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Front Desk

(Front Desk #1)

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4.41  ·  Rating details ·  28,347 ratings  ·  4,340 reviews
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 Ta
...more
Hardcover, 298 pages
Published May 29th 2018 by Arthur A. Levine Books
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Lindsay Ernst Mia, the main character, makes a comment about being aware of drunk potential customers. Later, she has a confrontation with a drunk customer, after s…moreMia, the main character, makes a comment about being aware of drunk potential customers. Later, she has a confrontation with a drunk customer, after she asks him to step outside of the enclosure so she can get her parents. He refuses and goes after her—only to be interrupted by Hank.
Also, the part where her mom is assaulted could be hard for your students to listen to. (less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.41  · 
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 ·  28,347 ratings  ·  4,340 reviews


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Donalyn
Much deeper and complex than the playful cover indicates. A wonderful story about immigrants, poverty, and family.
emma
This is very cute. And fun. And also nice.

Not sure how much thoughtful analysis and critique you really want from a 23 year old on this award-winning and beloved children's book, which was in no way made for me.

I am very jealous of the middle grade readers of today, because instead of my reading at the age of nine consisting of desperately trying to sneak into the young adult section of the library (which was on another floor and involved covertly passing not one but TWO information desks) witho
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Chelsea (chelseadolling reads)
This book was absolutely phenomenal. And that author's note? My heart is aching. So powerful and so incredibly moving.

TW: racism, bullying, police brutality
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Julie G (time traveling for a week)
This middle grades novel features a Chinese-American protagonist named Mia, a nasty hotel owner named Mr. Yao, and the most realistic tackling of the subject of racism that I've ever encountered in a juvenile lit read.

Mr. Yao is mean as hell and uses adult language (my 9 & 11-year-old daughters found this to be a scintillating element), and he uses and abuses Mia's parents, Chinese immigrants who have recently arrived in the U.S.

People are hungry in this novel. Truly hungry. People are beaten, t
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Gavin Hetherington
A fantastic contemporary (though it's set in the 90s) middle grade novel that follows Mia Tang and her parents after leaving China for America. They find work at a motel but it isn't easy (nor profitable) for them, as they face so many obstacles as they try to live and work in poverty. Not only that, but Mia is enrolled in a nearby school, and constantly being a new kid is tiring to her, especially when she faces racism and bullying from her peers. Mia helps her parents at the motel, usually wor ...more
jenny✨
This blasted year isn't over yet, but I knew the moment I read this book that it would be my best read of 2020. Here is a novel I can't stop thinking about, can't stop talking about.

Mia's story—her love for her family and the motel, her fiery determination to stand up for her friends—tackles racism, immigration, poverty, owning our mistakes, and solidarity between people of colour. It is a call to action, a heartwarming tale based on true events, that uplifts without ever being heavy-handed.

Mi
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CW (The Quiet Pond) ✨
Front Desk is a book that means a lot to me.
More importantly, I believe that Front Desk will be a book that will mean a lot to others - immigrants of all ages, children, adults, parents.

- The story is so full of heart. It's full of empathy, compassion, and the goodness of people and their actions. For this reason, I think Front Desk is an excellent book for children.
- The story, too, is full of tough lessons about the world. It addresses and explores how perspectives and prejudice can have si
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Fadwa (Word Wonders)
CW: physical assault, racism, employee mistreatment, poverty, systemic oppression, anti-blackness, bullying, talk of robbery and assault, hospital.

I really do not know where to start with this review because I went into it not knowing what to expect, not even knowing what the book was about and it absolutely blew me away. FRONT DESK is both wholesome because of the main character's desire to help everyone and heavy because of the topics it deals with. This motel was a micro-society of its own, t
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Lisa Vegan
For some reason I had incorrectly thought this was a graphic book. I was looking for a quick read to read alongside my other main book and many ancillary books. It’s a regular text novel but it still worked the way I’d hoped, a fast read, and a gripping read, and completely satisfying.

But I’ve been reading too many books with too much heartbreak and showing too many of the worst flaws that some humans have. This was another, and over and over again it broke my heart, but over and over again it a
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Kate Olson
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Thanks to @kidlitexchange for this review copy ~ all opinions are my own!

