Friday, 3 January 2014
Review: Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando
Format: Trade paperback / eBook
Released: January 2nd, 2014
An engaging and heart-warming 'two voice' story of an East Coast/West Coast digital friendship that begins when Elizabeth emails her soon-to-be college roommate, Lauren. On the cusp of freedom during their last summer before starting a new independent life away from home, they discover the catharsis that an anonymous email friendship can bring as they chronicle the tension, excitement and anxiety of leaving their homes, falling in love, and finding the right mini-fridge.
I was expecting a lot from Roomies, based on the fact that Sara Zarr is an excellent YA writer and I like most of her books. I've never read anything by Tara Altebrando before, so was looking forward to discovering a new writer and seeing how the two work together. I was disappointed in this book and didn't think I'd actually finish it. The more I read, the more I got into it, but it never fully resonated with me and made me desperately want to read more. That's not to say that it's not a good book, because it is, but it's not one that grabbed me personally.
Roomies is told from two points of view, one from each author, which is one of my favourite ways to tell a story. I don't think Roomies quite worked in this format, and I didn't find either voice to be distinctive enough. I often forgot whether I was reading about Lauren or Elizabeth which, when it's a dual narrative, makes for a confusing time. For this style to work, both characters need to be easy to recognise and stand out on their own, whereas here I felt they blended too much. I did however appreciate how Lauren and Elizabeth communicated before they'd even met - through email. How very 2014 of them!
One aspect of Roomies I did really enjoy is the themes and issues explored when it comes to leaving for college for the first time. Lauren and Elizabeth are eighteen years old, they're still growing up and they have all these feelings and anxieties that are increased tenfold thanks to their freshman year of college getting closer and closer. They have one summer left - one summer to do everything and see everyone - and that must be so, so daunting. I never went to university myself, so reading about it is always interesting for me. To some extent I can understand what it must feel like to be leaving home and starting a life on your own, but I can't fully empathise because I've never done it myself. To me it's a bit of a scary, foreign concept, which is why I love seeing it through someone else's eyes. Zarr and Altebrando do a great job of encapsulating this time in a teenager's life, and it makes this book very real.
I wish I liked this book more, that I cared more for the characters and was eager to read as much as possible in one go. Sadly I didn't, but I still enjoyed certain parts of it. I know I'm not alone with my lukewarm feelings towards Roomies, and I know many readers have absolutely loved it which, of course, is the beauty of books. I hope you guys give it a read and decide for yourselves, because these are two great authors who came together to write a story that needed telling; one that will hopefully make the huge transition from high school to college a little bit easier.