Three Keys: Front Desk, Book 2

Book review by
Amanda Nojadera, Common Sense Media
Three Keys: Front Desk, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Immigrant kid continues to tackle racism in powerful sequel.

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 3 reviews

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

 Kids will learn about the racism that immigrants and minorities face in America and California Proposition 187, a 1994 ballot initiative that would ban undocumented immigrants from healthcare access and public education. The author's note at the end of the story includes Yang's experiences with racism and more resources about Prop. 187.

Positive Messages

Compassion, communication, courage, empathy, family, friendship, and activism are important themes. The three keys to friendship are listening, caring, and keep trying. Thinking and doing are two different things, so when you see something you know is wrong it's important to take action.

Positive Role Models & Representations

These characters work together to fight against racism and for social justice. They are kind, empathetic, compassionate, courageous, and supportive. The story includes a diverse cast that includes Chinese, Chinese American, Mexican, Mexican American, Indian, and African American characters. 

Violence

Some of the racism and discrimination that characters experience in the story include being turned away from banks, finding signs that say "whites only" at the Calivista Motel pool, and graffiti that says "Immigrants go back to your country." A kid's dad is taken into custody by the immigration police and kids are bullied at school.

Sex
Language

"Oh my God," "dog fart." Insults include "stupid," "filled with toilet paper," "illegals," "dumbling," and "Chinese doughboy."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Kelly Yang's Three Keys: Front Desk, Book 2 is a powerful and timely sequel that continues to tackle tough, real-world topics including immigration and racism. Kids will learn about California Proposition 187, a 1994 ballot initiative that would ban undocumented immigrants from health care and public education. Some of the racism and discrimination that characters experience in the story include being turned away from banks, finding signs that say "whites only" at the Calivista Motel pool, and graffiti that says "Immigrants go back to your country." A kid's dad is taken into custody by the immigration police and kids are bullied at school. Insults include  "illegals" and "Chinese doughboy."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 8 and 10-year-old Written byStephanie S. January 23, 2021
Kid, 10 years old January 5, 2021

Awesome book! Highlights the problems with society.

Children younger than 9 may be too frightened to read this book, but older is an awesome time to read Three keys and Front Desk.
Kid, 11 years old December 5, 2020

Great message

A great book, but make sure if you have a younger kid read it you explain some of the topics mentioned; implicit bias, immigration. It’s a great book with a gre... Continue reading

What's the story?

In THREE KEYS: FRONT DESK, BOOK 2, Mia Tang thinks her family is on the "good rollercoaster" now that she and her parents own the Calivista Motel, but they've had to deal with many challenges. Mia's new teacher doesn't like her writing. The motel's investors are threatening to take their money back, and there's also a new ballot initiative that, if passed, would negatively affect some of Mia's closest friends. As Mia sees more instances of racism and discrimination happening around her, can she find a way to fight for justice?

Is it any good?

With the help of her family, friends, and the Calivista Motel community, Mia Tang continues to tackle racism and fight for social justice in this powerful and timely sequel. Kelly Yang's Three Keys to friendship -- "You gotta listen, you gotta care, and most importantly, you gotta keep trying." -- also apply when it comes to standing up for what's right. Readers will love how these characters work together to advocate for others and see that small actions can lead to big changes.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Three Keys: Front Desk, Book 2 deals with immigration, racism, poverty, bullying, and violence. How do these issues affect the characters?

  • Why do you think author Kelly Yang decided to write a story that mirrors her own life? What kind of power do immigrant stories hold? Do any of your family members or ancestors have an immigrant story? What challenges did they face when they moved from the country where they were born? 

  • Talk about the various kinds of diversity in the novel. Why are diverse representations important in children's and young adult books? 

  • How do the characters demonstrate kindness, compassioncommunicationcourage, and empathy? Why are these important character strengths?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love Asian and immigrant stories

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