Heavy Medal Finalist: FRONT DESK by Kelly Yang
Mia is a wonderful mix of maturity – she’s responsible and confident in running the front desk – and immaturity – she makes rash choices and is often naive – just the way real children have the ability to astound us one moment with their insight and frustrate us the next with their, well, childishness.
Mia’s mother comments that Mia is a bicycle when all of the other children are cars. Mia’s friend Lupe talks about being on a roller coaster: one for rich people, one for poor people, a continuous loop that, from generation to generation, makes it hard to get on to a new path. Both of these images persist throughout the book, resonating with Mia in different ways at different points in time. It seems no coincidence that all of these images are vehicles, things we associate with movement and energy. As Mia points out on p. 192: “The point was sometimes, you have to take matters into your own hands. And you have to be creative to get what you want.” Mia’s focus is on constantly moving forward, learning from the past but focused on what’s coming next. She is action-oriented, and that’s reflected in everything from the recurring imagery to the book’s pacing to the event-focused plot lines.
FRONT DESK gifts us with a narrator who remains consistently optimistic through hard times. This determination to look on the bright side informs not only Mia’s character but also the tone of the book. Mia’s determination that everything will work out allows readers – especially the younger readers who are the target audience – more leeway to support an ending that, in a different book, could have felt over-the-top.
Introduction by Alys
Beginning with positive comments, readers and Heavy Medal Committee members are now invited to discuss this book further. Later today we will open up discussion to include any concerns with the book, along with praise.
Filed under: Book Discussion
About Steven Engelfried
Steven Engelfried was the Library Services Manager at the Wilsonville Public Library in Oregon until he retired in 2022 after 35 years as a full-time librarian. He served on the 2010 Newbery committee, chaired the 2013 Newbery Committee, and also served on the 2002 Caldecott committee. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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