Roomies by Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando


 Title: Roomies

 Series: Standalone

 Authors: Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando

 Genre: contemporary

 Rating: ★★★★☆

 In short: wow. A wonderful story about two girls preparing to go for college, all the reasons they want to leave, and all the reasons they want to stay.

Goodreads: 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.

There are so many words I could use to describe Roomies, but they probably won’t be adequate. As someone who’s always been super excited to go to college (two more years. Sigh.) this book managed to capture everything I’ve ever felt about the future. The uncertainty, the excitement, the need to escape. I loved it. I didn’t expect it to be this good, mind. But it was; it had me glued to my Kindle, and reading on my iPod in the night.

The thing I loved about Roomies was that it was totally and wholly the girls’ stories. And Lauren and Elizabeth were both such genuine girls. Visible flaws, bad tempers, and such realistic thoughts. It was so easy to immerse myself in their lives, to gasp at their troubles, to fight their fights. And essentially, that’s the most important thing in a book: what the author needs to inspire in their readers is empathy for the characters. And boy, did this book do that. Though I am widely known to be a big baby when it comes to emotional books, there is no denying that Roomies was an emotional ride.

Roomies follows the story of two girls, Lauren and Elizabeth, who live on the opposite sides of the country. The girls find out that they’re roommates, and start to email. In the bittersweet post-high-school summer, they both find it easy to talk to each other (though not without several hiccups at first) and soon they’re regularly exchanging mails. Lauren’s the oldest of six kids, so she wasn’t exactly looking forward to a roommate. Despite the fact that her house is always crowded, she has a loving and caring family. Elizabeth (EB) on the other hand, is an only child with a single mother; her dad left them to be with his boyfriend. The two girls seem so fundamentally different, and that leads to several clashes. Yes, ‘roommates do not have to be best friends’, but it seems as if Lauren and EB won’t get along at all at one point. Which is so real – not everyone hits it off, especially not people who are so caught up in the changing worlds.

Yes, it was great. READ IT! Lauren’s story was more grounded and realistic than EB’s, which sometimes got a bit overdramatic. That didn’t diminish my love for the book, though. I personally loved EB from the start, so even if her story got a tad soap-opera-esque, I lapped it up.

Apparently, some reviewers had problems with this book, two of them. The first? Lauren’s crush Keyon is black, and both Lauren and EB aren’t quite sure what to do about it. Not that either of them mind, but it does make for some very awkward conversations. Lauren’s wondering if she will seem weird to his parents, if she will say something wrong – the topic of colour isn’t exactly easy to broach, and she’d obviously prefer staying away from that. EB wonders, on reading Lauren’s email about him, if he is black, and if there is a polite and inoffensive way to ask. Which I think are perfectly normal things to be worried about! Second, EB’s gay dad. Just to clear everything up, she doesn’t have any homophobic ideas. The whole reason she’s upset with her dad is that he left, not that he’s gay. Think Blair Waldorf!

Anyway, Roomies was an excellent coming-of-age story overall. I will definitely be checking out both of these authors—can’t believe I hadn’t heard of them before!


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