Review of Three Keys: A Front Desk-Novel

Three Keys: A Front Desk Novel
by Kelly Yang
Intermediate, Middle School    Scholastic    288 pp.    g 
9/20    978-1-338-59138-5    $17.99 
Library ed.  978-1-4328-8326-3    $20.99 
e-book ed.  978-1-338-64816-4    $10.99 

In this sequel to Front Desk (rev. 7/18), eleven-year-old Chinese American Mia Tang continues helping to run her now family-and-worker-owned motel in ­California. ­Business is going well, but negative political ads demonizing undocumented immigrants occupy the media landscape. At school, Mia forms a club where she and other marginalized classmates find validation and share instances of racism in their daily lives. Mia’s best friend Lupe reveals a long-kept secret, describing being undocumented as “being a pencil, when everyone else is a pen…You worry you can be erased anytime.” Matters intensify when Lupe’s mother struggles to return from Mexico after attending Lupe’s abuelita’s funeral, and then her father is threatened with deportation. Yang’s writing is engaging and earnest, making issues of discrimination, class, poverty, cultural identity, and gender roles accessible to young readers. Mia is a creative and determined activist, using her voice to combat injustice while uplifting the voices of others. An author’s note details extensive research on American immigration laws and their impacts on immigrant families in the 1990s.

From the November/December 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Kristine Techavanich

Kristine Techavanich is a youth services librarian at the Timberland Regional Library System. She served on the 2023 Newbery committee.

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