Google+ YA Romantics: Just Finished Reading … Roomies by Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Just Finished Reading … Roomies by Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr

Roomies
by Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr
To be published by Little, Brown BFYR
on December 24, 2013

Source: Thanks to Little, Brown for approving me for an e-ARC on Netgalley.

Summary from 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.
My take:  Roomies chronicles the cyber-relationship between two girls assigned to be freshman roommates at Berkeley: Elizabeth ("E.B.") and Lauren. The two begin corresponding early in the summer, first about dorm room business and then, slowly, about lots of other things too: their relationships, family problems, insecurities and more.

I love YA books that take place the summer before college. It's such a momentous summer, a time when you're saying goodbye to your old life and embarking upon a new adventure. A time when you're poised awkwardly between childhood and adulthood. A time when you are about to be forced to share a teeny-tiny room with a complete and total stranger. I loved the idea of taking this excitement and uncertainty and then adding in the uncertainty and awkwardness of an online relationship. Right off, the two girls get off to a rocky start in their emailing. Then there's the "how much do I share?" question. The "will I regret sharing once I meet this person in real life?" issue. The "OMG I really regret oversharing…."

I'm not a huge fan of stories told in letters, emails, poems, texts, and such. Luckily for me, Roomies was told through both emails and prose, as the girls correspond and also take turns narrating in first person. Roomies is also a collaboration by two YA authors. As I've read one book by Tara Altebrando (The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life) and all of Sara Zarr's books, the first thing I did was try to figure out who wrote what. At first I was convinced that Tara wrote E.B. and Sara wrote Lauren, but after a while I wasn't so sure.

Roomies did a great job of balancing the girls' online correspondence with what was going on in their real lives. Both E. B and Lauren are embarking on new romantic relationships in real life, and each is trying to figure out if that new relationship is just a summer fling or something with more long-term potential. All the respective parents (except the dad of Lauren's crush) are pretty awful, which creates additional problems for the girls. One parent-related plot twist struck me as improbable, but there was another that I loved because it nicely encapsulated some of the sticky situations that can arise when virtual friendship extends into the real world.

I really enjoyed Roomies. It's contemporary YA that's fun to read but also that manages to touch on a lot of interesting questions about communication and friendship -- both real and virtual.

I'll be giving an ARC of Roomies away tomorrow on Freebie Friday, so be sure to stop by!

You can check out the first few chapters of Roomies right here!

And check out my list of other YA books that take place during the summer before freshman year.

14 comments:

  1. Darn I thought it was going to be told completely through emails and that made me super excited. Still I can handle a balance between the two types (that's how Rainbow Rowell's Attachments is told.) I'm so bummed that my copy was archived before I could download it :(

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    1. Ha -- you and your epistolary fixation. I was happy with the balance. Hope you get to read it soon!

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  2. I didn't get this one. I think I went to download it the same day the announcement came out, but they were already all taken. Great review. My only issue might be the awful parents on both sides. Sometimes it bothers me when this is so consistent in YA. I don't think - at least I would hope not - that in real life most parents are so dramatically terrible. One parent or set of parents maybe, but both or all of them all the time? It's just too much for me sometimes. I'll have to check this one out sometime, though, since I do love this stage in life too.

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    1. I was happy there was one excellent parent, and the rest ranged from rude and self-centered to downright horrendous. But don't let that stop you -- it's a fun premise and a fun story!

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  3. This sounds really good. I like the idea of it having to two types of writing styles in the book. This is my first time hearing about this book, but I'm definitely curious about it now! Great review :)

    Janina @ Synchronized Reading

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  4. I was offered this one for review and I adore the premise/cover but needed to catch up on other books first. I might give it a shot though.

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    1. Yes -- I think you'd like it. It has some similarities to Fangirl. Without the Fanfic.

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  5. I was wondering about when you said at the beginning you thought you knew which author had written which girls part but then in the end you were not as sure. Why? What changed? Did they lose their distinctive voices during the course of the book?

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  6. I know you were really excited for this one, so I'm glad you enjoyed it. E-mail me the improbable parent thing and the cool real world/virtual parent thing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  7. I'm glad to hear there was a good balance between the emails and their real life. I tend to skim email sections in books so I was worried about that here. :)

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  8. I usually read books in text/email form much faster. This sounds good.

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  9. I just heard about this one on another blog...and then read your review! I'm sold. For me, being in Australia, that whole concept of "summer before college" is totally foreign. But it's fun to read about anyway. I think I'd have trouble reading this as an e-book, if it's told in mixture of emails and prose. Might wait until I can get a physical copy. Great review! (As always!!)

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  10. I haven't gotten to this one yet, but I've heard it's not the fluffy little contemp I was expecting. I do appreciate the fact that it's a cross between an epistolary novel and standard prose...that should be fun.

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