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Roomies by Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
Format: Paperback
Source: Bookbridgr
Rating: 3/5
Synopsis 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. 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.
I wouldn't say I was completely wowed by Roomies but I liked it. More importantly, it is exactly the kind of book I would actually give to a 16/17 year old and at the end of the day, that's what it's all about, right?

Roomies addresses all the issues you can think of from making new friends to losing old friends, absent parents and ever-present parents, cheating, lying, sex, interracial dating, long distance dating, following your dreams and many more that escape me at this moment in time! All in all, there's quite a lot packed into this little book. For this reason, at times it felt like we were skipping some character development. However, the two main girls were nice enough. I get the feeling they were kept deliberately vague in terms of appearance and personality because the biggest market for this book would be young people getting ready for college and it's easier to put yourself in the equation if the characters aren't too complicated. 

I liked the ups-and-downs of their virtual friendship and the assumptions they made about each other because of the way an email was written - in that way, it was very real. We've all been there wondering how exactly to take a certain phrase when seeing it in plain text. Bring back the landline! I thought Lauren's family got to go on more of a journey, so it would've been nice to have more scenes with Elizabeth and her mother - maybe peel back the layers on her mother a little more so we're not left with just a snapshot (and a rather unflattering one at that). I liked that both girls had rather different choices in major - Elizabeth with her agriculture and Lauren with her STEM choice. 

I've never been through the roommate process - except for my summer at Brown but that was short term and we didn't know each other beforehand. It's not very common to have a roommate at university in the UK. My university had old school style halls - long corridors with single bedrooms and a shared bathroom and kitchen at the end. Yeah, I don't miss that. However, some of the newer universities have modern accommodation with podl=-like rooms containing a sleeping area, desk area, and an en-suite (yes, fancy, I know). Anyway, whilst Roomies  made it seem fun to get to know your roommate, I'm kind of glad I didn't have to do it! 

Overall, Roomies is a nice read that I wouldn't hesitate to actually buy for a teenager. A perfect choice of gift for seniors on spring break, I would say! 

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