Mia Tang is back with another tale of overcoming obstacles and reaching for her dreams! This time, we follow her to San Francisco where she is part of a journalism camp at the Tribune and staying in Chinatown with her mom and best friend Lupe. As Mia struggles to find her voice at a national publication, she also learns more about the history of Chinese in America and how their community comes together to take care of one another. But with Lupe thinking about testing out of high school and heading to college early and Jason having a crush on a new girl, will this be the end of the trio we have come to love?
Over the past few weeks, I have been binging the entire Front Desk series by Kelly Yang and my heart has been so incredibly full. These books are a beacon of hope and a light during dark times that we do not have to be defined by our circumstances, that we can reach for our goals. These are the books that I wish I had as a young Chinese American girl and I am so grateful that they now exist for my daughter.
One of my favorite things about this story and this series as a whole is the way that Kelly is able to have a storyline for each character without it feeling overwhelming or like it muddles the story being told. While the story is told from Mia’s POV, we still get to see what’s going on with Lupe, Jason, Hank, and all the wonderful people she surrounds herself with. Each character gets their moment to shine and it’s a testament to the power of community and relationships.
Another thing that I love and I think Kelly does really well is incorporating real history into her stories. To be in a setting like San Francisco, and specifically San Francisco Chinatown, and not talk about the history of Chinese exclusion and other racist laws would have done a disservice to the story, but it can be a bit daunting, especially for a middle grade novel. But Kelly tackles it head on and finds a way to present these terrible truths in an easy to digest manor that I hope will encourage young readers to go and do the research and learn more on their own. (The Asian American Studies major in me would scream with joy to have more people to discuss this history with!)
Mia has always struggled with finding her place in the world and that is compounded in this story by being the youngest and the smallest in her journalism camp. As if those things weren’t enough to differentiate her, she is also one of the few people of color. But her determination drives her and she is always able to make the best of a bad situation.
Though these stories are written for middle grade readers, I think everyone and anyone who has ever felt like they didn’t belong or like their dreams weren’t achievable will take something after having read them. Kelly writes from experience, but she also does a lot of leg work to ensure the stories feel authentic and it shows.
TOP STORY is the fifth book in the Front Desk series by Kelly Yang and hits shelves on September 5, 2023. Pick up a copy for the middle grade reader in your life (or for yourself!) here and don’t forget to grab FRONT DESK, THREE KEYS, ROOM TO DREAM, and KEY PLAYER to round out your collection!
Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop affiliate link above, not only will I receive a small commission (which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you), but you will also be supporting indie bookstores like my local fave Linden Tree Books without whom this review would not be possible! If you prefer Amazon, visit my Amazon storefront and click on the list titled "2023 Book Recommendations."