Review: Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Posted January 15, 2014 by chooseyabooks in reviews / 0 Comments

: Roomies
Author: Sara Zarr and  Tara Altebrando
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date: 2nd January 2014
Series/standalone: Standalone
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from publisher

Goodreads Description: 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.

Review:  I love books that talk about what it’s like to start university and I am a big fan of Sara Zarr so Roomies definitely appealed to me the moment I heard about it.

Lauren and Elizabeth live in different states and have never met before but are about to become roommates at college. However, when Elizabeth emails her new roommate to sort out the simple stuff; who will bring a microwave and who will bring the fridge she is surprised to discover that Lauren wasn’t expecting her email. She’d requested a single. The two email and begin to rely on each other as their lives become more and more complicated.

While a lot of books look at starting university, I haven’t seen a novel look at the relationship between incoming roommates before. In the UK, where I’m based and went to university, we have single rooms so it seemed completely alien to me that you get paired with a potential stranger and share a room for a year – what about your privacy and personal space?!  Roomies is more than this though too, it’s about family and the weird summer of being not in high school and a grown up but simultaneously not a grown up. Both characters are aware of the difficulties friendships they’ve relied on for years are about to encounter as their groups scatter the country.

I loved the fact that both Lauren and Elizabeth, or EB,  had families and strong interactions and dealings with them. It can be so easy to neglect the parent in YA, after all parents often swoop in and solve problems and you want the main character to do that his or herself. In Roomies however, parents are part of the problems though; Lauren’s family is hectic and chaotic as she has five younger siblings, while EB’s mother is dating a married man.

Both Lauren and EB meet or form new relationships over the summer. In particular, I really liked Lauren’s development and her relationship with Keyon, who I really rooted for as I read the book as EB’s interest, Mark, at times felt a little too perfect; not that that is always a bad thing!

The emails framed the chapters and worked well with the story and characters. It was great seeing their friendship build as the emails progressed and felt very realistic.

My only criticism of the book was because it dealt with quite a lot of meaty issues and themes, not all of them were as well explored as I would have liked. EB’s relationship with her mother offered so much material and I would have liked to have seen more about that. Also I would liked to have seen more on her emotions and response to some of the problems she encountered with her father.

Overall, Roomies is a thought-provoking, human and humorous look at starting college and becoming a roommate. I recommend this to fans of contemporary YA and college set reads -despite not being set during college. I really enjoyed this book and I’d be interested to see if the two authors produce any more collaborations and writing together.

I received a free copy from Hodder & Stoughton for reviewing purposes. My review is honest and its tone and content unaffected by the means in which I received the book.

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