Monday, December 23, 2013

ARC Review: Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando



Title: Roomies 

Authors: Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando 

Rating: 4 Stars

Release Date: December 24th, 2013

It's always a strange feeling to see the words in your head written down on a piece of paper - typed, to be more accurate - by hands that were not your own. For me, Roomies was like a pensieve of thoughts; it's as if Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr snatched the phrases out of my mind and breathed life into them, creating two characters who are not like me in the least, but at the same time, totally are. As a high school senior, Roomies hit all the right notes and while it did have its share of flaws, I found myself hooked to the page, unable to leave behind these girls who have, slowly but surely, become my friends. 

R: Romance

Although I'd usually leave the romance till the end, it just so happens that romance begins with the letter 'r' so...there goes that plan. Still, the romance in this novel is well-developed, particularly as there are two romances, one for each of the female protagonists. However, I felt as if these love stories started off better than they ended. I certainly didn't mind reading about them, but they weren't the highlight of the story - not in the least. A good romance is always the icing on the cake of any novel, and the blooming summer romances in Roomies are messy, complicated, and real. Moreover, they are different but feel right for each of these girls. And yet, I felt as if my involvement with this aspect of the story waned towards the end of the novel, sadly. 

O: Order

I feel as if order was integral to the style and format of this book. Roomies is told in a dual narration from the perspectives of Elizabeth, an only child from New Jersey, and Lauren, the eldest of six children who lives an hour away from Berkeley. Although I often struggle to become emotionally entrenched into a novel with multiple points of view, Roomies worked really well because of the inclusion of an e-mail in every chapter. As future roommates, Lauren and Elizabeth start up an online correspondence and being able to read not only their thoughts, but also their words to one another and the impact those e-mails had made the novel come alive. 

O: O-thenticity 

As a high school senior, I feel fully qualified to say that Roomies is, in fact, a very authentic portrayal of the mind-set during this time. Although I'm not quite there yet, I was able to connect with the complexity of emotions that both Lauren and EB felt. What I appreciated most, though, was the fact that Altebrando and Zarr never tried to shove their opinions down your throat. It's almost a guarantee that when a teen meets an adult, that adult tells them that they must be so excited about college or tell them that they should know what they want to major in already. Thankfully, Altebrando and Zarr do no such thing. If anything, Lauren and EB undergo a spectrum of different emotional growth arcs; Lauren realizing that the family she is often so tired of taking care of is what she will miss the most while EB comes to terms with the fact that though she may think she is ready for change, she might not be after all. Altebrando and Zarr tackle these issues so effortlessly, though, proving that no matter what doubts we go to sleep with, in the morning, we just have to be ready for the day ahead, no matter what. 

M: Mothers (and Fathers too!)

One of the most interesting aspects of this novel, for me at least, was reading the stark differences between Lauren and EB's family units. Lauren, as I've mentioned, has a large family and though it often seems as if she's another parent, her real parents are extremely supporting, constantly there for her though they can sometimes heap too much responsibility on her shoulders. On the other hand, EB hasn't heard from her gay father for nearly a decade and her mother is one of the reasons she is so eager to escape New Jersey. I really liked that both Lauren and EB lived such different lives because of the scope of issues these authors were able to flesh out. It was also a relief to see that though the relationship between Lauren and her parents wasn't bad, it wasn't ignored either. All too often, a healthy parent-child relationship is mentioned and forgotten because it doesn't pose any conflict, so it was a refreshing change to see this one explored more. 

In short, Roomies is not to be missed. A frank, honest portrayal of the teen mindset during this time period is hard to find and I am thrilled Altebrando and Zarr chose to write this. Except for a few downs towards the end, specifically with the conflict between these two girls blowing a little out of proportion and one or two cheesy romantic scenes, this book delivered beautifully. (And I know my acronym spells "room" and not "roomies", but I couldn't figure out how to write this review and didn't fully think through the acronym concept until the end... Oops!)