Hands-down one of my favorite middle grade titles of 2018, FRONT DESK is a spectacular and accessible glimpse into the life a 5th grade girl named Mia who lives in a motel that her parents manage. It is also a glimpse into the life of many Chinese immigrants in the US in the 1980s and early 1990s, as detailed in the author's note. The book draws heavily on the childhood experiences of the author, making the story even more
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Rachel Reads Ravenously
4 stars!

Middle grade is quickly becoming one of my favorite genres, mostly because of stories like this one. Placed in the 90's, Mia and her family moved to the USA from China in hopes for a better future. They get a job working at a hotel and realize they are completely overwhelmed and outnumbered. Mia spends all her free time from school managing the front desk and she learns a lot along the way.

I think there are so many children who can relate to Mia and her story. While the cover makes thi
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Adri
AN INCREDIBLY BRILLIANT TOUR DE FORCE WITH SO MUCH HEART AND SO MUCH TO SAY. READ IT 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼
Beth
Oct 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: mg-newbery, reviewed
I read three compelling books this weekend. This was the first, and the easiest to talk about. It's a straightforward story - maybe too straightforward - the sort of children's book where the child is the focus of the story, that which propels it forward. There's a charm to that, because often children are reactive. I don't mean passive: think of Narnia, where they walk through a wardrobe and find themselves in another world. How many children's books read like that?

There's a certain unreality t
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Christy
4.5 Stars. This was the first book I chose to try out for Middle Grade March and I found the author, Kelly Yang, to be so fascinating. She started going to college at the young age of 13 and graduated from UC Berkeley at 17 and Harvard Law School at 20.... WOW!! No wonder she can write a good story. Plus, much of this book is based on real life experiences that she went through.

I listened to this one on Audio and thought it was a delightful, yet somewhat difficult read full of issues. It's not
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Danielle
Jun 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-grade-ya
Wow. This book.

It tackles injustices for immigrants, and other communities, and I really admire the way Kelly Yang created that overlap and connection. The story is centered around Mia, a young girl working with her parents' at a motel near Disneyland who discovers that her writing has the power to fight injustice for herself and those around her that she cares about. A true and unflinching yet very hopeful, optimistic story sure to buoy and inspire kid readers.

"We're immigrants...Our lives ar
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Reading_ Tamishly
May 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is the story of a girl whose family moved from China and is having a hard time dealing with the difficult owner of the motel where her parents are given the job of full-time managers.

They meet different kinds of people, the good and the bad. The way the story is being written tells that giving up and living like a victim are not the solutions. I loved how hopeful this story made me feel. It feels so good reading about a family struggling their days to survive but living their lives like the
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Manybooks
Although I have for the most part very much enjoyed Kelly Yang's (semi-autobiographoical) Middle Grade immigration novel Front Desk, I am also just a wee bit conflicted regarding some of the novel's thematics and contents.

Now I do generally and for the most part very much love young Mia's first person singular narration in Front Desk. Her voice most certainly does to and for me feel and read like an authentic ten year old, although I also do at times think that Mia acts and talks perhaps just a
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Jessica Woodbury
Sep 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Reading this book reminded me of the vast difference between the way kids and adults read. For me, FRONT DESK was lovely and important but also harrowing. I was really anxious about all the difficult things Mia and her family go through, because there really are a lot of them. Mia is so optimistic and action-oriented, but as an adult I felt overwhelmed. My kids, however, were unphased. They really liked Mia, they liked the idea of working in the motel, they were happy to see each new problem def ...more
Sheena
Nov 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Sheena by: jenny✨
The most wholesome book I have ever read. The themes of this book are SOOOO important: racism, poverty, community.. I love children's books that can be read by any age. If my child doesn't turn out like Mia - I don't want it. I could gush about this book but just read it instead. Thank you Jenny for the recommendation and I can't wait to read the next one!!!! ...more
breana / milkyboos ♡
Mar 29, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2022
what a wonderful story! add to the list of books i wish i had as a kid 🥺

