The countdown to college has begun.
When Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment at the beginning of summer, she shoots off an email to coordinate the basics: TV, microwave, mini-fridge. She can't wait to escape her New Jersey beach town, and her mom, and start life over in California.
That first message comes as a surprise to Lauren in San Francisco; she had requested a single. But if Lauren's learned anything from being the oldest of six, it's that you can't always get what you want, especially when what you want is privacy.
Soon the girls are e-mailing back and forth, sharing secrets even though they've never met. With childhood friendships and family relationships 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.
With humor and heart, Sara Zarr, National Book Award finalist for Story of a Girl, and Tara Altebrando, acclaimed author of The Pursuit of Happiness, join forces for a novel about that time after high school when everything feels like it's ending just as it's beginning.
|Publisher:||Little, Brown Books for Young Readers|
|Product dimensions:||8.20(w) x 5.40(h) x 0.90(d)|
|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Sara Zarr is the author of The Lucy Variations, How to Save a Life, What We Lost, Sweethearts, and National Book Award finalist Story of a Girl.
Tara Altebrando writes books for adults and teens, including The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life, Dreamland Social Club, and The Pursuit of Happiness.
Read an Excerpt
By Sara Zarr, Tara Altebrando
Little, Brown Books for Young ReadersCopyright © 2013 Sara Zarr Tara Altebrando
All rights reserved.
MONDAY, JUNE 24 NEW JERSEY
Sometimes there are signs. Or things I can't help but interpret as signs. Maybe from fate or the universe or God, if there is one. Or maybe from the grandmother I barely knew but who I've always been told is in heaven.
Watching and judging.
There are just times when it really feels like someone or something is paying attention. Even to little old me. And right now he or she or it is looking down on me lying on my bed, where I am seething because of a five-minutes-ago fight with my mother about how I am going to spend this, my last summer at home before college. I have plans to meet my friends at the beach tomorrow and she thinks I should be ... well, she doesn't even know what she wants me to be doing instead. Here's a hint: It is probably the exact opposite of whatever I want to be doing at any given moment.
I seriously only graduated last week. The cap and gown are still hanging right there on the back of my bedroom door.
Someone, some power, must see me gripping the bedspread beneath my fingers and he (or she or it) must feel some kind of pity for me because he (or she or it) takes it upon himself (or herself or itself) to trigger someone on the opposite coast, someone named Helen Blake, who works in Student Housing at UC Berkeley, to sit down at her computer and type in my e-mail address and send me a message that makes my phone buzz on the bed next to me and that helps me to calm down, and to release the bedspread, and to remember that nothing, not even living with your mother, is forever, though it mostly feels that way.
Dear Elizabeth Logan, it says. I am pleased to provide you with your dorm room assignment and contact information for your roommate this coming school year. While it is by no means mandatory for you to get in touch, some students find that there are practical issues they would like to discuss before orientation week.
Below the dorm info is a name—Lauren Cole—a snail mail address in San Francisco, an e-mail address, and a phone number. It is enough to make me spring up off the bed and rush to my desk. There is a light, gritty layer of dust on my open laptop's keyboard; I haven't used it since school ended but something about sending e-mail from it—instead of from my phone—feels more official, more serious.
I am nothing if not officially serious about going away to school.
So I type in this Lauren's address—calling seems crazy—and I put Hi Roomie! as the subject; then I think for a second that I have no idea what to say, but it turns out I do.
You don't know me but I got an e-mail from Berkeley telling me that we're going to be roommates. I am so excited to "meet" you! I've been waiting and waiting. Since I'm moving to California from New Jersey, I'm not bringing that much stuff at all—only what I can fit in two suitcases. Maybe I'll ship stuff? I'll probably pack a hundred times in the next 65 days (not like I'm counting, ha ha), so I can be sure everything I want to bring will fit. My mother says she'll give me money for a mini-fridge or microwave. Are you already planning on bringing either of those?
I think about wrapping it up but I am really just getting going so I don't stop. Not yet. I rub my fingers together to get rid of some dust, then dig in again.
I'm so jealous that you live in San Francisco. You must really like it if you're staying close for college. It's cool that you're going to live in the dorms. I swear I've been wanting to go away to college ever since I found out it was possible to do that. It's all I think about lately. Getting out of this place.
I should stop now. No one sends e-mails this long. But as it turns out I am not quite done with the stuff that needs to come off my chest so that I can maybe breathe again, so that I can maybe survive the summer and the move to the land of the Man Who Left, otherwise known as Dad.
This may sound crazy but I've never been to California—even though my father moved to San Francisco a bunch of years ago. I haven't seen him since I was pretty little, and I never talk to him, so it's not like that's the reason I picked Berkeley. Anyway, I promise not to be too annoyingly touristy or anything.
I'm babbling. So yeah. Let me know about the microwave/fridge situation.
