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Thirteen-year-old Mia’s parents told her that America would be an amazing place. They would have a big house with a dog, eat hamburgers every day, and enjoy the freedom to do whatever Mia wanted. There life would be free.

But so far everything is expensive. She and her parents are immigrants to California from China. And that is just one of the secrets she keeps as she starts a new school. The other secrets are that she lives in a motel, that she may not swim in the motel pool, and that her parents hide other immigrants.

Mia’s parents are the motel caretakers, but they do not speak English. So Mia takes over the front desk, welcoming overnight as well as long-term guests. The secrets and realities of her life start to collide when her new best friend runs into her at the motel. As she confesses the reality of her life to Lupe, she discovers that Lupe has her own secrets.

Based closely on the author’s own childhood, Front Desk is a different kind of immigration story that deals with the realities of subtle racism in a very contemporary setting. Readers will love Mia and her parents and their motley crew of motel dwellers. A worthy read-aloud with many points for discussion. Ages 10 and up. (Arthur A. Levine Books)

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