i teared up so many times throughout the story and the author’s note opened the floodgates ;-; mia is such a lovely protag and i can’t wait to read the rest of the series!
Aj Sterkel
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: middle-grade
Likes: This book is an #OwnVoices novel based on the author’s experience as a Chinese immigrant whose parents ran a motel. The author actually spent part of her childhood working at the front desk. The book’s main character, Mia, is a likeable child. She’s resourceful and independent and puts up with a lot of nonsense from adults. At a young age, she has to face racism, poverty, crime, homelessness, and her parents being exploited by their bosses. Even though this novel’s plot is relentlessly de ...more
Jessica
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Based on the author's own experience coming to America from China at a young age and having to help her parents manage a small hotel. Fascinating, heartbreaking, and ultimately full of hope. This is a book written with love, and even when things looked dark for Mia and her family, it was a book written with a sort of joy, and humor, that made even the bad things seem like they would be okay. I've heard a lot of buzz about this book, and it's entirely deserved. I am going to thinking about this b ...more
Lisa (Remarkablylisa)
Jun 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The book that everyone needs to read! It discusses racism inside the immigrant community. The relationship between Taiwanese and Chinese people. The scary life of immigrants. And racial profiling towards black people from the police. It's the perfect book to read to younger readers or for yourself. ...more
Mehrsa
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I promise I'm not crying right now. Something must have jumped right into my eyes. Weird.

What a beautiful story that was so relatable to this particular immigrant kid. My girls read this book and re-read it a year or so ago and I am so glad I decided to read it too. Now to go and grab some tissues.
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Tessa
This book is terrible.

Good points:
--The relationship between Mia and her mom was complex and interesting.
--That cover is beautiful!

Bad points:
--Mia needs to be SPANKED. Seriously. This child lies, steals, forges letters, and inserts herself into everyone's business. Is there anything she won't interfere with? To make things worse, the adults around her celebrate it and encourage her to keep doing this. Mia's a nosy brat.
--This book is so SIMPLISTIC. Have a huge problem? Don't worry, a nine-y
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Ms. Yingling
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
ARC provided by the publisher



It's the early 1990s, and Mia and her parents have moved to California from China in search of more freedom and opportunities. Unfortunately, they are not able to get the same sort of professional jobs they had in China, and work at a Chinese restaurant until Mia's help turns disastrous! They eventually find a hotel in Anaheim in need of managers, and are happy that they won't have to pay all of their salary for rent. The owner, Mr. Yao, promises them a certain rate
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Bookishrealm
Update! Here's my full review: https://bookishrealmreviews.blogspot....

This. Book. Is. Phenomenal. I don’t know why more people don’t know about this book but it is AMAZING and is one of the most important books that can be read by anyone at any age. It speaks to discrimination, bigotry, immigration, the importance of community, friendship, and more. I love that a lot of this book was based on the experiences of the author. Some parts were hard to read but I realized how important they were to t
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Liesl Shurtliff
I loved this book so much. Everyone should read it. Read it it your kids. Read it to your class. Read it to yourself. A much needed book.
julianna ➹
this is a middle-grade book that i really, really hope a lot of kids will have access to— especially kids of immigrants and chinese kids.

this features a young girl whose immigrant parents have been struggling to find jobs to support themselves, and soon find themselves a job that seems to grant them hope, but ultimately turns out to pay them very little. the main character, Mia, then starts pitching in to help her parents by working at the front desk.

there's a lot of struggling in this novel,
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Laura (bbliophile)
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-releases
I stayed up way too late to finish this book but I have no regrets because I loved it so, so much
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Kelly Yang is the New York Times bestselling, award-winning author of the FRONT DESK series, winner of the 2019 Asian Pacific American Award for Children's Literature. Her books include FRONT DESK, THREE KEYS, ROOM TO DREAM, PARACHUTES, NEW FROM HERE, and other middle grade and young adult novels. She was born in China and grew up in Los Angeles. She went to college at the age of 13 and graduated ...more

Other books in the series

Front Desk (4 books)
  • Three Keys (Front Desk, #2)
  • Room to Dream (Front Desk #3)
  • Key Player (Front Desk #4)

Articles featuring this book

  Tami Charles is a former teacher and the author of picture books, middle grade and young adult novels, and nonfiction. As a teacher, she made...
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“... a mistake isn't always a mistake. ... Sometimes a mistake is actually an opportunity, but we just can't see it right then and there.” 23 likes
“Sometimes terrible things happen, but there's nothing more terrible than not having anybody to tell it to.” 17 likes
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