Elizabeth (but everyone calls me EB) Logan
I send it before the feeling of release turns sour. Then I head over to Facebook and search for Lauren Cole. Turns out there are a couple of fan pages for famous Lauren Coles I've never heard of. And one at the University of Florida, but none that looks like she might be my roommate, a fact I find depressing. Who isn't on Facebook?
MONDAY, JUNE 24 SAN FRANCISCO
It's a rare quiet moment in the house. When I say rare, I'm using it in the real sense of the word: rare like a meteor shower, rare like a white tiger, like a double yolk or a red diamond. Rare as in I use up about a third of this precious silence trying to remember when it last was. Silent. For another fifteen minutes I try to decide how not to waste it. I have the day off from both my jobs. Should I take a nap? Hook my iPod up to the living room stereo and blast it? Make a deluxe quesadilla, which, for a change, I wouldn't have to share?
I opt for a combination of stereo takeover and nap, putting on a mellow playlist at a soothing volume and stretching out on the floor—with a blanket under me so as to avoid Cheerio dust. Finally and blissfully, I'm alone. It isn't long before I make the muscle-twitching, gape-mouthed descent into sleep. After what seems like about ninety seconds, I become aware of the sound of the van idling outside.
Already? No. No.
Sometimes in the moments surrounding REM sleep, you hear things that aren't really there. I forbid my eyes to open. But there's the sound of the van door sliding on its track. (Note that I did not say minivan.) My mother's voice. The babbling of P.J.; the cry of Francis; Jack and Marcus fighting. For some reason I don't hear Gertie out there. Soon enough that reason becomes apparent.
"Why are you on the floor?"
Gertie plops onto my stomach. Oof. "Because I like the floor," I say.
"Because I said so."
"Why are your eyes closed?"
"Because it makes the room nice and dark."
She touches each of my eyelids gently, and I feel her weight shift as she leans over my face, expelling her soft grape-juice-and-baby-carrot breath. She pets my hair and I hope to God she hasn't been picking her nose. "Are you dead?" she asks in a dramatic whisper.
Gertie is absolutely still for a count of three; then she bounces on my stomach and I'm forced to open my eyes and roll over to get her off me. "No you're not! No you're not!" She laughs like a maniac. "Mama says come help."
The next chance I have to think is five hours later, after Dad's come home, after we've gotten through the ordeal that is dinner, after baths and toothbrushing and all the bargaining and coercion and threat-making that help those things happen, and after Francis is down but the rest of them are living up the twenty minutes before story time and, at last, lights-out.
It's the first opportunity I've had to look at my e-mail in three days. There are two screens of new messages, mostly spam. As I sort through it, I find some stuff from my best friend, Zoe—links to videos and sites I'll probably never have time to look at—and a message from my dad. He sends these one- or two-sentence notes from work when he's bored or thinking of me. This says, Garfield has been violated. Investigating. There's a picture attached of the mug I gave him when I was in first grade. It's got a big lipstick print on the rim. I write back: That is a bold red. Inquire among VIPs.
On the third screen, the page of oldest messages, there are a few from Berkeley. One of them has to be about my housing request. I'll save those to open last; I'm too nervous now. I go back to the first screen to start clicking off the spam and find a message I didn't notice the first time. The subject line is Hi Roomie! and I almost junk it for porn, but when I see the preview of the first line, a chill comes over me.
I open and read it through.
Then I frantically click over to the Berkeley messages and find the one telling me about my roommate.
So it's true. My request has been denied. "Crap," I mutter.
"Can I play Dora?" It's Gertie.
I minimize the window—I'm not sure why; it's not like Gertie cares about my e-mail or can understand what she's seeing. She breathes down my neck, her sticky hand already leaving a mark on my desk, which I've just cleaned for what feels like the tenth time today, making use of the industrial-size tub of Clorox Wipes I pay for with my own money. "No," I say. "Can you go ... occupy yourself or something?"
I try not to sound mean. I'm already in trouble for being "mean" to Jack, even though he's the one who completely spilled cranberry juice all over my favorite sweater, at some point between the interruption of my nap and dinner. I'd saved up for like a month to buy that sweater. I yelled at Jack and called him a moron, and when Mom found me and said, "He's six, Lauren. He didn't do it out of malice," what came out of my mouth was "I wish I were an only child." And Mom gave me that look she has and walked out, reminding me to apologize to Jack before dinner. At which point he didn't care anymore, having moved on to the crucial task of making sure his various food groups didn't touch.
So even though I want to physically toss Gertie out of my room, I don't. Because actually it's not my room. It's our room—I share it with Gertie and P.J., my sisters. Jack and Marcus are down the hall. Francis still sleeps in my parents' room in the bassinet.
"Here," I say to Gertie, getting up and pulling my old Mr. Potato Head down from the high shelf in the closet. Her brown eyes widen. I rarely let her touch Mr. Potato Head. Grandpa Cole gave him to me, and all the pieces are there and the box is still in good shape. Mr. Potato Head has sentimental value, so he's one of the few things I'm not forced to share. "You have to play with this in here. Sit on the bed and be quiet, okay? It's almost lights-out."
