Goodreads: Three Keys
Series: Front Desk #2
Mia is excited for the sixth grade. But then things start to fall apart. Her new teacher isn’t giving her writing the A’s she thinks she deserves. And the hotel isn’t doing well, now that a local politician has been calling for the removal of immigrants from schools. The kids at school are saying mean things about immigrants, too. Can Mia and her friends find a way to make a difference?
Three Keys continues Mia’s adventures from Front Desk, which saw her help her parents buy the hotel where they had been experiencing mistreatment as employees. Just as Front Desk worked to raise awareness of how immigrants to the U. S. can experience hardship and abuse–especially if they do not have papers and are afraid to go to the authorities–Three Keys works to gain readers’ sympathy for undocumented immigrants who live each day fearing that they could lose rights or be deported. With a timely release just before the November 2020 elections, Three Keys seeks to remind readers of the humanity of immigrants, calling for empathy rather than fear or hate.
Three Keys is obviously a political book, even if readers do not read the afterword, in which Kelly Yang describes her experiences growing up in 1994 and hearing about Prop 187, a California ballot initiative that sought to bar undocumented immigrants from attending public schools, along with the parallels she sees today. The book centers around Prop 187 and the characters’ reactions to it. Some, like Mia, are horrified, while others think the bill does not concern them. Still others celebrate it, leading to a rise in hate crimes that Yang meticulously documents in her story, all based on real events. The book ultimately encourages readers to see everyone as connected. The message is that a bill that would affect undocumented immigrants affects us all.
Along with the message comes an engaging story, with multiple threads that Yang masterfully intertwines. The introduction of Prop 187 ultimately affects business at Mia’s hotel, her experiences at school, and her friendships, as she comes to realize that some of the people she loves the most will be hurt by Prop 187, while some of her other friends do not seem too concerned. Characters who, at first, seem attracted to Prop 187, viewing it merely as mathematical and economical sense, start to change their minds when Mia introduces them to real-life immigrants who could be affected. Thus, a story that could be depressing turns out hopeful, as Yang demonstrates that everyone has the power to make a difference.
Yang’s engaging writing style, her cast of lovable characters, and her gripping plot all combine to make Three Keys a must-read middle grade of 2020. Its release before the election was certainly timely, but its message of empathy and understanding will be relevant long after November.