Front Desk by Kelly Yang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Ten year old Mia and her parents immigrated from China two years ago. Her parents moved for the freedoms the US offered. They have freedom, yes; but it's been hard. Very hard. If they are lucky, the jobs barely pay the rent; if they aren't lucky, they are living in a car.
Their luck changed when they saw the job posting to manage a hotel -- with an apartment included! They jumped at the chance, but the reality is a bit different from what they hoped.
Yes, there is an apartment: a tiny one bedroom, with Mia's parents sleeping in the living room so they can be on call 24/7. They are responsible for everything, including cleaning the rooms, and in order to get all the work done, they both can't be staffing the front desk. And that is how a ten year old ends up running the front desk.
Mia's parents face other challenges, including a hotel owner who relishes underpaying them and not spending any money -- including when the washing machine broke.
Meanwhile, Mia is happy to be at school -- except she likes English but everyone (even her mother) thinks that being Chinese means she should be good at math, not English. The richer kids make fun of her clothes. The worst is the boy who is the son of the hotel owner. She makes a friend -- and isn't one friend enough?
Especially when she has other friends: the "weeklies," the handful of folks who live full time at the hotel. And the other Chinese immigrants who visit her parents, with stories of their own struggles, who find comfort in friendly, familiar faces and the free, empty hotel room her parents offer.
Mia has ups and downs as she works the Front Desk. And along the way, she tries to figure out a way to make her family the success they hoped for when they got on the plane from China to the US.
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