She nods, probably afraid that if she says anything else I'll change my mind.
I get back to the e-mail.
This is what I want to write:
(Already I'm calling her Ebb in my head, even though I'm sure that what she means by EB is Eee Bee.)
I requested a single. All I've wanted for the last decade is a room of my own. Some privacy. A place to be alone with my thoughts where they are not constantly interrupted by someone else making some kind of racket, or even someone else just quietly trying to exist in the same space as me. When I got the full scholarship I knew it would probably be pressing my luck to ask for a single, but the box was there to check so I checked it. A "roomie" is really not what I had in mind. Really not what I had in mind at all.
Of course, I don't write any of that. It's not Ebb's fault my parents wanted a big family.
Hey. I hadn't really thought about appliances.
(Where am I supposed to get the money for this stuff? My magic money tree? I can probably find a decent microwave at Goodwill if I look every couple of days. Mini-fridges are harder to come by.)
Why don't you do the fridge part and I'll take care of the microwave.
San Francisco is okay. We live in a foggy neighborhood on the south side of the park so it's not like we have a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and cable cars going by or anything. Only the smelly old Muni trains.
I reread her e-mail. I feel as though it would be polite to acknowledge what she said about her dad, or about New Jersey, or ask a question, or something, but P.J. runs in and lunges for Mr. Potato Head so I wrap it up.
Nice to meet you.
"'Tato head!" P.J. shrieks. I scan the e-mail one more time and I know it looks kind of rudely abrupt, but I have to save Mr. Potato Head. And anyway, I wanted a single.
I click Send, close my laptop, and put it up on the high shelf. Gertie lets out a dolphin-pitched death scream and when I turn around, P.J. has got one of Mr. P.'s ears and is about to run away with it. I grab her by the waist. She screams. Gertie screams.
If Mr. P.'s mouth were attached, he would probably scream, too.
TUESDAY, JUNE 25 NEW JERSEY
That's it? was what I thought when I first read Lauren's e-mail late last night. And now that I'm reading it aloud to my friends, Justine twists her face into a grimace and says, "That's it?" Even though the end of the school year was a little bit strained, Justine and I have been friends for so long that it sometimes feels like we can read each other's minds.
I toss my phone down onto the beach blanket in front of me. "That's all she wrote, as they say."
Justine and Morgan—a newer friend of ours, mostly from senior year—are trying to get me on a strict early-morning beachgoing schedule between now and when I leave for Berkeley, so as to maximize surfing and time together. We're coated in sunscreen and sitting in chairs under umbrellas, reading articles in shiny teen magazines about things like dorm decor and tips for living on your own for the first time, while Alex, Danny, and Mitch surf. Justine tosses her magazine onto our blanket before saying, "Maybe she was busy. You know. Dashed it off without thinking."
I shoot her a look that says, Come on.
"Well, I tried." She turns to face the water and I see a smile form at the corners of her mouth. "What's her e-mail address, Ice Queen at condescending- mail-dot-com?"
Morgan lets out a chuckle but doesn't look up from her mag.
I say, "That's more like it," and look back at the article I've been reading about the Top Ten Things to Pack for College. A pillow. Headphones. Flip-flops for the shower ...
I wish I could pack a few friends.
"I wouldn't worry about it." Morgan holds her magazine out to me but I'm not ready to trade so she tosses hers onto the blanket, too. "You'll find some super-dorky shrubbery major like yourself and you'll barely be in your room anyway. You'll be too busy planting bushes."
"It's not called shrubbery," I say for the gazillionth time.
"You know she's just messing with you." Justine flashes a smile at Morgan, who returns it.
I let it go. But there's a part of me that's still annoyed that my friends don't get it. That no one in the whole of Point Pleasant gets it, except for Tim at Beech Design—and even he looked at me like I had two heads when I walked up to him while he was working on the Schroeders' backyard last summer and told him, with six-month-old Vivian Schroeder on my hip, that I wanted a job. He said he couldn't pay me and I said I didn't care—that I'd keep my babysitting job to make the money I needed. So he told me to come in the next morning to talk about hours. I'd been watching him and his small staff for weeks—carving up that yard and putting it back together again so that it felt like there were rooms outside, places worth being. I knew I'd found my calling. I'll be a paid full-time employee this summer starting Friday, and I still babysit for Vivian occasionally at night.
"I've never understood why you have to go all the way to California when there's a great program at Rutgers," Justine says. "Plus, I'll be there."
"We've been through this," I say, thinking, Yes, you'll be there, and Danny and Alex and everyone else we know, except for Morgan, who'll be a short drive away at NJIT, and Mitch, who's going to Seton Hall. "Too close to the mother ship."
"So you say." Justine gets up and grabs her board.
Morgan gets up, too. "Coming in?"
