bit more from the people who stayed at the motel. This is a great book that demonstrates what persistence, creativity, and activism can do to change what seems like insurmountable situations.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There are racist and anti-immigrant sentiments addressed in the book without any slurs. There is talk of a physical assault. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Nowhere Boy by Katherine Marsh, Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina
2 Responses
  1. I have heard really good things about this book; I'm glad you enjoyed it. It was chosen one of the books for Project Lit that I keep seeing on Twitter so I need to look into it more.

  2. Sounds like a very sweet book. I am not used to reading sweet books as it seems all YA titles are angsty.

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