Book Review : Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

December 17, 2013 Book review 4 ★★★½

Roomies is fun, entertaining read about building a friendship on line.  It feels like snooping through someone’s emails or letters, so yes, that’s fun!

Book Review : Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara AltebrandoRoomies by Sara Zarr, Tara Altebrando
Published by Brown Books for Young Readers on 24 Dec 2013
Genres: YA Contemporary
Pages: 288
Format: eBook
Source: NetGalley

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.

My Recap of Roomies:

Two girls, 1 dorm room, and lots of emails and texts as the girls get to know each over the summer before they room together in college.

First Line of Roomies:
“Sometimes there are signs.”

My Thoughts on Roomies:

I enjoyed the build-up of friendship between the girls, it was fun to see a female friendship start in this way.  The pace was pretty good too, it wasn’t insta-friendship!  The correspondence was strained and tentative at the start until one girl decided to spill her heart one day and then they started to trust each other with some of the confusing details of their life that they aren’t sharing with those around them in real life.

It felt believable to me.  There is a weird temptation at times to unburden yourself to someone who doesn’t really you know, all they get is your side as they don’t know all the other players in your story.  And that can be both good and bad. But this is a strange situation as they are going to be living together soon and once you tell someone something, you can’t take it back.  I don’t think I’d have been as willing to divulge so much just in case I hated the person when I met them, it would make for a very uncomfortable year then knowing they know some of your most secret thoughts.

The narrative goes back and forth between the two girls and praise the Lord, each one is clearly labelled New Jersey or San Francisco so it was easy to know who was talking.  Plus the characters were very different so again no confusion.  I often feel disorientated in dual pov so I was delighted that wasn’t the case here.

Both girls are relatable and have that girl-next-door feel about them.  They are both scared and excited about college and freedom and I remember those feelings so well.  I loved the setting of the book (the summer before college) and the way the plot was executed.  Such an ordinary common situation but I have never seen it explored before.  Elizabeth and Lauren are both in new relationships too, so of course a lot of their  correspondence is about boy highs and lows, but not all of it.  This book would easily pass the Bechdel Test as they also talk about college majors, family, racism, work and so on and this was another plus for me.

I did feel the book was a bit predictable and nothing in the book made me go wow.  Also I was a bit disappointed at the end as I would have liked an epilogue or even one more page just so we could see both girls together.  I feel like we saw the build up but not the climax and that left me feeling that the book finished a bit too abruptly.

Overall thought despite the issues above I did really enjoy this one.  It’s a light, uplifting, cheerful book and I’m all about books that focus on female friendship.

One quirk in the book I loved was a yes/no/maybe so at the end of their emails of what they would bring to college.  So in honour of that:

Yes : To reading more books by these authors
No : To rereading this book
Maybe So : To finding more books like this in the NA genre


Rating Report
Did I feel it?
Overall: three-half-stars


Who should read Roomies?

I’d recommend this one to fans of NA contemporary fiction; here is one with a difference for you as the focus is on building a female friendship.

Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.


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4 Responses to “Book Review : Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando”

    • trish

      I think the yes/no/maybe part was one of favourite bits. They added a lot of fun to the story. Hope you get to read it soon Karen 🙂

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