Excerpted from Roomies by Sara Zarr, Tara Altebrando. Copyright © 2013 Sara Zarr Tara Altebrando. Excerpted by permission of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Reviewed by Katelyn Hensel for Readers' Favorite College roommates can be one heck of a thing. Either they are complete psychos and you end up hating each other, wondering how you are going to end the school year alive, OR they are the most amazing friends, and end up being the people you turn to with problems, boys, school work, and life problems. They end up in your wedding party, know your deepest secrets, and have seen you at your best and worst. Luckily, in the case of Elizabeth and Lauren, they turn out to be the second kind...even though they've never met. Though they've lived on separate sides of the country their whole lives, they fall into a close friendship that helps them get through each of their family and relationship issues. Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando know exactly what young adults, about to embark on their college experience, are thinking. I am a HUGE Sara Zarr fan, so I jumped at the chance to listen to this one. It was one of those audio books that you can listen to anywhere, because it's fun, light, and meaningful, even if it is chick lit. The story was so true to what some kids experience, and really brought me back to my college days. Those two girls made me laugh, and really feel for them. This is a delicate age group. It's not really teen literature, but it's also pre-adult literature. This age is hard for people to deal with, and in my opinion, is an even more difficult time than adolescence. This is when you really learn who you are as a person and what the world really is like outside the walls of your childhood home. It can be amazing, and devastating, as hopeful as it can be hopeless, and I think this book really captured that. Hats off to Roomies, it's one of the best reads this year!
This is definitely a very light and fun summer read! This is the perfect story to read the summer right before your first year college. While I’ve never personally had the experience of having a college roommate, I can definitely imagine this is a real possibility of the ins and outs of getting to know someone. I really loved the way that this story tells the experience of getting to know someone all the way across the country. Things can be so awkward trying to get to know someone new, especially if they are all the way across the country. I can relate in a small way because of all the amazing bookish people I have met and gotten to know that live all around! I really enjoyed the format that Roomies was told in. The concept of the emails was my favorite part of Roomies. Getting to know someone solely through email is just so refreshing. I haven’t read many books that use that format to interact with someone. While I really enjoyed the email aspect, getting to see all of the outside life of Elizabeth and Lauren was great! Something that annoyed me was the gaps in the story. There are times when its just an email, a bit of story, and then nothing. It made it so hard for me to connect with the characters. Now there was a major issue that bugged me from the start when it was introduced right to the end. Both Lauren and Elizabeth are average, middle class, white people. Not an uncommon thing, nothing really that unusual in YA. Something else that isn’t unusual? Having an African American love interest or main character. Lauren has a job working a a sandwich shop with Keyon and his father who owns it. Over the course of the story Keyon and Lauren grow into a relationship. Now Keyon is African American, no big deal right? Well in this story that is wrong. Apparently being African American in this book is unusual and brand new. Im sorry what? Lauren says something along the lines of I’ve never really interacted with a black person before. I’m sorry you live in San Francisco how is that even possible? When Elizabeth asks if its a big deal in San Francisco (keep in mind she’s from New Jersey) Lauren says It’s something that people pretend not to notice but still do anyway. Why is such a big deal? Its the twenty first century for one and for two WHY ARE YOU MAKING IT A BIG DEAL?????? It was just an annoying stigmatism that was unnecessary and didn’t need to be included. If it hadn’t have been included that it was a big deal this would have been a four star review but since it was included I can’t have it as that. If you can get passed the annoyance that is the race issue you should definitely pick this one up. If that issue wasn’t included this would have been just an amazing light summery read.
I could've used a book like "Roomies" before I started college, especially one that focuses almost exclusively on the perils of that first summer before. "Roomies" centers around Lauren and Elizabeth, strangers from opposite coasts who begin emailing each other after they learn that they're going to be roommates. What starts as routine correspondence grows into something resembling friendship--except the girls haven't actually met yet. The line drawn between real life intimacy and online confessions is one of the best parts of the book. Both girls can and do censor themselves and misunderstand each other because their conversations aren't happening in real time. Their knowledge of each other is limited by their physical distance, and one of the main reasons they feel so close to each other is because that distance allows them to be honest in a way they can't be at home. Some of the interpersonal issues were resolved without the appropriate amount of hassle--Elizabeth's issues with her friend Janine, and Lauren's issues with her family come to mind--but for the most part I appreciated the lack of drama. Going away to school forces enough change on its own that the authors didn't need to obsess over specifics. Friendships end, new relationships begin, and you start to realize how much you've taken your family for granted your whole life. It felt more meaningful for Lauren and Elizabeth to recognize these changes and respond to them than it was for them to dig in their heels and throw fits. What made the book for me was watching both girls learn that they can take control of their own destinies and their own relationships. That they can make their lives whatever they want them to be. "Roomies" is pretty light contemporary compared to some of what's out there, but it's an important book nonetheless. I'd definitely recommend it.
