Front Desk

Front Desk

Book - 2018
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Baker & Taylor
Recent immigrants from China and desperate for work and money, ten-year-old Mia Tang's parents take a job managing a rundown motel in Southern California, even though the owner, Mr. Yao is a nasty skinflint who exploits them; while her mother (who was anengineer in China) does the cleaning, Mia works the front desk and tries to cope with demanding customers and other recent immigrants--not to mention being only one of two Chinese in her fifth grade class, the other being Mr. Yao's son, Jason.

Four starred reviews and over ten best-of-year lists!

* "Many readers will recognize themselves or their neighbors in these pages." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Winner of the Asian / Pacific American Award for Children's Literature!

* "Many readers will recognize themselves or their neighbors in these pages." -- Kirkus Reviews, starred review

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 Tangs will be doomed.

Number 3: She wants to be a writer. But how can she when her mom thinks she should stick to math because English is not her first language?

It will take all of Mia's courage, kindness, and hard work to get through this year. Will she be able to hold on to her job, help the immigrants and guests, escape Mr. Yao, and go for her dreams?

& Taylor

After emigrating from China, ten-year-old Mia Tang's parents take a job managing a rundown motel, despite the nasty owner, Mr. Yao, who exploits them, while she works the front desk and tries to cope with fitting in at her school.

Publisher: New York :, Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic Inc.,, 2018
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ยฉ2018
ISBN: 9781338157796
Branch Call Number: J FIC YAN
Characteristics: 286 pages :,illustrations ;,22 cm


From Library Staff

Everyday Kids: Real-life books that will introduce you to someone new, or someone just like you!

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Sep 04, 2020

Amazing. I couldn't put this book down.๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป

Sep 04, 2020

I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!! Good for 10 year old kids to understand racism.

JCLEmilyD Jun 30, 2020

It covers lots of social issues (too many in my opinion) at a shallow level of discussion. This is a wannabe memoir that doesn't have a cohesive plot. I wish the author would pick one or two plot points and flushed them out, perhaps creating a squeal or series with the other plots.

JCLEmmaF Jun 22, 2020

This book is about a 10 year old learning about language, agency, and social justice. While this book is good, and I appreciate that it comes from Yang's life, it is so packed too full to the point it's unbelievable, and perhaps overwhelming for a kid reader.

JCLLizW Feb 03, 2020

This realistic fiction - based on the author's own childhood - does an excellent job of portraying immigrant experiences, poverty, and racism in a way that does not condescend to children.

Hillsboro_RobP Jan 30, 2020

Excellent middle-grade novel that brings both the exploitation of immigrant labor and direct racism to the front for a compelling page-turner. Some of the plot points that had me doubting actually turned out to be true events in the author's life!
Although everything is painted in very broad strokes (the heavy-handed racism is intense) and the solutions a bit on the easy side (Although I love Mia, she's definitely a hero's hero), I really appreciated the angle that even though many immigrants are victims of racism, they can still hold very damaging racist views themselves. I don't think I've read another middle grade novel that addressed this.

Yang's personal story is similar to Mia's, and well worth reading in itself. Happy to see this as a 2020-2021 OBOB!

Nov 11, 2019

FABULOUS!!! Great storytelling, with tension that kept ratcheting upward. This will be one I return to again and again as a model for how to do MG novels correctly. Wonderful read.

IndyPL_SteveB Sep 27, 2019

Heartfelt novel for ages 10-12 about a poor Chinese immigrant family trying to adjust to life in California. A surefire school read-aloud.

This is a well-written, personally-felt childrenโ€™s novel that can allow you to see life through the eyes of someone else in very different circumstances from you.

Mia Tang is a 10-year old fifth grader in the 1990s. Her parents thought that moving to the United States from China would allow them to escape poverty because in the United States everyone is happy and โ€œfreeโ€. They are reduced to working menial jobs and living in an old car, until they get the opportunity to manage a motel, where they can live for free. Since they canโ€™t hire help, they exhaust themselves cleaning the rooms, doing the laundry, and working 16-hour days. Mia, being clever, takes on the job of working the front desk whenever she is not in school. She befriends the regular renters and frequent stayers and starts to create a family atmosphere. She also begins working on a grand plan to get them out of this unsettled life.

Aug 28, 2019

My daughter just finished this book. She turned ten last week and is at a 9th grade reading level. Her report was that she loved the book and the author's voice. She admitted that she would not have picked the book out on her own (I did) and was happily surprised by it.

Aug 15, 2019

My favourite book!
This is a fiction story, yet there are non-fiction events, such as loan sharks.
I love how Mia's family is so hard-working for money, and will never give up. This story is well-written and brings back a lot of memories for me from Chinese films. Mia is a very capable kid! I'm just sitting here writing reviews...
Jason is also a cool character. Mia and him were enemies who turned into...Friends?
I liked how they showed Mr. Yao at the end that they were great/capable enough to buy his motel! LOVE THIS BOOK!

View All Comments

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability
Mar 28, 2020

chorok_ck thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

Jan 28, 2020

Lydia_Demarek thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 8 and 14

Jan 14, 2020

mauve_seastar_22 thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 9 and 99

awesomekittygirl900 thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 8 and 12

OPL_KrisC Nov 27, 2018

OPL_KrisC thinks this title is suitable for 8 years and over


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at FVRL

To Top