Namioka, Lensey. 2006. Mismatch. New York: Delacorte Press. ISBN 0385731833.
B. Plot Summary
Family and national history play a vital role when two Asian-American teenagers, one Japanese-American, the other Chinese-American meet and begin dating.
C. Critical Analysis
Mismatch is definitely a modern teens' novel, set in modern times, complete with today's teen thought patterns: "He had a slim build but wide shoulders, and he moved in a relaxed, sexy way."
While the teens in the novel are securely modern American teens, the parents of the two main characters represent customs from the original homeland. Sue mentions that her grandmother, "...would have been insulted if an elaborate meal had not been prepared for her."
Mismatch's cultural markers are found in the description of the characters' physical characteristics, and are especially noted when the orchestra Sue and Andy belong to make a trip to Tokyo. Descriptions of Japan, the food, traditional clothing, and family home life are given. Forms of address are used, and especially noticeable are the polite exchanges between Andy and his host family in Tokyo, when Andy says, "It's very kind of you to drive me...Thank you very much for going to so much trouble."
Mismatch brings out a young person's argument about why one cannot date whomever they wish due to their family's nationality and history. Modern American teens will be able to relate to the family discussions in the novel about which cultural groups are acceptable to the elders in the families in the story.
D. Review Excerpts
School Library Journal When her Chinese-American parents move to an affluent suburb of Seattle, 15-year-old Sue Hua, a viola player, joins the school orchestra in hopes of finding a niche among her mostly white classmates. Although Sue wants them to consider her an American, she is frustrated that many think all Asians are members of a single ethnic group, without distinct cultural differences. She is attracted to Andy Suzuki, a talented violinist with disarming friendliness and concern, but she is wary of his Japanese ancestry. Her grandmother survived the Japanese invasion of China during World War II and has frightening memories of her abusive oppressors. Conversely, Andy's father dislikes the Chinese because he was treated disrespectfully on a business trip to Beijing. When the orchestra makes a trip to Tokyo, the teens must adjust to their host families and confront issues of heritage, bigotry, and stereotypes. These are mature, sensitive teenagers whose mutual attraction fortifies them to question and move beyond the historical prejudice of their families. And yet, they respect their separate backgrounds and want their parents approval. Although occasionally didactic, this story tackles issues of assimilation into American society, preserving and respecting different cultures, and accepting the past. The theme of cultural vs. personal identity drives the plot, provides the conflict, and defines the characters. Sue and Andy experience believable adolescent bouts of insecurity, anticipation, jealousy, and affection as their mutual understanding grows. A story that is current, relevant, and upbeat.
Booklist When Suzanne Hua, a Chinese American, and Andy Suzuki, a Japanese American, meet in their high-school orchestra, their white classmates see them as a good match (Aren't all Asians the same?). But at home, things are different: Suzanne's beloved grandmother can't forget the brutality of the Japanese who invaded China, and Andy's father is prejudiced about the "dirty, backward" Chinese. Still, the personal conflicts bring the diversity issues close. Andy's dad hopes his son will find his roots when he visits Japan; instead, Andy discovers he's more American than he realized. Then comes the question, Does Andy want to shake off his cultural heritage? It's a question Suzanne must face as well.
If older students wish to, allow them to share stories of how they coped with family discrimination against someone they liked.
Encourage students to read more novels of this theme: mixed-culture dating.