Elizabeth is counting the days until her freshman year of college starts. She is more than ready to leave her small life in New Jersey behind and start fresh and new in California even if her friends don't quite understand her need for distance. After years and years as an only child with a single mother, Elizabeth is thrilled at the prospect of meeting--or more accurately emailing--her new roommate Lauren. San Francisco native Lauren is much less excited to be sharing yet another room after years and years of sharing a room and a too-small house with her too many siblings. She wanted a single and she is counting days for a very different reason as she tries to imagine life when she is no longer a daily fixture in her own family. What starts as an innocuous email about whether to buy a microwave or a mini-fridge turns into a series of emails that might lead to friendship and a few other insights during a summer filled with possibility in Roomies (2013) by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando. Altebrando and Zarr wrote this novel together, emailing each other chapters without any discussion of an overarching plot. Altebrando wrote Elizabeth's chapters while Zarr wrote Lauren's. I commuted through college and I've never had a roommate. This book was very low on my radar despite the high profile authors. I hate to admit but I wouldn't have even read it except Nicole needed a wingman for a signing. Then it become our second Synchronized Read. And I kind of loved it. Roomies is a very alien world me--a story of people with siblings and plans to move away and lots of other things I did not do as a high school senior looking toward college. That said, it's still totally evocative with a perfect balance of fun and depth. Lauren and Elizabeth are two very different girls with different priorities yet their friendship that evolves through a series of emails is organic and ultimately completely believable. Although much of the novel involves emails it is also worth noting that this is not an epistolary novel. Each girl narrates a chapter where they happen to write an email (and read an email at some point). The plot here isn't action-packed or overly shocking. Roomies is very much grounded in the themes you would expect: moving forward, end-of-something-nostalgia, family. Happily instead of moving into the territory of melodrama or superficiality, Roomies remains a very down to earth read and a story with heart. What really sets Roomies apart is the writing. Altebrando and Zarr's styles mesh perfectly to create a seamless narrative with two unique but complementary stories. Both Elizabeth and Lauren are refreshingly frank and honest with themselves as much as with each other. While Lauren and Elizabeth aren't always certain they want to be friends (or even roommates), they are definitely two heroines that readers are sure to love. Possible Pairings: Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, Just One Day by Gayle Forman, The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson, The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta, After the Kiss by Terra Elan McVoy, The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson, Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell, The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith, Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee
3.5 for me. Got a little emotional at times. This one I really wanted to read. But like most books recently, it seemed I wasn't in the mood for it. You have two girls, going to be roommates and so have months before they start college. The writing was good. I liked the interaction the two were having through emails and that we got to know both of them. My favorite POV to read would have to be Lauren. And her siblings were adorable. Glad to have finally got around to reading this. Love the cover.
Nearly a year ago, I was ridiculously excited to get an invitation to claim a review copy of Roomies from NetGalley. Having had my share of drama with roommates over the years (and some very good roommate experiences, too), it really sounded like something I would enjoy. Somewhere along the way it got shoved aside. When I would think about going back to it, I'd look at the other reviews on Goodreads and shrug and move along to something else. I'm glad I finally decided to give it a shot this week. I thoroughly enjoyed it and, honestly, wouldn't mind a second book with these characters. Roomies is told in a very unconventional way – through both a series of emails and in first person with alternating perspectives of Elizabeth and Lauren. I can never get into books told solely through letters or poems. I get bored. I find myself skimming and then I lose the whole point of the book. That was never a problem here. I enjoyed watching as these girls tried to get to know each other through a series of emails and how they were handling their day-to-day life in their own thoughts. I honestly can't say that either Elizabeth or Lauren were particularly likable. Despite that, I was still able to connect with them in my own way. Each of these girls was struggling with aspects of their life. Elizabeth with her father abandoning her and her mother being a complete and total jerk. I seriously despised that lady. I could go on a three-paragraph rant about all that was wrong with her, but I won't. She also had some relationship issues and a potential budding new love that she would have to leave when they both went away to college. Lauren was dealing with never being alone or doing things for herself. She had five younger siblings that she cared for and that came with its own problems. Unlike Elizabeth, however, she had good parents. They were just stretched thin. She, too, had a budding romance and friendship issues. I thought the friendship they began building throughout the summer was the real thing. It had ups and downs, judgements and fights, communication issues and times they were really there for each other when no one in their current day-to-day life would understand what they were dealing with. I enjoyed watching them open up and test the waters with some "overshares." That's how you build a real friendship, after all. They may have had their differences, and there may have been some maturity in reaction to said differences, but it was realistic to me. It was just happening through email instead of face-to-face. I adored the love interests in this story. Both of the romances were sweet in that "first love" uncertain kind of way. They were good guys and, of course, in my ending, both couples manage to escape the pitfalls of a long distance relationship and live happily ever after. I know that might not be realistic, but a girl can dream, right? I won't spoil the ending for you, of course, but I do have to say that I'm not generally one who enjoys ambiguous endings. I like my standalone books to wrap up nicely at the end, with as few loose ends as possible. Don't make me write the ending of your book. All that said, there are times when an ambiguous ending isn't a bad thing, and Roomies is one of those times. I actually really liked it in this instance. Of course, that said, I would love to learn more about college Elizabeth and Lauren. I definitely think there's potential for more story there and I would happily read it. It's been a long time since I went off to college and dealt with the amount of unknowns that Elizabeth and Lauren did in this book. But, Roomies brought it all back and, even better, made me remember all the fun my Freshman year roommate (and floormates) and I had. Ah, the good ol' days. Not only was Roomies a great story, but it gave me a chance to look back fondly on some of my own roommates. And, uh, not so fondly on some of the others. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
