Three Keys by Kelly Yang

Publication date: 7 January 2021

The Blurb

The story of Mia and her family and friends at the Calivista Motel continues in this sequel to the award-winning novel Front Desk. Mia Tang thinks she’s going to have the best year ever. She and her parents are the proud owners of the Calivista Motel, Mia gets to run the front desk with her best friend, Lupe, and she’s finally getting somewhere with her writing! But as it turns out, sixth grade is no picnic…

  1. Mia’s new teacher doesn’t think her writing is all that great. And her entire class finds out she lives and works in a motel!
  2. The motel is struggling, and Mia has to answer to the Calivista’s many, many worried investors.
  3. A new immigration law is looming and if it passes, it will threaten everything — and everyone — in Mia’s life.

It’s a roller coaster of challenges, and Mia needs all of her determination to hang on tight. But if anyone can find the key to getting through turbulent times, it’s Mia Tang!

Cover illustration by Maike Plenzke

The Review

Tackling racism head-on, Three Keys is an incredibly powerful, emotional journey through the turbulent times of the 1994 Governor elections in California and the vote for Proposition 187.

It was so good to be back at the Calivista with Mia, her parents, friends and the family you choose for yourself. Having felt anger, sadness, joy and hope reading Front Desk, I was prepared for an emotionally charged read, but not the levels of rage that reading this invoked.

Kelly Yang takes real historical events and weaves them through the lives of the immigrants in the book. Discussion around the language and labels placed on people show just how divisive and dangerous language can be when it is weaponised against a section of society, as well as what a positive force for change it can be.

But, there is so much hope and joy in Three Keys – it is wonderful to see the unwaivering positivity, the selflessness and support offered by some of the characters that show family really is bigger than blood relations and the power of a supportive community in times of need.

All of the characters leap off the page and it is easy to empathise with all of them – the adage that every one is fighting their own battle has never been so plainly put. I particularly liked the dynamics between Mia, Lupe and Jason, and that none of them are perfect in their responses to each other, but their desire to be better, to own and learn from their mistakes is key in building the society they want to grow up in.

The Authors Notes at the end give the factual information about the historical events referred to in the story, and show that nearly 30 years later, we still haven’t become the kind, inclusive society that we all deserved to live in.

Huge thanks to Knights Of for sending me Front Desk and setting me off on the journey with Mia. It’s going to feel like a very long wait for book three.

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