Review / Three Keys

Book: Three Keys (2020)
Author: Kelly Yang
Genre: MG, Historical [1990s]
Sequel to: Front Desk

Basic plot: Mia and her parents are now running the Calivista Motel on their own. But California is headed for an election and on the ballot is a threatening new immigration law, a law that is making everybody in Mia’s world question who needs to be in America and who shouldn’t. While Mia has trouble with a new teacher at school, Jasonnow Mia’s friend—is having trouble with his parents. And then there’s Lupe and her family…


1) Mia! Such a fun and enthusiastic voice. It was great to be back in her world as she navigates through new challenges. She still wants to be a writer, but her new teacher keeps giving her low grades! Oh, and she’s back to writing letters… of course! This time, she’s writing to VISA and letters to the editor.

2) I love her relationship with her BFF, Lupe. And I like how Jason is now a friend. But, as complications go, there’s a nice tension that exists between Lupe and Jason. Since the plot revolves around immigrants, it’s nice to see the three different types of immigrants side-by-side.

3) Lupe’s story is particularly interesting in this book. Seeing her navigate through some trying times, especially with what happens with her parents. I do like how Mia’s family (and Hank too!) take her under their wing. 

4) And then there’s Mia’s new teacher, Mrs. Welch. She is extremely unlikeable at the beginning of the story, especially when we see her give out those C’s to poor Mia. At first, I was a little worried that she was going to turn out to be a one-dimensional ‘bad guy’ character. But Kelly Yang had a trick up her sleeve. We do get to see her as a real person, more complex than young Mia realizes when they first meet.

5) And the motel setting is great. I love the weeklies (although, they don’t seem to be featured as much in this book). And Hank is definitely a star in Mia’s world! I love how the family and friends work so hard, banding together to save the motel.


1) Okay… the title. I was expecting something more prominent with this title. What are the three keys? Are they metaphorical? Are they real? I was intrigued, hoping for a little bit of both but… I kind of forgot about the title until near the end of the book. Then… BAM! (SPOILER!) It comes out of the blue in an off-comment by Hank (I think). It does come near the climax, however, I felt nothing when I read it. I don’t think it was set up well enough. (End Spoiler) *Sigh*


A good sequel to Front Desk! It was nice to be back in the world of Mia and her letter-writing. Definitely recommended for fans of the first book. And even if you haven’t read the first book! (Although, if you do read this one first, you will get some spoilers.)


Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday


18 thoughts on “Review / Three Keys

  1. Thought about The Front Desk as I read your review. Happy to see Mia writing letters to the editors and to Visa about the new Immigration legislation — kids exercising their voices and getting involved in their community issues. Great review!


  2. I nominated this title for this years Cybils since my other two choices were already covered. I agree it took a long time for the Three Keys connection to come forth. I wouldn’t mind another book in this series. The characters and setting are strong enough to support one. Thanks for the review.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I haven’t read the prior novel, but this one sounds intriguing. I especially like how it shows three different immigrants. And I’m all for wholly dimensional teachers!
    Thanks for featuring this!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved Kelly Yang’s YA novel Parachutes, so I really need to get around to this series! It sounds like this sequel packs a lot of new developments in. Thanks for the great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: My Top Reads… from 2021 | Of Maria Antonia

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