Friday, October 23, 2020

Review: Three Keys by Kelly Yang

Good morning! Anyone else experiencing the weather rollercoaster? We have a high of 55 degrees one day, and 85 the next. But I can't complain. It's the right mix for working outside and snuggling with a book the next day.
Today, I have something for middle graders, which is set in southern California. This is the second book in the series and hits hotels, friendship, and illegal immigration along the lines of racism. It's definitely diverse and has a sweet little girl as the lead role.

Front Desk, #2
by Kelly Yang
Middle Grade Contemporary
ages 8 to 12

Mia Tang thinks she’s going to have the best year ever.

She and her parents are the proud owners of the Calivista Motel, Mia gets to run the front desk with her best friend, Lupe, and she’s finally getting somewhere with her writing! But as it turns out, sixth grade is no picnic…
1. Mia’s new teacher doesn’t think her writing is all that great.
2. The motel is struggling, and Mia has to answer to the Calivista’s many, many worried investors.
3. A new immigration law is looming and if it passes, it will threaten everything—and everyone—in Mia’s life.

It’s a roller coaster of challenges, and Mia needs all of her determination to hang on tight. But if anyone can find the key to getting through turbulent times, it’s Mia Tang!


A little girl navigates the world around her with heart, spunk, and an attitude, which is hard not to enjoy.

Mia's life is looking up. Her parents have not only purchased the hotel and made a step closer to fulfilling their hopes and dreams, but it's flourishing. Now, if only the rest of her life were like that. But school and especially one teacher are making things difficult. Add the constant rampage of the local government's focus on the evils of illegal immigration, and she's got more than a few stumbling blocks to overcome.

This is the second book in the series. While I didn't read the first one, this wasn't an issue. There are a few mentions of things which did happen in the first book, but I had no problem getting to know Mia, her family, her situation, and her friends by starting with book two. So, this can be read as a standalone.

I love the way this book starts out—tons of family goodness, a celebration with friends and neighbors, and a dash of culture, setting and the lifestyle they live in all rolled into one. It sets a rich scene without feeling that it other words, no description dumps which bore. The positive vibes hit right away, so fitting to Mia's personality, too. The characters and their relationships come to life in a fun and easy to read way.

The writing is very fitting for the age group. Mia and her friends come across naturally, not only in their actions and dialogue, but also in their thought processes. Friendship, school troubles, and family concerns come across in an age appropriate manner and are mostly things readers will easily identify with. The entire thing carries a nice pace and makes for a smooth, easy read. Middle graders, who enjoy reading about kids just like them who deal with real life issues, will enjoy it quite a bit.

The only thing which bothered me about this tale is how the author handles the message. This is a book with a clear one, addressing illegal immigrants. While I respect and enjoy lovely written tales, which broaden horizons, make kids think and open it all up for discussion, this one slams it front and center with gusto. Mia's adventure slides around it, more as second place. I simply wish there had been a better weave between the two with a little more finesse, so that Mia would stand in the center point and not an agenda.

Still, middle graders who like tales about kids their age, who take on real life issues, are going to enjoy this one. Mia is hard not to like and the type of kid you'd like to call your friend. And how fun it would be to have the chance to visit her family's hotel!

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