May 27, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Front Desk by Kelly Yang | SLJ Review

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redstarYANG, Kelly. Front Desk. 304p. Scholastic. May 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781338157796.

Gr 4-6 –Mia Tang and her parents expected to work hard when they came to the United States, but they had no idea how difficult things would be. After a year or two struggling to make ends meet, they find themselves managing a motel for a cruel and exploitative owner. The work is exhausting and the problems are many, but the Tangs approach their new responsibility with determination, creativity, and compassion, making friends everywhere and sheltering a trickle of immigrants in worse straits than themselves. Ten-year-old Mia takes over the front desk, and makes it her own, while dreaming of a future as a writer. Based on Yang’s own experiences as a new immigrant in the 1980s and 1990s, her novel speaks openly of hardship, poverty, assault, racism, and bullying, but keeps a light, positive tone throughout. Mia herself is an irresistible protagonist, and it is a pleasure to see both her writing and her power grow through a series of letters that she sends to remedy injustices. The hefty and satisfying dose of wish fulfillment that closes the story feels fully earned by the specificity and detailed warmth of Yang’s setup. Many young readers will see themselves in Mia and her friends. ­VERDICT A swiftly moving plot and a winsome protagonist make this a first purchase for any collection, especially where realistic fiction is in demand.–Katya Schapiro, Brooklyn Public Library

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2018 issue.

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