I adored the premise of Roomies, high school students counting down the days until the end of school, and spending that final summer before college getting to begin to correspond to their roomate for the fall. Personally, I never really had a roomie before college, I was an only child and never went to camp, etc. Elizabeth and Lauren are two different girls from different backgrounds but as they slowly share some of their life to a virtually anonymous girl on the internet, but also one that you will be living with in mere months. They begin to realize that they are more alike than possible. They both feel on the fringes as far as social circles go, they both have two jobs even if from different economic backgrounds, and they both have families that aren't traditional. Although stories told in poems or in letters (especially if that is the whole thing) aren't a great fit for me all of the time, the emails in this one didn't bother me. I think that it is because it is mostly in narrative and the emails are supplemental. Another thing that I liked was how they faux composed snarky or emotional before they figured out what they really wanted to say. Elizabeth and her family dynamics really intrigued me. As I said, I was an only child, so her having so many brothers and sisters opened my eyes to a different reality. She helped her parents a lot and she really loved her brothers and sisters, but at times she felt the weight on her shoulders and longed for a bit more quiet time to herself. I loved how close she was with her parents though, and how for the most part she really cherished their traditions--weekends together as a family. I was worried about the romantic threads because I knew it was going to be a summer book with Lauren moving across the country to pursue her dreams of being a landscaper and Elizabeth moving thirty minutes away. But it ended up working nicely and although the final answer for the relationships wasn't set in stone, they were both defined and had a plan for the future. There was always some drama, things that they told each other that they hadn't really confided in, and that made a strong bond between them. But they weren't in a state that nothing could shake that because some decisions and bad timing and mis-communication and replying when upset and taking anger out on someone else that shouldn't be the target. They weren't unshakable, but they made a good foundation for their future as roomies. I loved the themes of friendship and family that was presented in this one. Although there are some pretty dysfunctional parenting going on, the family that each girl lived with was solid in their own ways. Lauren's mom was dating a bunch of guys, some very inappropriate leaving Lauren to deal with her feelings on that, and she also tries to reach out to her gay father who of course is now separated and has been for most of Lauren's life. Then Elizabeth has both of her parents, but also has five brothers and sisters and she is the oldest, so at times she felt like a third parent instead of having the bonding memories with them, or so she thinks. But we get to see sweet moments with her and Gertie as well as Peej. But as time comes closer and closer for her to move out, there were also some pretty tender moments with EB as she likes to be called and her parents, particularly her dad. The humor that was in this book was good as well. That and some spot on discussions about stuff that teens really go through and think about. It was honest and some of it was the hard issues that most teens don't really talk about, or at least I know that I didn't. The ending was sweet and fit the book perfectly. It sets up that they are finally meeting in person, and though they have this summer of emails to get to know each other, it is still a first, and a huge step in their roomie-ness and friendship. Bottom Line: Funny, dramatic story of the emails between two girls who will be college roommates.
I really enjoyed this story. I commute to college and didn't get the chance of experiencing going far away for school or getting a roommate and this story really let me "experience" that for myself. I absolutely loved how different EB and Lauren are from each other, because it makes it that much more believable. They have absolutely nothing in common, but still manage a way to become friends. I do wish there was a little more background info about the other characters in their lives, but the story was still great without. I would highly recommend this to those who are college bound.
Roomies is a charming, light-hearted coming of age story that realistically captures all the fears and insecurities that come with graduating high school, starting college, and leaving home. The writing kept me engaged and flowed smoothly. This is a character driven story, alternating between the POVs of future roommates EB and Lauren. While I usually struggle to stay engaged in stories that switch between viewpoints, the switch in POV never jolted me out of the story. I never had any trouble distinguishing between EB and Lauren. The pacing was perfect, and probably most importantly, the character development was pretty good. Most of the characters were thoroughly developed, if not wholly likable. The cast of characters accompanying Lauren’s side of the story were noticeably better developed than those on EB’s side, and definitely more likable, and while this definitely detracted from my overall enjoyment of the book, it was still worth the read. I felt the growth of EB and Lauren’s friendship as they get to know each other through e-mail exchanges was well done and realistic. I can still remember the handful of awkward e-mail’s exchanged with my first college roommate, and the authors did an excellent job of portraying how easily things can be misinterpreted in digital communications. Their exchanges with each other also do a great job of showcasing the character growth each undergoes over the summer. While Lauren wasn’t a perfect character by any means, I definitely preferred her over EB. I would have been happy reading a book told entirely from her POV. She was simply easier for me to relate to: the fear, anxiety and yet overwhelming need for freedom she faces were pretty much the defining feelings during my senior year of high school. And while she was also judgmental at times and not so great with boundaries, I still enjoyed getting to know her. I flew through the pages telling her story. I especially enjoyed the focus given to her family and her faltering relationship with her high school best friend. I also felt that her summer romance with Keyon was very well done. I loved that it was an interracial romance that didn’t focus on or make a big deal out of the racial aspect. It was just a really fun, sweet relationship between two friends who developed into something more. What didn’t work for me was the character of EB. As a whole I found her character unlikable and hypocritical. And I really, really hated her romance with Mark. It left a bad insta-love taste in my mouth, and I was not a fan of how quickly she jumped into a physical relationship with him, especially considering how much she complains early in the book about her high school boyfriend only wanting sex. Not to mention how much she lies to Mark after she first meets him and into the early weeks of their relationship. Most frustrating of all was her relationship with her mother. EB’s pages would have been better spent exploring and repairing her familial relationships instead of focusing on her summer romance. While it wasn’t a perfect book, this is one I would definitely recommend to fans of realistic fiction, and would love to see as required reading for high school seniors.
