Friday, November 29, 2013

Review: Roomies by Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr

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I received this book for free from Hachette Book Group Canada in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Roomies by Tara Altebrando and Sara ZarrRoomies by Sara Zarr, Tara Altebrando
Published by Little Brown BfYR on December 24th 2013
Genres: Contemporary, YA
Source: Hachette Book Group Canada
Buy on Amazon

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.

An effortless, light read about college, friendship, family, and romance, Roomies is your everyday chick-lit that offers a few hours of entertainment.

I’ve always enjoyed stories that take place during the summer right before college. A time where you’re still young and mostly clueless, but starting to get out of your shell. That was Roomies’ main charm for me. We get two parallel stories with two separate girls who are leaving behind two completely different teenage lives. With that said, it’s a bit unfortunate how similar the character voices are. Still, both girls are easy to fall in-tune with, having that easy-going narration that makes it a breezy read. We’ve got Elizabeth – EB – who’s leaving a strained relationship with her mother who dates married men. Whereas Lauren is leaving behind a house full of very young siblings to finally have some quiet time – but is that what she really wants

These two girls form a particular relationship via email when they find out they will be each other’s roommates in college. This is a good display of how email communication can sometimes be perceived so differently on each end. There are no facial expressions or tonality; things can appear completely different from what you actually meant. Even moreso when both parties are living such different lives with opposite priorities. As you’d expect, this causes a few disagreements. While this is happening we get to know both girls individually, bringing understanding behind each dry reply, each dramatic reaction, and each judgment call. It was fun to get an outsider’s perspective of an online relationship. While I didn’t form a deep connection with either of them, I found myself relating much better to EB, and in turn enjoying her chapters more. Lauren, on the other hand, came off as quick to judge – or as EB would say: morally superior – minorly irritating me a time or two.

It’s no surprise that a book like this includes a romantic plotline – or two. This is one area where I preferred Lauren’s story. EB’s being more insta-love, more blasé about sex and the fact that she was leaving. In the end, though, I wasn’t swept off my feet by either romances. Them being simply a cute part of the book. In addition to the romance, we’ve got great – and crumbling – family dynamics as well as old and new friendships. Ultimately, it’s a book about growing up.

Quick note on the ending: I really really wanted to see them meet. Urgh!

If you’re looking for a light-hearted chick-lit read with girl-next-door personality and charm, Roomies is a good afternoon read. Imagine Sarah Dessen’s The Moon and More with a lighter touch.


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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

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17 Responses to “Review: Roomies by Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr”

  1. Melliane

    I love the cover, it’s a really nice one but it reflects your review, a nice read but not a wonderful one. I think it’s something perfect when we need a break.

  2. Pili

    Thanks for your great and honest review, Giselle!
    This sounds like a quick & fun read, but nothing to write home about. Since contemporary is really not my thing, I think I’ll skip this one.

  3. Kelsey

    They don’t actually meet at the end? That totally just ruined it for me lol. This seems like a light read some afternoon when there’s nothing else to do. Definitely from the library if I happen to want to read it.
    Thanks for reviewing!

  4. Emily

    Ooh now this looks like the kind of read that I’ll like 🙂 I enjoyed The Moon And More, so a more light-hearted version of it is definitely a MUST! 😀
    Fantastic review Giselle!! <33

  5. Amy @ Book Loving Mom

    I got the email to get this on Netgalley, but by the time I went on I couldn’t anymore. They still added it to my books though lol!! This sounds entertaining, but something that I guess I don’t mind that I missed out on.

  6. Alexa Y.

    I’m really, really looking forward to reading Roomies! It sounds like just the kind of book I’d enjoy, particular since I’ve had a lot of roomies myself over the years (since 2005).

  7. Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

    Great review Giselle, I’ve been really curious to see what people’s thoughts are on this book after seeing it on Netgalley. I like what you said about emails and it being taken in different ways, and here we’re able to see what the girls really are like online.

  8. Amanda @ Late Nights with Good Books

    I’ll admit I’m a bit disappointed to hear that the two protagonists’ voices sounded pretty similar to you. I haven’t read anything by Altebrando, but I have read Zarr’s How to Save a Life, and I thought she did a fairly good job at dual narratives. Hopefully this won’t be something that bothers me too much in this book.
    I want to read this mainly for a sense of lost nostalgia. I tried to connect with my freshman roommate and had all these expectations about how awesome things would be – and they just weren’t. Reading stories like this can make me daydream about the experience I could have had haha. (Although my roommate for the next two years was my best friend, so that basically made up for a bad freshman placement).
    I appreciate your honest review. Sometimes all I want is a lighter-fare chick lit, and this sounds perfect in that regard.