Wednesday, January 1, 2014

3 Flames for Roomies by Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr

Roomies by Tara Altebrando, and Sara Zarr

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.

Roomies is a sweet tale of growing up, making new friends, and seeing the world a little more through the eyes of the adults around them. If you are looking for a raucous post-high school coming of age story of friendship, this isn’t it. Lauren and Elizabeth work multiple jobs, have sometimes strained relationships with their immediate family, and both are engaging in their first serious relationship with a boy, on top of getting to know each other over the summer before they become college roommates.

The first 50% was a bit slow and it took some time to get involved in the story. I guess that was sort of like the relationship between Lauren and Elizabeth. Maybe it was like that on purpose, but it almost didn’t work for me. I wish I had been drawn into the story sooner because I almost put this down for good a number of times.

But I’m quite drawn to stories that show how a relationship can grow when all you really have are your written words to build it. Sometimes that’s a more honest way of it, and I think that Roomies shows that can be true.

I liked that they were two very different girls, going through similar circumstances of leaving their friends and family, and starting a new life. I thought the Mark’s connection to Elizabeth’s mother was a bit contrived, and I found Keyon and Lauren a very interesting couple. The girl’s examination of their home life and their friends was a plus for me in this story. It did bring back memories, happy ones of starting adult life.

I did think we should have had more of a scene when these two finally meet. They’ve shared a lot over the summer, really important stuff in their lives, and the way it ended wasn’t very satisfying.

Unfortunately this book didn’t really build an emotional connection with this reader. I liked the girls, but I wasn’t invested in knowing how it was going to work out for them. When the question of whether they would go through with the living arrangements came up, I really didn’t care all that much if they ended up roomies. I think it would have been a better book if I had cared for the characters more. I liked the story, but I think I could have liked it more.

But overall, I think this is a good book for YA readers looking for a friendship theme. It works very well as a new friendship, leaving home type of story. I’d recommend this to readers preparing for college. 

Thanks to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for providing an early copy of this title in exchange for an honest review

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