14 Jan / Three Keys [Front Desk 2] by Kelly Yang [in Booklist]
The lively cast of Front Desk returns with narrator Sunny Lu, adding much-appreciated continuity. A relative audiobook newbie, Lu proves her expertise in ciphering middle graders to middle-aged adults. That she’s also an attorney makes the lawyers here – both the pompous and the heroic – especially convincing.
Back at Calivista, 11-year-old Mia is still managing the motel’s front desk, although her parents are now their own bosses. Lupe remains her best friend, but former nemesis Jason might be human after all. The year is 1994, and Prop 187 is on the California gubernatorial ballot, threatening access to public resources, especially education for undocumented immigrants.
Mia’s new teacher, Mrs. Welch, wears a Prop 187-supporting-Pete-Wilson-for-Governor button, bringing her politics and impatience into the classroom. Those politics turn personal when Lupe’s mother goes missing and Lupe’s father is imprisoned. Mia – and her extended motel family – must figure out how to bring everyone home.
Kelly Yang, who was 10 in 1994, reveals in her author’s note how she channeled her traumatizing memories of racism and fear into Three Keys – which also became an antidote to the current hate-filled anti-immigration rhetoric promulgated by Trump’s presidency.