I wish this book had come out six months earlier. And even though I chose a commuter school in the middle of the city, I would have loved to intertwine my summer-before-college experience with EB & Lauren. Not only that, but I’m sure the rest of my friends would have eaten this book up at the time, since they were all going through it too. My first impression of EB and Lauren was that they were very similar. Not exactly the same person, but they had the same voice and talking style; I thought I was going to struggle remembering which girl’s chapter I was on. Thankfully, their unique differences showed through. It was weird; as I got further into the story I felt as if the authors found my group of friends and wrote the book about us. I pictured one of my friends in each of the girl’s situations. It’s crazy how much I connected with EB and Lauren. To continue, an important thing to note is that these two girls are from different parts of the country. Because of this, I hoped to read a little more about culture. I was waiting for different colloquialisms and quirks, unique to certain parts of the U.S., but they never came. Yes, the characters do mention that San Francisco is artsy and open-minded whereas the Jersey town EB is from is closed minded. Honestly though, I didn’t really think about those statements (partly because I live in New Jersey, near the town EB’ from and my town is open-minded). While I read this book, it didn’t feel like they were from different parts of the country. College is a major learning and changing experience, mostly due to interactions with people from different parts of the world. Here, the girls were opened to new life situations, not cultural experiences, and I wish that had not been the case. On the other hand, both girl’s mature as a result of talking to the other. Their character development was relatable and Zarr and Altebrando wrote it really well. In the end, I think this book is a really good read for anyone heading off to college. For me, Roomies is between the YA and NA genre, which is a great transition for teens that are in the exact position of teenage and adult hood. It doesn’t matter the college you’re going to, I think you should pick this book up!
The chapters are short and centered around the emails that the girls send. From chapter to chapter, there is a time skip to the point in time that a girl receives the email that was sent in the previous chapter. I was surprised by how a lot of backstory about the girls isn't included. We're only given the information that is immediately present in the girls' lives and information that they consider telling each other about themselves. It's a bit disorienting as first, as I tend to favor books with very well-developed characters. Nevertheless, I do appreciate how the usage of this technique centers the story on the communication between the two girls. This isn't an extremely deep and profound novel. It is a story about two girls sorting out their lives the summer before they go off to college and the consequent development of their friendship—all with a little humor and (okay, a lot of) drama thrown in. I'm not really fond of the multiple perspectives when both are told in first person; however, I didn't face much trouble adjusting to the narration. Elizabeth and Lauren have fun, quirky personalities. They come from very different lives, yet their narrations entertwine beautifully. In spite of their differences, they go through a lot of the same things. If I have any complaint, it'd be how much they manage to hurt each other without really thinking about it. The point of email is that it should give you time to think things through, but the one or two times that it really matters, they don't use this time. They just email in a haze of anger. At the same time, it does show that no matter how bad things get, it's possible to overcome the situation if you can find it within you to apologize. Though the emails play a large role in the girls' lives, the story isn't solely told through emails. There is an email in pretty much every chapter, but we also get to see what the girls do outside of the email exchanges. I enjoyed seeing the girls work through their changing relationships with the people around them and going through the process of accepting the big changes happening in their lives. Family is prominent in this novel, as well as their close girl friends and the new guys in their lives. It's rare that a YA/NA novel incorporates so many facets of the main character's lives, and I appreciate how Roomies manages to do this. On a personal note: As a college student, I appreciate how it isn't all about the hot new guy and the sex like a lot of New Adult books tend to be—because college isn't like that at all (surprise!)—though this book really is a bit of a cross-over between YA and NA with the tone being more on the youthful side. I'd really like to see more books along this vein in the New Adult genre. Overall, Roomies is an enjoyable read that makes for a fun, quick summer read.
