In Review: Roomies by Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando

Posted December 3, 2014 by Kim in 4 Stars, In Review / 2 Comments

In Review: Roomies by Sara Zarr & Tara AltebrandoRoomies by Sara Zarr, Tara Altebrando
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Publication date: December 24, 2013
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Format: eARC, 288 pages
How I got it: NetGalley
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
My rating:

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.


In Review My Thoughts

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.


About Sara Zarr

Sara Zarr is the acclaimed author of four novels for young adults: Story of a Girl (National Book Award Finalist), Sweethearts (Cybil Award Finalist), Once Was Lost (a Kirkus Best Book of 2009) and How to Save a Life. Her short fiction and essays have also appeared in Image, Hunger Mountain, and several anthologies. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, and online at

About Tara Altebrando

In addition to my most recent novel, THE BEST NIGHT OF YOUR (PATHETIC) LIFE, I’m the author of three previous books for Young Adults, including DREAMLAND SOCIAL CLUB, which was a Kirkus Reviews Best Books for Teens of 2011, THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS and WHAT HAPPENS HERE.

Next up is ROOMIES, a novel I cowrote with Sara Zarr (Little Brown, December) and then my middle-grade debut, THE BATTLE OF DARCY LANE (Running Press Kids, May 2014).

I live in Queens, New York, with my husband and two young daughters, Ellie and Violet.


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2 responses to “In Review: Roomies by Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando

    • Kim

      It definitely was a fun book! The characters weren’t always the most likable people, which usually makes it difficult for me to enjoy a book, but I found a way to connect with them regardless.