Roomies by Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr
Release Date: December 24, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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.
Roomies was such a realistic, bubbly, emotional read that left me nostalgic for what I have now but also excited for the future. I loved both the characters, the writers were both fantastic separately and even more phenomenal together, and the stories were so relatable and layered that I couldn't help falling in love with them.The book focuses on two soon-to-be college roommates during their bittersweet summer between college and high school - transitionary yet epitome of their respective high school experiences. Between saying goodbye to families, saying goodbye and hello to high school sweethearts, and tentatively getting to know their future roommates (each other), they're set up for an epic summer.Both girls had really interesting backgrounds and family dynamics. Nothing was black and white - their romances, their families, and their relationship with each other. That's really what contributed to the realism of this book: none of the characters were trying to fit a mold or ostentatiously break it. They were people, as complex and simple as normal people are trying to get to know each other.Elizabeth was looking forward to one last summer where nothing changed: one last summer with her friends and the boyfriend she secretly couldn't wait to say goodbye to at the end. After all, why ruin their last summer when going off to college will split them up by itself? Her mother's head-over-heels for yet another married man, she doesn't speak to her San Franciscan dad, and she's got babysitting and her botany job to keep her busy throughout it all.Lauren's desperate to escape her stifling household. Despite how much she loves her siblings, she can't help but think about how much easier everything was when she was an only child, before her gaggles of younger siblings entered the picture. She never has quiet time - always making sure she can understand P.J.'s unintelligible babble enough to feed her, bathing the little ones, getting through the chaos that is her everyday life. She hates how even going to the grocery store is a huge battle, always keeping track of the children and dealing with their various crises - busy enough to where she doesn't even have enough time to get through her own.So she requests a single. When rooming disregards her request and she gets an email entitled "Hi Roomie!", her initial thought is dismay. Elizabeth seems much too quirky and she's not ready to open up to this bubbly new girl who spills all her personal information all at once. But she doesn't want to alienate the girl she'll be spending a year with. Soon casual emails about microwaves and packing turn into heartfelt correspondences about their love interests, friend issues, and the girls feel as if they know each other already.It's refreshing to have somebody completely separate from your personal drama to vent to. But the girls soon discover that an email relationship still has just as many ups-and-downs as a real one.The layout reminded me of This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith, with the honeyed reliability of a Susane Colasanti novel. Divided into two alternating narrations, both girls narrate from a first-person perspective and correspond via email to each other. Short chapters also help keep the pace fluid.There were new guys and saying goodbye to old ones. Elizabeth had to struggle through drifting away from her closest friends, and Lauren was just trying to juggle her jobs and contemplate how to keep her family running during the summer. Caught between wanting to stay and wanting to be gone, both the girls had a lot on their plates that were really relatable. The characters grew and changed, acted petulant at points only to realize that they were being overdramatic, went through everything that the average teenage girl yet. The growth and thought behind both of them made me really appreciate and respect both the characters so quickly.The writing flows really well: it's fresh and thoughtful. It enhanced the plot and made it very effortless to get through the stories. Both character voices were integrated so smoothly and distinctly that there wasn't ever a point where I felt a disconnect or a break in the story.The romances and relationships were really cute and lovely to read about. They were perfectly built up, in my opinion. Mark was really adorable and Elizabeth had a ton to work through with her mother's relationship and her own. Elizabeth's was more insta-love while Lauren's was more like a friendship, but I really thought that both relationship worked in its own way. Lauren's budding relationship with Keyon - a sweet guy with a dirty mouth - was one of my favorite parts of the book. There were questions about race and ethics and all these things that still wriggled their way into the relationships and made them much more real. Each relationship had its own quirks that made it unique and memorable to say the least.This book has first love and last loves, big families and small families, loneliness and kitchen appliances (?), new experiences and familiar experiences. Change was inevitable but nostalgia was okay. It was okay to be have new things and old things to cling to while their lives were changing.It's sweet but not overstated, subtle in its exploration of new ideas. It's adorable enough to consider a beach read, or one that I want to lose myself in, but mature and entertaining enough to also make me think. It was a pretty quick read for me, mostly because I didn't want to put it down, but I know it'll linger for a while. It's charming to say the least. This is such an excellent read with a ton of heart.Recommended for anybody who loves: The Moon and More; Take Me There; Amy & Roger's Epic Detour; Lola and the Boy Next Door; The Infinite Moment of Us; This Is What Happy Looks Like; etc,.