I would like to thank NetGalley for granting me the chance to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review. Though I received the e-book for free that in no way influenced this review. 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. The two girls correspond exclusively through email, which is bound to cause some problems when they are not only strangers, but can't hear intonation or inflection in the other person's voice or have body language cues to read. Despite their differences we also get to explore all of their similarities. Lauren comes from a very large, close-knit family, while EB is an only child, living with her mother. One girl is a virgin and one is not. They are both different in many ways, yet they share so many of the same issues. The challenges of growing up, figuring out who you are, who you want to be, even what you want to be/do. Trying to define romantic relationships when they will be long-distance, how to cut the apron strings from family and still maintain a relationship with all parties understanding that the child is becoming an adult. With that comes the emotional roller-coaster ride of trying to find their balance between letting go of the familiar and embracing the new. Plus the lessons that come with the journey - you don't have to let go of the past to start something new, you simply find ways to create more space to include the new. The amount of emotional maturing the girls do over the summer before their freshman year is pretty astounding, not just for the reader but also for the characters. That ability to find the inner maturity is an excellent sign that it is time to move forward, that they are really ready and can handle it. Of course there will be bumps along the way, but it's only time to worry if it is a seamless transition. This story is well told, capturing the struggles of growing up. All the questions, insecurities, mistakes, growth, excitement, and fun, as well as feeling totally alone and as if no one else understands what you are going through. Then of course there's that feeling you share with best friends, the one where you feel you are each one half of the same person, very similar to the feeling you get with the romantic partner in your life - especially during the 'honeymoon' phase of a new relationship. This is a sweet look at what a pre-freshman, online relationship might become, with all its ups and downs.
In Roomies, Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando tell the concurrent stories of Elizabeth and Lauren, two rising college freshmen who learn that they will be freshman roommates. Throughout the summer, the two women begin emailing with each other in an attempt to know each other, at least a little, before moving in to a tiny dorm room together. The authors do a great job of capturing the mixture of fear, excitement, and uncertainty that you face after high graduation, in that gray area between being a high school student and being a college student, and coming to terms with exactly that means. In a fun, smart, emotionally on point book about not just learning what it’s going to take to be a good roommate, but also about what it might mean to be an adult.
This one of those overall quiet feeling books, yet it is so captivating and memorable. I read this in one sitting, unable to put it down and loving both sides of this story. More so, though, I really loved seeing these two complete strangers get to know each other through emails only, and go through some really strong events and emotions, before they even meet in person. One of my favorite things about this book are the first impressions on both sides, the little things that set the other girl's hackles up without it being intentional and, of course, figuring out later, they misjudged. It's such a simple thing, and one we all do, whether we mean to or not. And while this element really wasn't played up too much, it was one of those softer, little things, it really stood out to me. With a nice romantic element, but plenty of much bigger things going on, this had all the makings of everything I love in contemporary. Elizabeth starts out so hopeful, both ready to escape and excited to see who her potential new closest friend is going to be, but quickly has to reel herself in due to the way Lauren initially reacts. Add in the fact Elizabeth's father lives in San Francisco, and some really awesome things that come up as a result of that, and this one really is just stunningly done, with so many quiet things to it that add up to pack a huge punch. This is a book where I rooted for both characters, even when they were at different ends of an issue. I didn't like one more than the other, and went through such an array of emotions myself. This book is masterful, and definitely one for the favorites shelf.
Read on November 11, 2013 Book Info Kindle Edition, 288 pages Expected publication: December 24th 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers ASIN B00CO7FI0E edition language English other editions (6) Source:Netgalley EARC Book Buy Links AMAZON B&N BOOK SYNOPSIS 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. My Thoughts Elizabeth or EB to her friends and Lauren share one thing in common, they are both looking forward to leaving home to attend college now that they have graduated high school. Their lives are very different as Elizabeth is an only child and Lauren has a houseful of younger siblings that she is helping her parents take care of while working to save for college. The way the story uses different POV couched in the emails exchanged between EB and Lauren, interactions with their friends and the girl’s innermost thoughts as their summer countdown to start of college provides the reader with unique insight as well as showing that using technology can be a freeing way to share oneself but at the same time not as satisfying as actual physical one on one communication. The changes both Elizabeth and Lauren go through over the summer include finding out not only do they actually have a lot more in common than they thought at first but that the very differences in their lives give them something to be thankful for, even when they do not feel that way. Having grown up in a household with only one parent and as an only child EB envies the chaotic but love filled homelife described by Lauren, while Lauren on the other hand feels at times that she would have been much happier without brothers and sisters. It always amuses me when people feel that someone else has it better than they do, it is only when they are admitted “behind the scenes” that they understand that it is not always true as appearances can certainly be decieving! Those crazy hazy summer days between high school and college are captured perfectly and both Lauren and Elizabeth's perspectives prior to leaving home are captured eloquently as well. [EArc from Netgalley in exchange for honest review]
And before you say "in you dreams", In MY dreams i am king. I liked it but i wished she hadnt left a massive cliffhanger..-,-