Three Keys is the follow-up to Kelly Yang’s award-winning book, Front Desk. Front Desk followed the struggles of an an immigrant family working for ruthless hotel manager, Mr. Yao, who ensured the Tang’s were overworked, underpaid and constantly lived in fear. With the help of investors, many of whom were fellow immigrants, the Tang’s bought the motel and at the start of Three Keys the family are making a real go of things.
But things quickly spiral downhill. Hotel business starts to fall and the investors are not happy. More worryingly, a state election is looming and a potential candidate is keen to pass a new immigration law. After successfully battling against Mr. Yao, Mia now faces a much greater challenge - the views of an entire state and a governor who, if elected, threatens the lives of undocumented immigrants including Mia’s best friend Lupe. But if there’s one girl that could rise up to the challenge, it’s Mia.
I loved Front Desk and it is one of those books that I think every child, and adult, should read. I wasn’t sure that I could love Three Keys more than Front Desk but the honest truth is, I do. Kelly Yang delivers another heartfelt and emotional read based on her own experiences of being an immigrant. This time she shares her experiences of living in America during the turbulent and highly charged elections for the role of California state governor in 1994 and the potential passing of Proposition 187 that would deny undocumented immigrants access to key and essential services.
Like in the first book, Yang’s writing comes from the heart and is filled with the emotion and honesty that comes from personally experiencing the events. She does an excellent job in raising awareness of the issues that immigrants and non-white Americans face. From their struggles to be accepted and treated like equals and to be offered the same opportunities and access to services as the white Americans to being approved for financial services and medicare. Things that many of us take for granted are a constant battle for immigrants.
Mia Tang is the most big-hearted and wonderful of characters and I whole heartedly believe that Kelly Yang was just as tenacious and upbeat as a child. At eleven-years-old Mia is ready to take on the world and continues her mission to fight racial prejudice and social injustice. Ably supported by friends, family and the community at the Calivista Motel she might just succeed. One of my favourite characters is Hank, a black man who is no stranger to life’s battles and the struggles for equality. Hank is wise enough to recognise that if you’re an immigrant or black then life is going to be tough. But as he says, "That doesn’t mean you stop trying.” And together, he and Mia make quite the team.
Whilst much of the read is a damning indictment on the treatment of the immigrant community within America, the story is filled with hopes and dreams and of a better and brighter future. Lovely moments of kindness and a reminder that there are wonderful people out there come in the form of a lawyer who is willing to help Mia for free and a school teacher who gives up her lunchtimes to help Mia improve her writing.
Hard-hitting, emotional and important, this book deserves a place in all schools, libraries and homes.
Recommended for 9+.