Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando | Book Review

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

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando | Book ReviewRoomies by Sara Zarr, Tara Altebrando
Also by this author: The Lucy Variations
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on 2013-12-24
Genres: Family, Friendship, Love & Romance, New Experience, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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.

I have to say, Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando both takes me back and simultaneously makes me feel old. I think many of us who have gone off to college have been through the whole mysterious roommate tradition – where you are assigned a stranger and you are all nervous for what is to come. I say that I feel old because Roomies makes use of Facebook (one of the characters is not on Facebook) and several other digital means of getting to know your roommate. When I was assigned a roommate, the only people who could sign up for a Facebook account where those with .edu email addresses. Oh yeah, this was way back in the day. I think my letter came with just a phone number and a mailing address. While I never did become best buds with my roommate, in fact, I don’t think I am even Facebook friends with my freshman year roommate, it wasn’t a terrible experience. I actually kind of failed at the whole roommate thing and was probably the most happy when I was living with guys. I mean, I am still friendly with the girls that I lived with by choice sophomore and junior year (and then moved out during twice after some major blowouts because I am a temperamental ass), but yeah this girl is way more suited to her own room and living with males. ANYWAYS, enough about my roommate experiences and more about ROOMIES, which is actually about the summer leading up to college and how the girls have yet to meet in person but interact via email.

Told in alternating first person chapters, Roomies is the story of Elizabeth, an east coast girl from New Jersey and Lauren, a San Francisco girl, who are assigned to be roommates during their freshman year at Berkley. When Elizabeth gets her housing assignment letter, she is so excited that she immediately sends a lengthy and gushing email to Lauren, her roommate. Lauren doesn’t immediately respond because she’s the type of girl who isn’t all that connected to the computer. Yet, overtime the two begin to form a tenuous friendship over email. Until one of the girls does something that might as well be unforgivable. Will they work through it? Or will these girls end up in separate room? You’ll have to read and find out. ALSO! There are parts about how you can’t go home again, meaning that when you go away, you can’t just slip back into everything being just like it was in high school. The girls navigate moving on from their high school friends and coming to terms with the fact that things will change and they may grow apart. There’s also summer romance. And summer jobs. And family. Roomies essentially has everything I am looking for in a contemporary young adult novel.

Elizabeth likes to be called EB. She lives in New Jersey with just her mom. She chose Berkley for two reasons – one, it’s awesome landscape architecture program, and two, it’s located in close proximity to her gay dad who hasn’t seen since she was seven. Elizabeth is the sort of person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She is immediately warm with Lauren, thus she’s kind of put off when she finds out Lauren isn’t quite like that. I think of the two narrators, EB, or Elizabeth was my favorite. The girl certainly has her family issues, like her mom having an affair with a married man and her dad being very distant. I liked Elizabeth a lot because she’s struggling with telling this boy she likes the truth about her mom’s affair (with his dad), and well, that seems kind of real that she doesn’t immediately take the moral high ground but actually deliberates on it. Also, she’s a botany nerd and that is endearing.

This is not to say that I did not like Lauren, I did. She’s someone who keeps her cards close to the vest. She’s pretty much an introvert, but is direct. I liked that she seemed to have a strong moral compass. I also liked her developing relationship with a boy from school/coworker at the sandwich shop, Keyon. I like that Lauren isn’t wealthy and that she worries about things like being able to afford a microwave for her room. To me, that feels real. I loved that she didn’t immediately warm up to Elizabeth. I also loved that she has this big huge family and is pulled between annoyance at all that is required of her and between deep abiding love for her way younger siblings. Of the two, Lauren has more interesting family relationships and it was kind of a treat to read about her interactions with her family.

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando reminded me a lot of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick. It’s got the large family awesomeness of My Life Next Door and the whole new college nerves experience of Fangirl. It is seamlessly written with two very unique narrators. The time I spent devouring Roomies was well worth it and I highly recommend you pick this one up, especially if you are about to head off to college for the first time.

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I’m glad you liked this one! I did as well, I thought it was a really good, honest, and funny portrayal of the random roommating. I know I had to go through it (mine ended up working out splendidly).

  2. This sounds like a really nostalgic read for anyone in their late 20s/30s! I picked this up at BEA last year and am ashamed to say I have not read it yet – bad me! But I will, because I love Sara’s writing

  3. I’m intrigued by this one – I’ve had some great roommate experiences and some terrible ones, and I love that there are coauthors here (I assume for authentic, separate voices). I also made a cross-country trek for college back in the day, so I’d like to do that thing where I compare a YA novel to my own experiences. Everyone does that, right? Anyway. Thanks for sharing! I’m adding this one to my library hold list.