Front Desk (Scholastic Gold) Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2019-09-08 
Review Score: 5 out of 5 star From 126 user ratings

"Wow! I believe I just read the 2019 Newbery. I hope so. ( addendum: Nope, didn't win Newbery. DID win APA Award.) I've been hearing about this book for several months and finally put a hold on the book. This book has so much heart and speaks so much to today's America that it really deserves to win. This is a book about immigrants. Not immigrants from 1900, immigrants from 1993. It is about a girl who refuses to believe that she can't write as well as American kids because they were born in the US and she wasn't. It is about a girl who realizes the power of words and makes use of dictionaries and thesauruses. It is about a girl who refuses to give up and loves her family passionately. It is about a girl who helps others to realize they shouldn't give up. The girl, Mia, got a dream to own a hotel. Her family had been working at managing hotels and she realized from school and life the power of owning a hotel rather than merely working for the owners of the hotels. Some of the scenes in this book were drawn from the author's own life. There are so many lessons in this book. To trust your friends and do right by them. To fight against racism in creative ways. To keep working at what matters to you even when the teacher gives you a C- on your essay. As a side note, I like the way the author shows that all writing requires revision and rewriting by showing Mia's letters and how she crossed out and rewrote things. To not give up on someone who seems so mean to you. To tell the truth to your friends even if it means they discover you don't own a golden retriever. Most of all, that family means those who are special to you, not necessarily those of blood relations. Mia and her parents are family. So is Hank who is African American. So is Lupe who is Mexican American. This is a book to hand to immigrant kids who are afraid the future holds no luck for them. I hope someone has translated this into Spanish and gotten it into the hands of the poor immigrant kids being locked up by the country they trusted to give them a better life. We must bring the Statue of Liberty back to being what this country is about:
"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddles masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp by the golden door!"

Highly recommended, and the first book of the year to go on my favorite titles of 2019 shelf!
" said.

" I stayed up way too late to finish this book but I have no regrets because I loved it so, so much " said.

"Thanks to the Kid Lit Exchange for sharing a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

FRONT DESK is loosely based on author Kelly Yang’s life experience, as explained in an author’s note at the end of the book.

Her straightforward writing makes this book perfect for younger middle grade readers (Mia is 10). Yet Yang tackles difficult issues like interpersonal, systemic, and institutional racism. She writes so simply and honestly, it’s hard to imagine a young person walking away without understanding these powerful messages.

FRONT DESK is infused with dark truths about America and still manages to be light, heartwarming, and fast-paced. Lovable Mia solves problems by using her writing skills—not her math skills as her mother wishes she would. She beats the system by using her words, often disguised as the words of adults, to point out injustices and find pathways to a better life for her family and friends.

Mia’s and her parents’ find—actually, create—community at the Calavista Motel. They fight back when multiple systems conspire to make life impossible for Hank, an African American man who lives at the hotel. They devise a system to hide desperate Chinese immigrants in vacant rooms. This is deep social justice work, accompanied by anecdotes of Mia’s follies at the front desk and problems at school.

The book ends on a hopeful note, with the Tangs’ community surrounding them to help them take the first step off the poverty rollercoaster. The solution they come up with has a chance at helping others get off, too.

FRONT DESK shifts the narrative about the American experience, acknowledging that there are many American experiences. The pathway to the American Dream can take many forms, and Yang has described one that is heart wrenching, hopeful, and a lot of fun along the way.

One final note: I was disappointed to see some early reviews of FRONT DESK that criticized it for being too mature, age-inconsistent, or “political” for younger readers. I have no doubt that these criticisms were written by fellow white parents. If you have the choice whether to expose your child to racism and other social injustices, you’re showing your privilege. Kids of color don’t get to choose whether they want to be exposed to racism. It’s a part of their lives from birth. So why would we choose to withhold that information from our white children? When we withhold books on the experiences of other cultures because they make us uncomfortable, we’re a part of the problem. Exposing our children and ourselves to books that represent diverse perspectives can be a first step toward understanding our own roles in upholding the systems of injustice in our country.
" said.

"THIS BOOK IS AMAZING. I absolutely loved it. This book was everything that I was expecting it to be and more. I have a lot of books on my to be read pile of probably 400+ books, but within 24 hours of the book arriving in my house, I had read it. That is amazing for a reader like me. So Front Desk is a middle grade book that tackles so many important topics in such a good way. It deals with topics like racism, but not only to Asians, but to Black people as well. The story asks us to question the stereotypes society places on races, and to ask the reader if those perceptions on races seem right or fair.

The plot of this book is more of a slice-of-life of Mia’s story. There is no clear plot, rather a combination of subplots that form Mia’s life. I really like that because there was always something different happening, and kept me reading. Front Desk made my eyes water so many times, and I actually cried at one point. I was expecting to relate to this book through Mia being a child navigating life as an Asian-American, to my experiences of being Euro-Asian as a child, but I didn’t expect to relate to Mia’s financial circumstances so much, and it hit me hard, and even made me cry at times.

The best part of this book is the characters. You can’t help but fall in love with Mia as soon as you love her. Then you have Mia’s parents who work their best to provide a better life for Mia, and they are so great. Of course Mia’s mother reminds me a lot of my own. I remember being 16, and it was Christmas Day. My mother was almost forcing me to choose maths for A-Levels when we was having our Christmas lunch, and I spent the rest of the day crying because maths was one of my weakest subjects. I had to study so hard in order to be an average student. Luckily my mother eventually relented (mainly because of the influence of my father), but I understood Mia so well, and related to her. In many ways, I saw my own childhood in Mia.

There is also great secondary characters. Mia’s best friend is Lupe, a Mexican immigrant, and you see a tiny bit of her culture through Mia's conversations with Lupe. Then there’s Jason, a Taiwanese boy who was born in America and makes Mia’s life hell, and all the regular people who stay at the motel. It’s almost as if the characters come off the page and meet you in real life when you read this book.

Overall, I give this book a big 5/5! Front Desk is an important book because it shows the perspective of an immigrant. Unless you are one yourself, reading Front Desk is a great way to partially understand the same world that different people navigate through. It’s especially important if you end up reading this book to a young child, because it could teach them how the world works differently for others, and not to be so mean to other children. I cannot recommend this book more!
" said.

" Disregard the cute but fluff cover art. This is a serious Newbery contender for 2019. Better yet, children will love it! " said.

" 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. " said.

" An insider's story of the challenges of immigration, language learning, poverty. This book doesn't flinch away from racism, classism, gender bias or bullying. Mia, the main character, is full of spunk and perseverance. In a hundred small ways (and a few big ones) she changes lives with her positive ideas and actions. " said.

"ALL the stars, and easily one of my very favorite books of the year!!!!

FRONT DESK is highly deserving of every positive review. It’s an eye opening book that will warm your heart one minute, and have you shaking your head in frustration the next. I can’t remember the last time I experienced so many emotions, and felt like I really comprehended what it can be like for an immigrant family in America. You definitely need to make time to read this book, and add it to your classroom libraries and discussions.
" said.

November 2019 New Book:

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