Books · reviews

Book review: Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

roomiesFor this week’s review, we’re returning to the young adult genre just in time to discuss…

By Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Published by Little, Brown in December 2013.

Using alternating points-of-view, Roomies follows the lives of two girls the summer before their freshman year of college. Elizabeth lives in New Jersey with her single mom; Lauren lives in California with her parents and a handful of younger siblings. The two girls start emailing each other, but are soon left wondering how two people that are so different from one another will ever be able to share a room.

Roomies is unique amongst all of the young adult books that I’ve read in that it takes place not during high school, or college, but during that weird in-between time where you’ve got one foot in the door, and the other firmly planted at home. Both girls want to be excited by the prospect of meeting new people, and living away from home for the first time, but are understandably scared about what that means and what they will be leaving behind.

For Elizabeth, going to college means moving across the country, to California, and leaving all of her friends behind—they’re all going to colleges in New Jersey. Throughout the book she really struggles to continue identifying with her old friends, often feeling like they’ve already moved on without her. And, of course, she also has a bit of boy drama to deal with (though not too much) when she meets a guy at her landscaping job (she’s landscaping, he lives in the house she’s working on).

For Lauren, college is the chance to escape from her hectic family life, but she soon begins to doubt if she really wants to leave them. Lauren also has to cope with a changing relationship between her and her lifetime best friend, as well as a new relationship with a boy she meets at her summer job at a family-owned deli.

There was a lot I liked about this book. For one thing, I loved that the girls both had realistic summer jobs—the aforementioned landscaping and deli gigs—so while they may have spent the summer going to the occasional party, or down the shore, they also had responsibilities. I also liked how the authors managed to write two very distinct voices in the narrators, but still showed the similarities between the two girls. You don’t need to be the exact same person to get along with, or become friends with someone.

Roomies reminded me of my own experiences during the summer before college (almost 8 years ago… ack!) and when I first started messaging my future roommate, a lovely girl named Jenna who I am still friends with. I’d recommend this book to any girl who is about to graduate from high school and is worried about moving off to college for the first time. Roomies is a really refreshing and fun read. I enjoyed this book a lot and hope you will too!

**This book also gets super special bonus points for partially taking place in New Jersey!

About the book:

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.


6 thoughts on “Book review: Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

  1. Interesting. I think that’s my biggest regret about college, never dorming. I only lived about 30 minutes away so it wasn’t worth it. I guess I still had an apartment with a friend at one point, but I was never forced to live with a stranger. lol

    I’m so biased against contemporary YA, but I have really loved some. I like the idea that it’s not set while they’re in highschool though.

  2. I’m not a huge contemporary fan, but I may see if my library has this one. It sounds like a good read before any season of change.

    My only roomie experience was my semester in Spain, but I only met my roommate once I got there, so no prep time or pre-semester emails. I think I can commiserate with these characters, though. You can share the room, but being completely different makes for an…interesting time. 😉

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