ARC Review: Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Title: Roomies
Author: Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando
Pages: 288
Genre: YA, contemporary fiction
Series? No
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Publication Date: December 24, 2013


Synopsis from NetGalley: 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 and Rambling

A few months ago, I read my first Zarr novel – How to Save a Life. I really liked that one, despite my few nitpicks. I can’t say the same about Roomies, sadly. I was absolutely thrilled when I was able to snag one of the copies on NetGalley before they all went out, but that excitement faded pretty quickly when I actually started reading the book. I would have loved to give a glowing review, but there was just too much that I didn’t like – and there wasn’t enough good to mask the rest. 

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Roomies through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Character Bar

I’m not even going to break it down like I normally do. None of the characters really stood out to me – they all melted into each other. Even 75% through the book, I found myself wondering, “Who’s this guy again? Is it Lo’s boyfriend or EB’s boyfriend?” And the girls were so whiny too… They could not find a single thing to be happy about. It’s not that hard guys, even if it’s just being thankful for the sun rising that day. Whine, whine, whine. I think they needed some cheese and crackers to go with that whine. 
Concept and Plot

Concept: Great! It was something I could really connect with, being sort of at that stage in life of “what happens now? What about my friends? Getting a job?” All of that feeling of being lost after graduating high school. I don’t think there are enough books about that – there’s always being in high school, or being in college. Nothing about that middling summer where everything is flipped upside down. 

Plot: Eh… This is where I really lost it. Between the two girls, there was so much drama going on, not only in their own lives, but then they start drama between the two of them as well! There were just so many issues, and none of them were really resolved as a result. Plus, half of the focus of the book was EB and Lo trying to decide if they wanted to lose their virginity before leaving for college. Just… ugh. 

*rant* WHY IS SEX TREATED AS THE END ALL BE ALL OF TEEN LIFE? I know it’s supposed to be this magical experience, and one day maybe you’ll be privileged enough to hear me change my mind about it’s importance, but for now… really?? I’ve been a virgin going on 18 years now, don’t see that status changing anytime soon, and I can assure you that it doesn’t even make the top ten list of my every day worries. There is so much more to worry about, so much more in life to experience. What happened to spending time with family? Friends? Just enjoying life? Plotting the loss of your virginity sounds like so much stress and work… plus doesn’t that take the magicalness out of it if you’ve sketched a blueprint and a six month plan? */rant*Writing Style

The back and forth between EB and Lo was a bit like watching a ping pong contest – I couldn’t settle into either of their perspectives because it was bouncing back and forth every single chapter. And I guess it did give that email feeling of send, wait, reply, but it just didn’t work in the long run. Last ThoughtsIt was good, as in it had a lot of promise, but ultimately it fell flat for me. Where I was hoping for something poignant about the rough time between high school and college, and moving forward in life, I was left with two girls whining about their virginity. NOT what I wanted to be reading, at all. 

My Final Rating:

Three Stars

Find the book at:

Amazon |  Barnes and NobleBook DepositoryGoodreads


13 thoughts on “ARC Review: Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

  1. Aw, I really liked the sound of this novel 😦 But thanks for letting us know that reading it was a lackluster experience. Characters that melt together? Overly dramatic plot? Alternating POVS that a like ping pong balls? Not something I would enjoy reading very much.

    Oh, and I also agree with you. It’s a little irritating how some books have characters who only think about when they will be able to lose their virginity and have sex. It’s just so… meaningless.

    Great review!

    • That’s what I was so excited for too! But yes it just really fell apart after the first few chapters…

      I’m glad I’m not the only one! Sometimes I think I’m too much of a prude…

  2. I know that a lot of teens do think sex is the be all end all, but why can’t there be more smart characters in books that say, “You know, there’s more to life! We can wait a while!” For the record, I waited until I was married I have zero regrets.

  3. I was actually interested in reading this but I held off on all of my requests until I finished the ones I had already. The concept does sound interesting, but if it’s gong to be about sex and virginity then I might not like it either. I have nothing against it, but it’s definitely not something to whine about. I’m not sure if I’ll be trying this out anymore. Do you think I should?

    • It’s really up to you – it depends on how annoyed you get with whiny protagonists. The ending is sweet though, when everyone gets their crap together – which is why I gave it three stars instead of two.

      I won’t be reading it again though :/

  4. I was excited for this book based on the synopsis, and now I think I’ll pass. I’m applying for college this year and I’m always looking for university type reads, but this one doesn’t seem very interesting. The whiny part is probably why I won’t read it. I can’t stand all the angst some people choose to have in their lives. Life does not suck, and there’s a lot to be happy about. At least making the effort to, like you said, enjoy the sun or whatever, is important. Great review!

  5. Totally agree with you about the focus on losing your virginity – I think it’s kind of sad that so many teen novels stress that as if it’s the most important aspect of life. There are WAY more important things to worry about. And it’s really not something that you want to just cross off your life’s “list.” I’m glad that there are still some teens out there with better perspective on things!!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  6. Hmmm. This does not sound like a Renae book at ALL. Like you, I super super loved How To Save a Life, but what you’ve said here doesn’t make me excited at all. Like, as a current freshman who did the whole random roommate thing for about a month (HAH!) before I bailed out and switched halls, this sounded like a very relatable concept, you know? But DUDE, the virginity trope? Puh-lease. In high school, nobody cared—I had friends who had sex and friends who didn’t, and it DIDN’T MATTER. And in college? Not really feeling pressure in either direction. Psh. How cliché to take it there—I’d hoped for better from Zarr for sure.

    • I was homeschooled all through high school, and did college online and at home, so I was wondering if it was just me because I had never really be in that sort of environment. I’m happy to hear that you have the same opinion after being in that situation!

  7. Pingback: October Wrap-Up | The Thousand Lives

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