Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Review: Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Title: Roomies
Authors: Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release date: December 24th 2013
Pages: 288
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: BEA - I received a free advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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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 rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Sara Zarr is one of my favorite authors, and I've been wanting to read a Tara Altebrando book for a while, so I was really excited when I heard about this collaboration. Add to that the topic - going away to college, a more mature YA read, and I knew I had to read it! But while Roomies is a fun read, I couldn't help but feel a bit disappointed as well.

I already knew I loved Sara Zarr's writing, and I liked Tara Altebrando's style too. (Does anyone know who wrote which parts?) The writing is easy to get lost in and reads quickly, balancing fun, breezy scenes with more meaningful, insightful ones perfectly.

The characters are okay: both Elizabeth and Lauren are easy to relate to and fun to read about. I was surprised, though, by how similar the two narrators are: They're supposed to be really different, but aside from the outside circumstances, they seemed pretty similar. It was hard for me to remember whose POV I was reading from, asides from the outside circumstances, because their ways of thinking are just really similar. I'm not sure whether that's a good thing: oftentimes with multiple POVs, authors try to make their characters seem too different and the characterization ends up overdramatic and cliched, which I'm glad is not the case in Roomies. But I sill wish there had been some more smaller things two distinguish the two characters.

I'm not sure what to make of the plot, either. I liked Lauren's and Elizabeth's separate storylines, reading about their contrasting family lives and both girls' complicated romantic involvements. Both stories develop very naturally and were interesting to read about. Surprisingly, though, the part I didn't like as much was the mutual going-away-to-college theme. I love the idea of this theme, but it was a little too melodramatic for me. Both characters just make too big a deal out of leaving home. I know that just because things like that are not a big deal too me because I just kind of do things without worrying about them, that doesn't mean everyone else does, too, but the drama was just too much for me.

Roomies is an entertaining read. It's light-hearted, fun, and quick to read. But to me, it just felt like something was missing; it seemed too typical to me. Maybe I was simply underwhelmed because I expect more than "good" from Sara Zarr. Still, it's an entertaining read, and I will be checking out Tara Altebrando's other books because I really enjoyed the writing style.


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