16 comments:

  1. Girl you know how to write! I admire every sentence in your review. Anyhow I have heard great things about this book and it's great that the author managed to create this connection with both characters. It's truly hard. Amazing review, Keertana :)

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  2. MUST READ THIS KEERTANA! I've read nothing but glowing reviews for it, and even though it's been a while, I still remember perfectly what it felt like to get my roommate assignment in college. Both exciting and terrifying at the same time. I'm excited that the romances are messy and real, and I love that the girls' families are so different. I'm always fascinated by carious family dynamics in books! Beautiful review as always:)

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  3. I definitely enjoyed this one! The set-up and communication between the soon-to-be-roomies was spot-on, complete with misunderstandings and misinterpretations. Definitely a good story!

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  4. Oh, wow. I haven't heard very much about this one at all, but I really love that you mention how honest and true-to-life this is. That's exactly what I look for in contemporary novels like this. Thanks for another wonderful review, Keertana! :)

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  5. Still works and was such a creative way to do a review! :)

    Oh I've been considering this one. You may have me looking to see if I can squeeze it into my reviewing schedule!

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  6. Keertana, I love the way you structured this review! Although the romance didn't exactly work out for you, it looks like Roomies had a lot of other redeeming qualities. For example, I'm so happy to see that Zarr and Altebrando were able to portray realistic reactions from the two female protagonists, as well as the family units. I'm excited to pick this one up, I'm glad that you were able to relate to it so well that the girls have become your friends! Beautiful review, dear!

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  7. You've been busy reviewing while I was struggling with the holiday craziness! I love this acronym idea, even if you did stop at m. :) It's fabulous when you connect to the characters like that and start seeing them as friends. I haven't read anything by these authors although I do own O ce Was Lost, but I'm tempted to pick this up.

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    1. Maja, I doubt I'll post anything now until after the New Year - I just want to relax at this point! :) I've only read one Altebrando novel, though I've heard her books are very good, and I can't recommend Zarr enough. Although her books aren't quite the issue books you shy away from, they are gritty and difficult to read at times, but How to Save a Life is a good one that isn't too sad. Story of a Girl, on the other hand, is downright depressing. I haven't read Once was Lost, though I plan to. I hope you'll enjoy it, dear!

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  8. I love the way you wrote this review. I think it works just fine to make it ROOM. Too cute. I'm curious about this one. I've already gone through college (I'm in grad school now) and I never lived in a dorm...HOWEVER, I think I could still relate to some of the fear and mystery surrounding it all.

    Lauren from www.shootingstarsmag.blogspot.com

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  9. I read this quite recently and completely agree that it was an authentic portrayal. I could relate to a lot of the feelings and situations in the book, and loved how the authors presented it all. Unfortunately, I didn't really connect with it beyond that (though I did like the two girls), so I don't think it will be a very memorable read for me. But I'm glad to see it worked for you, Keertana. Love the review format! :)

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  10. I've seen some mixed reviews for this one so it's good to see what you really liked about it, Keertana. It's a shame that the romances waned towards the end but I really like that the familial aspect is stressed and that you were able to get emotionally attached to both characters despite multiple POVs. Great review!

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  11. I liked the acronym usage to guide your review. I thought it worked well and it's cute!
    I've been itching to read more Zarr ever since I read How to Save a Life earlier this year. From what you've said and what I've read in other reviews, this sounds like it replicates the feelings and emotions of this time in life pretty well. (Though why anyone with a name like Elizabeth would choose the nickname EB is beyond me. :))

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    1. RIGHT? I would've gone for something like Lizzie, like the Elizabeth from P&P. On a note about the book itself, I think you'll really enjoy it since you liked How to Save a Life too. It isn't as good as that novel, but I really enjoyed this regardless. I hope you do too! :)

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  12. WHERE ARE THE I AND E AND S PARAGRAPHS?! Hee hee.

    Love this review, Keertana. I liked but haven't quite loved the Zarr books I've read so far, but definitely want to try more of her books in the future.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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  13. What a fun review! I'm glad that you connected with this book so well and that it resonated with you as a high school senior yourself. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed these romances - sorry they waned for you at the end - and also the family relationships in these books, as well as the ways these two girls grow through their interactions and learn about communication. I think few of us go to college knowing someone new this well.

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