by Sara Zarr, Tara Altebrando
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on December 24th 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Source: From the publisher for review
Buy the Book • 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.
After seeing the cute premise for Roomies and noticing that one of the co-authors is Sara Zarr I knew that it was one I had to get my greedy hands on. After taking the novel in I’m a little confused on my feelings for it. I liked it, and was excited to be reading it, I even had my fair share of swooney moments throughout, but there were elements of the story that felt out of place and the characters themselves got kind of grating at times as well.
Looking back at my reading experience with Roomies it seems fitting to start with what I did like about the novel because I was all about it in the beginning. The voices of these two girls, Elizabeth (or EB) and Lauren was something that I connected with immediately. Their tendency to overanalyze everything and search for a great deep meaning really reminded me of the narration in one of my favourite shows ever, My So Called Life. Just like Angela Chase these girls thought everything through meticulously which I really appreciated. I think because of the transitional time they were at in their life they thought about things in a more mature way than is often found in YA novels.
The relationships are also a bit more mature, which was great. Both Lauren and EB are in new relationships and we get to watch them blossom as the story goes on. Lauren’s relationship with Keyon felt like it grew much more organically so I came to really ship these two and want to see them get closer in their own time. EB and Mark move pretty fast, sex and tokens of affection coming pretty early on, but Mark was really sweet so I found myself wanting them to thrive as well. What really shines in the relationship department is the familial connections in this novel. Lauren comes from a large family, she has five siblings that are much younger than herself. As the summer wears on and she is faced with leaving her home we see her really struggle with saying goodbye to her brothers and sisters and we also get to see her parents try to make up for lost time. They realize that she was forced to grow up pretty quickly once the younger kids were born and this leads to some sweet parent/daughter moments that are really heartwarming. EB just lives with her mom but we watch her attempt to form a relationship with her estranged father and it leads to quite a bit of drama as well. While EB’s home life wasn’t as heartwarming as Lauren’s I still enjoyed watching her and her mom struggle to find common ground.
All of this has been pretty positive so far but there were some parts of the novel that bothered me and felt just a little off. There is this fixation on race in both girls’ narratives that felt really weird to me. Lauren and Keyon begin dating and it’s like in every situation that becomes a focal point of sheer awkwardness for some reason. I don’t think the focus on this ever lead to some big revelation in any of the characters of race not really mattering so it felt like it served no purpose when it was constantly pointed out. I mean, I can see that it was maybe used to form an authentic feel in the voices, showing that the girls are real because they have honest thoughts but it just felt thrown in there for no good reason to me. Also, EB’s dramatics began to really grate on me as the story wore on but this is why I always had guy friends growing up instead of girlfriends.
Despite my few issues with the novel this was a fun read that I really enjoyed. It’s pretty easy going and flows really well. I liked the end, which felt like the culminating moment of everything and left me with a smile on my face. If you’re looking for a read that just might pull at your heart strings this holiday season I think Roomies could be a great place to look.