A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Kelly Yang's Front Desk is a powerful, moving tale about 10-year-old Mia Tang and her parents, who live and work at the Calivista Motel in California during the early 1990s. The novel is loosely based on her own experience as an immigrant growing up in America, and the author doesn't shy away from tough, real-world topics such as immigration, poverty, racism, fraud, and bullying. Characters arrive at the motel after being beaten up by loan sharks or fleeing an ICE raid. Another character is beaten up by robbers. Insults include "Chinese doughboy," "ugly-nese," "idiot," "moron," "loser," and "Mr. Tightwad." There's also one use each of "bull" and "bastard." Although there are many heartbreaking stories in the book, there are plenty of positive messages for kids about fighting for what's right, treating people with kindness and respect, and never judging someone by the color of their skin.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Mia Tang and her parents live and work at the Calivista Motel in Anaheim, California. While her parents spend all of their time cleaning the rooms, Mia has taken it upon herself to manage the FRONT DESK and ensure that their guests -- including the Chinese immigrants that her parents hide in the empty rooms -- enjoy their stay. As she adjusts to life at the motel and her new school, Mia starts to realize that life isn't easy for outsiders in America. Can she use her love of writing, even though English isn't her first language, to help her family, friends, and the immigrants pursue their dreams?
Is it any good?
Loosely based on Kelly Yang's experience growing up as an immigrant in America, this powerful, moving tale highlights the importance of tolerance and diversity, making it a must-read for kids. Front Desk takes place in the early '90s, but many of the heartbreaking stories mentioned in the book are still a reality for immigrants and minorities today.
Yang doesn't shy away from tough topics such as racism and poverty and manages to present them in a way that's easy for kids to understand. As Mia's grasp of the English language grows and she uses her love of writing to change people's lives, kids will see that you're never too young to fight for what's right and make a difference.
Talk to your kids about ...
Why do you think Kelly Yang decided to write a story that mirrors her own life? What kind of power do immigrant stories hold? Do you know the story of how -- and why -- your family, or your ancestors, came to America? What challenges did they face at the time? What's different today?
Talk about the various kinds of diversity in the novel. Why are diverse representations important in children's and young adult literature? Check out these books for more stories that promote tolerance and diversity.
- Author: Kelly Yang
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Arthur A. Levine
- Publication date: May 29, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 304
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
For kids who love Asian and immigrant stories
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.