Middle Grade Review: Room to Dream (Front Desk #3) (Kelly Yang)

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About This Book:

Mia Tang is going for her dreams!

After years of hard work, Mia Tang finally gets to go on vacation with her family — to China! A total dream come true! Mia can’t wait to see all her cousins and grandparents again, especially her cousin Shen. As she roams around Beijing, witnessing some of the big changes China’s going through, Mia thinks about the changes in her own life, like . . .

1. Lupe’s taking classes at the high school! And Mia’s own plans to be a big writer are . . . stuck.

2. Something happened with Jason and Mia has no idea what to do about it.

3. New buildings are popping up all around the motel, and small businesses are disappearing.

Can the Calivista survive? Buckle up! Mia is more determined than ever to get through the turbulence, now that she finally has . . . room to dream!

 

 

*Review Contributed by Mark Buxton, Staff Reviewer*

Friendship can survive the hard times.
 
What worked:
The author includes a good deal of information about the Chinese culture, especially when the family returns there for a vacation. Food is the most common cultural topic, but homes, jobs, and language are blended in with the story too. Mia contrasts how things have changed since her family moved to America five years ago, but her relatives want to compare/contrast how Chinese life differs from California. Hank’s twist on hamburgers is a huge hit with the Chinese people in the neighborhood, but Mia misses the small stores and restaurants that closed with China’s modernization. There’s a similar problem in America when the family returns, and it becomes the major conflict in the plot. A large chain motel has moved in next to their small one, and the battle between big business and independent locals moves to the forefront of the story.
Mia has many issues to sort out in her mind. Her good friend Jason kissed her, so she’s trying to figure out how she should behave around him. He’s her good friend, but she’d already told him she doesn’t want to go any farther than that. The author explores the onset of boy/girl attraction, as Mia tries to navigate the school year. In addition, Mia wants to become a writer, so she starts writing columns about her American experiences for a kids magazine in China. She shares honest feelings about her life and friends and uses their real names. She assumes it’s okay because they’ll never learn what she’s done, but experienced readers will know it’s only a matter of time before it blows up in her face.
Mia is very dependent on her few friends since she’s not readily accepted by classmates. This is a problem since Jason wants to be her boyfriend. Her best friend is Lupe, but she’s working hard to excel in school and has little free time for a social life. She experiences racial prejudice too and knows she needs to prove herself twice as much to stand out from other students. This creates a conflict for Mia, who is in desperate need for her best friend. Assumptions are made, and neither one of them realizes how much they need understanding from their friend.
What didn’t work as well:
The time of the setting isn’t clear, as there could have been more clues for readers. It’s significant because there is racial unrest going on, and the characters experience different levels of prejudice. Some of the details seem unusual unless readers are aware the story takes place in the past. There is a reference to the OJ Simpson trial just ending, and most young readers probably won’t have any idea that it was in 1995. Racial injustice was rampant, and China was undergoing significant social change. My suggestion is to read Front Desk, the first book in the series, before reading the sequels.
The Final Verdict:
Friendship can survive the hard times. Mia faces common problems for middle-grade readers, so the book should appeal to that audience. The variety of characters and cultures offer additional insight into the battle against racism. Give the book a shot!
 

*Find More Info & Buy This Book HERE!*