December 18, 2013

A Microwave & A Mini-Fridge

Roomies by Tara Altebrando & Sara Zarr

Release Date: December 24, 2013
Publisher: Hatchette | Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 288 pages
Source & Format: NetGalley; e-ARC
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (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.

Thoughts on Roomies
I was so excited when I first saw the cover for Roomies that I don't even think I bothered to read the summary very closely. The minute I realized it was about college roommates, I was thrilled. While it wasn't exactly what I was expecting, Roomies ended up being a fun and entertaining read that was the perfect way to pass an afternoon.

Roomies is the story of Elizabeth and Lauren, two college freshman who are assigned as each other's roommate. They don't know each other, so Elizabeth decides to send a quick email introducing herself to Lauren after she receives her housing assignment. Little does she know that her introduction will spark a flurry of emails and what may be the start of a beautiful friendship.

I have to come clean and admit that I was expecting this book to be set in college. I guess I didn't read the summary close enough because I thought the book was going to focus on their first year as roommates. Since there is so little YA set during that time period, I was really excited for this one. What I didn't realize was that Roomies is actually set during the summer after the girls graduate from high school and before they start college. While that seems like a really minor difference, I was sad we never got to actually see them at school. So, while I did enjoy the book, I never completely recovered from my initial disappointment. However, that's definitely an expectations issue - not necessarily a problem with the book itself. I wanted to mention though in case there are other readers out there who will go into it expecting what I did.

The book takes place in California (Lauren) and New Jersey (Elizabeth). Each chapter alternates between the two girls, and it was never confusing to me who I was reading about at the time. The different chapters are interspersed with emails between the two girls, and I enjoyed their back-and-forth. Even though they hadn't met, I found the progression of their friendship to be very natural and relatable. While I knew my freshman year roommate, it reminded me a lot of the way I've made new friends through blogging. I could relate to the way they slowly start to share more about themselves - and with how easy it is to misinterpret someone's tone or meaning online.

That being said, I didn't feel particularly connected to either girl. It was fun to read about them, but I wasn't really invested in their lives or their drama. Both are struggling with boys, family and friends, and I could appreciate the way their experiences both paralleled and diverged. It was easy to relate to some of their fears and frustrations about going off to college. I can still remember the nerves I felt leading up to move-in day, and I didn't even have as much to be worried about at these two do!

While it was a fun read, it did seem predictable to me for the most part. And I was particularly frustrated with the ending. The email correspondence was such a huge build up, and I was so letdown when the book ended where it did. I didn't understand why there wasn't just a tiny bit more. I actually went back to make sure I hadn't missed a final chapter or epilogue!

The abruptness of the ending, combined with my initial letdown regarding the setting and the fact that I wasn't connecting with either character, left me just liking instead of loving this read. I do, however, think this will become a favorite with many readers. The few things that didn't quite work for me likely won't bother everyone, so I expect to see a lot of buzz about this one in the blogging world. It was felt really fresh and different from what I've read lately, and I hope to see more books focusing on college-aged characters in the future!

So Quotable
"Live in the present. Take care of the relationships in front of you now. Most friendships have a natural life, and when they've lived that out, you'll know."
*I received a copy of this book from Little Brown Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way for my review.

10 comments:

  1. The first review I read of this one was so negative that I kind of figured it would be a dud, but now I've seen so much positive stuff that I'm excited to read it again. Right now I like that this takes place the summer before college, I remember how awkward it was to reach out to my roommates and to try to get to know them, but I feel like, even though now I know none of it takes place at college, I'll probably also want more by the time I get to the end.

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    1. I'm curious about the really negative review! I haven't really looked at Goodreads for this one, which I usually do after I write my review. I know a lot of bloggers are loving it, so hopefully you'll fall somewhere in that region. I didn't love it, but I definitely liked reading it!

      I think this will definitely bring back some memories for you as far as the awkwardness of reaching out and trying to get to know someone new.

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  2. Oh I do wish this book had gone into their freshman year at college at least a little. That is a bit disappointing! And that's also disappointing to read about your frustration with the ending. I still do want to read this one, but I may have to adjust my expectations slightly before starting. I loved the one book that I read from Zarr this year, and I don't really want to end up feeling disappointed with this new one. Still, though, I do hope that books like this and Fangirl do develop into a trend. I'd love to read more stories about characters in college!

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    1. Yeah, I wanted it to spend a little more time with the girls once they got to college. On one hand, I get why it ended where it did, but it still left me wanting just a little bit more. And like you, I'd love to see more books like this and Fangirl. We need more college characters!

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  3. Oh no! I'm so sorry you were a little disappointed in this one!!! I can see how not everyone will fall in love with it though. I did wish we could have seen a little bit more with the girls together but I also really liked how we got their own separate stories. I really love your review though! I think many people will have a similar reaction. I feel like a lot of people will fall in love with it or really feel a little disappointed.

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    1. I did like how we got their separate stories, and I do think it made sense to end it where it did. But I just couldn't help wanting more! I'm glad you enjoyed my review. I think you're right - people will either love it or feel a little more like I did.

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  4. I'm sorry to hear that this book didn't quite hit the spot with you! I've actually been looking forward to reading it, mostly because I feel like it'll remind me of what it felt like when I first started becoming friends with my roomies (2 of whom I knew, and 1 who I didn't). I actually wish it had also been set in college too though, because we definitely need more books in that setting!

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    1. I think you'll really enjoy this one! I know E really loved it, so hopefully you will too! But yes, I wish there were more books set in college. Such a great time in life to write about!

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  5. I have to say this one intrigues! I didn't know my freshmen roommate going into college, but we wound up becoming great friends, and she was one of my bridesmaids in my wedding. And funny enough I'm from California and she's from New Jersey, and just that little detail is one of the main reasons I want to read this.

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    1. Oh I love that little detail - you should definitely look into this book :)

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