Thursday, August 14, 2014

Review of Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Roomies  It's time to meet your new roomie.

When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, mini-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl's summer -- and raises questions about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.

As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives . . . and each other. Even though they've never met.

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr and acclaimed author Tara Altebrando join forces for a novel about growing up, leaving home, and getting that one fateful e-mail that assigns your college roommate.

(Summary from GoodReads) 

I realize that to some people, a relationship about two roommates may not sound like the most fascinating plot of a novel.  For some people, roommates are just the people you happen to see when you’re home.  When I moved into my first college dorm, I was excited to meet my roommate and was pleased that we soon became BFFs.  I’ve since avoided living with others, because I can be a little messy and I like to have room for all of my stuff.  Roomies is an engaging story about two girls on the cusp of change and how living together impacts their lives.

Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando have written a book that even people who have lived alone forever will relate to.  When Lauren and EB first start communicating, they both have a lot of uncertainty about boundaries.  How much should they talk?  What can be shared over e-mail and what in person?  Whatever happens is going to affect whether they can get along in person.  These questions arise not just for these fictional characters, but perhaps for people in real life who have online friends.

We get separate perspectives from Lauren and EB, and I liked hearing how different their experiences were. Their stories intersect in a way that was unexpected but gut-wrenching and realistic.  Both of them did things that will make readers uncomfortable because they sound like mistakes a real person would make.  My one complaint about their stories is that it sounded like each character was facing a similar dynamic with her best friend.  I wish there had been more variation there.

Diversity is well-handled in this book.  It’s something that both characters wind up feeling that they have to address.  I appreciate that Zarr and Altebrando didn’t shy away from some of the confusion these characters felt regarding race.

When I read Roomies, I got a quick read that made me appreciate its storytelling and handling of certain issues.  There are a few plot points that verge on being stereotypical of YA, and I think they hold this plus the lack of truly outstanding prose (something which I am super picky about) hold this novel back from being amazing.  Roomies will have a lot of appeal either to teens who anticipate sharing a room in the future or adult fans of YA who want a throwback to their college years.

Disclosure: I received a digital galley of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Other reviews:

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for linking to my review (can you tell I'm still catching up from my vacation? haha). I like how you point out that their mistakes will make people uncomfortable, but that they're real. I love that point and I definitely felt that way when reading. And I agree, the way the authors dealt with diversity was really great to see.



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